TEN QUESTIONS--AND SOME ANSWERS

1. How 'bout that mixed-doubles badminton final? Don't let this get around, but while most of us were rotating the tires on the car last week, or repainting the parakeet's cage, something called the U.S. Olympic Festival snuck into our fair state. This series of athletic exhibitions proved so popular that the organizers decided, five minutes after arriving, to cancel all future festivals. Thus did Colorado fans get a fond last look at some of their favorite sporting events--table tennis, artistic gymnastics and team handball, for instance. At our house, a nasty fight broke out over who would get first crack at a precious ration of canoe-racing tickets, but the matter was settled when a couple of attractive options arose: On the afternoon of the races, Bobby and Lorna went off to a quilting bee; Aunt Sandy got to watch M*A*S*H reruns.

2. Are you sure his first name isn't Ted? Colorado Rockies manager Don Baylor worried aloud last week that his first-place club could do the el foldo once slugger Matt Williams returns to the San Francisco Giants' lineup. Listen: Williams was on a pace to break Roger Maris's single-season home-run mark when the strike came last year, and he was still hammering it out when he got hurt this May. But wait a minute. Aren't there some more immediate concerns? Like the Los Angeles Dodgers? They're next best in the National League West, just a few games behind the Rox, and they're a hungry young team stocked with guys like Hideo Nomo, Raul Mondesi and Mike Piazza. When last we looked, the Giants were in last place. Matt or no Matt, it's the Dodgers who loom large.

3. Pssst! Mister, wanna see some $150 rookie cards? Now that two gentlemanly icons of the game's golden age, Duke Snider and Willie McCovey, have 'fessed up to the Internal Revenue Service about failing to disclose cash income earned at baseball memorabilia shows, assorted moralists and mossbacks have started pointing fingers again at players, current and retired, who charge for their appearances and for signing bats, balls and jerseys. Talk about misdirected ire. What about the thirty- and forty- and fifty-year-old No-Lifers who are begging for the autographs in the first place? Some are eternal adolescents, others have investment on their minds, but most are shoving eight-year-olds aside to indulge their own fantasies. Nix the designated hitter, we say; replace it with a no-autograph rule for any fan more than four feet tall.

4. Art History? Who'd he play for? Thanks in large part to Governor Pete Wilson and conservative black regent Ward Connerly, affirmative action looks like a dead soldier on California's public campuses. But preferential treatment is sure to continue for another segment of applicants, one that rarely sports the highest SATs or submits the best stories to the literary magazine--so-called "student athletes." Yes, that's right: A lot of jock scholarship recipients also belong to ethnic minorities, but why should their presumed ability to get their club to the Rose Bowl rank higher than diversifying the student body? Because sports are too important on campus, that's why.

5. How many of them have four legs? Owners and managers of beleaguered Arapahoe Park Race Track continue to complain that they're being left out of metro Denver's booming big-league sports scene. Attendance and betting totals are down at the isolated oval, and even a couple of local columnists have blamed that on the laziness of horseplayers: Given the easy availability of off-track betting, they reason, no one bothers to go to the track anymore. But that view misses the real point, which is that Arapahoe features cheap, unpredictable horses in cheap, unhandicappable races. What would you rather back? A sound, well-bred racehorse with Corey Nakatani or Pat Day in the irons? Or a raced-to-death eight-year-old with Brand X up? Fact is, minor-league towns like Omaha and Oklahoma City have better racing than Denver, and until that changes, which is unlikely, smart players will continue to take their gambles via satellite from Churchill Downs or Santa Anita.

6. That means snow job, doesn't it? Now that the suspense is over and Denver's new National Hockey League team has been named the Something-or-other Avalanche, all that remains is for Colorado puckheads to start lining up in grateful rows for season tickets that will cost as much as a second car. The 'Lanche (nee Quebec Nordiques) is said to be one of the NHL's finest teams, and that's good. We think. But consider the irony if the newcomers were to win Denver's first-ever professional world title before the long-established Broncos or Nuggets do. Make it 8-5 that they will, then read the halfhearted telegrams of congratulation that trickle in from the have-nots. As for you tennis historians, no, we have not forgotten that the Denver Racquets won a Team Tennis crown way back in the days when the players were steel and the racquets were wood. In fact, bonjour, Francoise Durr. Maybe you can, s'il vous plait, tell us what was a Nordique.

7. More Sonny skies in Fort Collins? Head football coach Sonny Lubick's dream 1994 season at Colorado State will be hard to equal, what with graduations and greatly heightened expectations for a school long known more for animal husbandry than for animal instinct on the gridiron. But game two, on September 9, could a season make: That night the Rams visit Boulder to play new boy Rick Neuheisel's tough Colorado Buffaloes--on ESPN, no less--and if Lubick's undermanned troops can get the job done, they could be off and running. And Sonny will be happier than ever that he didn't take that Miami Hurricanes job.

8. If you're six-eleven, why can't you see anything? It's growing ever clearer that players in the National Basketball Association have learned very little from the disastrous labor strikes of their brethren in baseball and hockey. After nearly two months of trash talk concerning the fate of their union, the players will vote on its future at the end of this month or in early September. If the union is dissolved by a majority vote of the 422 players, the entire 1995-96 season will also be in jeopardy, which wouldn't bode well for the Houston Rockets' chances for a title threepeat. On the other hand, Nuggets fans might not have to be disappointed again, and Michael Jordan might get another swing-and-a-miss in minor-league baseball. If the NBA does go down, look for one helluva flagrant foul from angry fans.

9. Now, mein Englisher friend. How about a second look at World War II in the replay booth? Last week computer experts at Oxford University determined that the goal that gave England a win over West Germany in the 1966 World Cup never crossed the goal line. According to computer video analysis that provided new angles of view, Geoff Hurst's shot hit the crossbar in the twelfth minute of extra time but never entered the goal's mouth and should have been disallowed. The importance of the conclusion remains a mystery to all but soccer fans--including eleven Americans.

10. How does 2 million sound to do The Dating Game? Arthritic knees or not, you can bet O.J. will run a ten-flat on the way out of Ito's courtroom when the acquittal comes. The bloody gloves don't fit. No one knows when the dog barked. Mark Fuhrman has been cast as some kind of Klansman. Johnnie and F. Lee and Robert and the rest of the Juice's linebacking crew have shredded Marcia and the Vandellas. And that adds up to reasonable doubt, don't you think? Meanwhile, the nagging questions remain. Can a black man get a fair trial in our country? Clearly, many African-Americans don't think so. Can the state make a strong case against a beloved black celebrity? Just as clearly, many white Americans don't think so. What is the nature of race relations in the U.S.? Whatever the verdict, it's bound to be divisive.

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