USFL championship game coming up - quietly; all-Jones golf tourney

The United States Football League concludes its compact, two-week playoffs Sunday, which is certainly news to millions who either lost track of the league's progress or never cared about it to begin with.

Even so, more than 32,000 tickets have already been sold to this inaugural championship game, which will be carried nationwide from Denver by ABC-TV at 8 p.m. Eastern time. A good crowd, of course, was virtually ensured in the Mile High City, where the Denver Gold led the USFL in attendance with an average of nearly 42,000 spectators.

Outside of hard-core fans, however, few people probably know anything about this contest, including who's playing. Advancing to the final are the Philadelphia Stars (15-3) and the Michigan Panthers (12-6). The Stars are led by quarterback Chuck Fusina and rookie running back Kelvin Bryant, who gained 1, 442 yards in the regular season and may be a stronger MVP candidate than USFL rushing king Herschel Walker. The slow-starting Panthers have won 12 of their last 14 games behind the field generalship of Bobby Hebert, the league's top passer.

If the Panthers looked fresh as daisies during the latter part of the 18-game regular season, perhaps playing in the climate-controlled Silverdome helped. Conversely, one has to wonder if the Arizona Wranglers, losers of their last 10 games, weren't a victim of the Southwest's summer heat.

Michigan, by the way, came on strong at the box office as well as on the field. When the season began, the Panthers were playing before what were, in the 80,000-seat Silverdome, embarrasingly small crowds. But last weekend, in a playoff game with Oakland, the club drew 60,237, which was nearly triple its average attendance and gave the Panthers the USFL's largest crowd of the season. Grasping the importance of a big turnout, they lowered admission and parking prices (charging $8.50 instead of $11 to $14 for reserved seats and $3 instead of $5 for parking).

If the USFL is serious about staying in business, encouraging all teams to lower prices might be a wise move. The league is destined to lose money for a while anyhow, so why not gain as many friends as possible? Keeping up with the Joneses

As golf tournaments go, there wouldn't appear to be anything unique about the Fifth Annual Bobby Jones Open, but there is. All the entrants must be named Robert, Bob, Bobby, Bobbi, or Roberta Jones. The idea is to pay tribute to the legendary golfer for which this event is named. It follows then that Robert A. Jones (no relation) founded the tournament. It also seems logical that the tournament is played on an Ann Arbor, Mich. layout designed by Alister MacKenzie , whom Bobby Jones selected to develop the Georgia home of the Masters tournament. With a burgeoning field of 100 or so golfers set to tee off Aug. 6, there would appear ample opportunity for confusion. To avoid it, every player adopts an official nickname. For example: Banker Bob, New Jersey Bob, Plumb Bob , Sand Trap Bob, etc. It figures the top prize would have some connection to Bobby Jones, and, of course, it does. The low gross and net winners are invited to play a round at the Atlanta Athletic Club, Bobby Jones's old home course. Tale of two athletes

The educational triumph of basketball player Kevin Ross has received tremendous attention; that of golfer Calvin Peete hasn't. Ross's story is that of an undereducated black athlete, who learned how to read from Marva Collins only after leaving Creighton University.

Though different, Peete's story is no less significant. One of 19 children in a family of migrant workers, he took up golf at 23, joined the tour in 1975, and won four tournaments a year ago. But until last fall he was not an official member of the PGA of America, which sets standards for those in the golf profession. As an eighth-grade dropout he didn't have the requisite high school diploma for membership. However, with tutorial help from his wife, a former high school English and drama teacher, he quietly passed a high school equivalency exam to secure the full rights of PGA membership.

Among other things, the achievement means that Calvin is now eligible to play on the 12-player US Ryder Cup team against Europe in October. A modest baseball proposal

Even though umpires are empowered to nip beanball and brushback wars in the bud, halting them is never easy. Intent, after all, is hard to prove, especially in a game where inside fastballs are acceptable up to a point. Maybe the best way to discourage not-so-subtle purpose pitches is to award a hit batsman two bases instead of one. This would make most pitchers think twice about using intimidating tactics. And even in cases where no message is intended, two bases is not necessarily too harsh a penalty for wildness.

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