THE tragic case of O.J. Simpson has shaken the American public and revived discussion about the hazards of placing sports heroes on pedestals. Children shouldn't view athletes as role models, many conclude, given the unexemplary behavior of some superstars.
But the unavoidable fact is that young people spend much of their time playing, and top athletes are the most accomplished players. There seems to be nothing wrong with trying to copy the style and athletic accomplishments of one's heroes. And this writer suspects that youngsters don't look to their favorite players to be models much beyond that.
There are many reasons to admire Simpson's athleticism, not the least being his status as one of the top rushers in pro-football history. He was a very stylish runner and a class act on the field: His willingness to compliment an opponent on a good tackle set him apart, for example.
Whether or not he committed the heinous crime for which he is accused - the murder of his ex-wife and her male friend - Simpson's ``good guy'' reputation has been obliterated. His infamous ride as a fugitive last Friday night was an agonizing public fall from grace. The hours he spent hidden inside that Ford Bronco seemed symbolic of the shame he felt.
Buffalo, baseball, and wedding bells
BUFFALO may have been rejected as a major-league expansion city, but professional baseball thrives there nonetheless. The Buffalo Bisons have led the minor leagues in attendance for the last six years, and expect to go over the 1 million mark for the seventh straight season. Much credit belongs to the team's front office, one of the game's most dynamic minor-league organizations. The club works vigorously to generate fan interest and promote attendance. The club makes sure there's something fun happening at every home game. It also helps that the team plays in a jewel of a park, Pilot Field, which has helped create the trend in new/old stadium architecture.
Among the promotions this season is a June 25 Wedding Day. ``In the past, a number of couples have gotten engaged at the ballpark,'' says Rick Orienza, the Bisons' marketing director. ``We're just taking it a step further and inviting couples who dream of getting married at the ballpark to be part of this unique occasion.'' A minister will conduct an ensemble ceremony on the field before the game, with a group reception to follow in a tent beyond centerfield after the game. The Bisons anticipate a dozen couples will exchange vows. Touching other bases
* After years of feeling underappreciated, tennis star Martina Navratilova, who is now playing in her last Wimbledon, says things have swung in the other direction. ``I'm the home team wherever I go,'' she says. ``It's pretty nice, because before I was always the visitor.'' Navratilova will retire from top-level singles play at the end of this, her 20th year as a professional.
* A 90-point game has come to be viewed as a good team effort in this season's National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs. Given a 24-second shooting clock and bunches of 3-point shooters, 90 points isn't much, and some in the media have been pretty critical at times of what they perceive as ugly basketball. Pat Riley, coach of New York Knicks, league finalists with Houston, says it's a matter of changing eras. ``The league as a whole is much more defensive-oriented than it was in the early 1980s,'' he says. ``When Detroit won [two] championships with that defensive mentality, and Chicago won [three] with that mentality ... other teams began to model themselves that way.''
* In the category of little-known facts, did you know that, according to NBA rules, a free-throw shooter must attempt each shot within 10 seconds of receiving the ball and that a player cannot purposely fake an attempt?