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Looking at Soviet Olympic pullout with a 'Marxian' perspective

By Phil Elderkin / May 14, 1984



Los Angeles

Well, I see where the Marx Brothers are pulling out of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. To punish them, we probably ought to sentence the Soviets to 10 and 20 at Leavenworth - or 5 and 10 at Woolworth.

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On the other hand, the Russians may have opened up a whole new horizon for baseball's designated hitter rule. Each country that sends its athletes to L.A. could provide one ''designated Russian'' for a Big Red expansion team.

Better yet, Mad Man Muntz, who still sells TVs in California, might be persuaded to open a Rent-a-Russian Athlete Shop somewhere on Wilshire Boulevard. Discounts would even be available for anyone returning his athlete in good condition by 10 p.m. Of course, deposits would be required in the event of defections.

What a boon this entire thing could be to a decaying Hollywood and the Screen Extras' Guild. I think George Burns as a veteran, playful, grandfatherly-type Russian sports coach could do more in a week for US-Soviet relations than will ever be accomplished at the United Nations. Besides, Burns would look great in a fur hat.

I ask you now, why would anyone in the US mind that the Russians aren't coming? You know they're not going to give four stars to any of our hotels, restaurants, or transportation systems. And remember Nikita Khrushchev? He didn't even like Disneyland.

Win, lose, or draw, almost all of the Soviet opinions in the Olympics were going to be expressed through an interpreter who learned his lines months ago in an old, gray building overlooking Red Square. I mean, how do you put quote marks around a grunt?

I think what the Russians are telling us by their pullout is that ''we refuse to associate with any Olympic Games that would have us as a member.'' Of course, Groucho Marx said this about a club that was trying to recruit him as a member 40 years ago, but I doubt if the idea has lost much of its punch with the passage of time.

What the Soviets and their friends don't seem to understand is all the things they'll be missing by not coming to L.A., including Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller in ''Sugar Babies.''

Negotiating the high hurdles would have been child's play compared with negotiating our freeways during rush hour. The last time one of my out-of-town visitors tried it he got about three miles to the fender.

Furthermore, the Soviets, East Germans, and the rest will never really know what elbows or little old ladies with leather handbags are like until they have been part of a line trying to buy a hot dog at Dodger Stadium.

And what about American souvenirs? Hey, just for starters we've got the Olympic politician's doll that waves the flag vigorously after being wound up. We've also got the Olympic T-shirt that says ''Faster, Stronger, Fatter''; the Olympic bracelet that can be worn on any of its five rings, plus the official Olympic Deodorant which makes its own statement.

When I was a kid playing sandlot baseball and one of the players left in the middle of a game (even if his mother was calling), we usually didn't let him hit again the next time until he'd chased balls for a couple of hours in the outfield.

I'm not suggesting anything quite that drastic, but if the Russians change their minds in a couple of weeks and want to bring their gang back into the Olympics, maybe we should at least make them all take a couple of laps around the Coliseum.