Off the cuff - Czechoslovakia's Jarmila Kratochvilova, women's Athlete of the Year in track and field, is spending a month in the United States getting the feel of California and particularly the Olympic facilities at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Kratochvilova is the world-record holder at 400 meters (47.99) and 800 meters (1:53.28), has world-class speed in the 100- and 200-meter events as well , and is also known for her strength and resiliency. Speaking through an interpreter, Jarmila told reporters: ''I don't know anything about smog, but I've found that all competition sites have problems. It was very hot in Athens (site of the 1982 European championships), but no different for me than anyone else. Smog will not be the biggest problem for a runner to overcome in the Olympics.'' At age 12, according to a Czech journalist, Kratochvilova was able to pitchfork large piles of hay into a loft as well as most adults.
Lowdown on high ups - From Doug Moe of the Denver Nuggets, coach of pro basketball's highest scoring team that is also known for its Mickey Mouse approach on defense: ''I don't worry about things like slumps as long as I know my guys are playing as hard as they can. Well-meaning people tell me all the time: 'Hey, you better wake up that team of yours or you might not make the playoffs.' I appreciate their concern. But all we really have to do is keep playing hard like we are and we'll catch those clubs that fade later in the season. I mean there are always a couple of teams in your division that never do much over the final five or six weeks of the campaign. Last year we had an 11 -game winning streak just before the playoffs that saved us, and the year before that it was 12. Sure we have some weaknesses. We don't rebound very well and we're not physical enough on defense. But that doesn't make us unique. All pro teams have problems somewhere.'' Circus time in the NBA is watching Denver's front line of center Dan Issel plus forwards Kiki Vandeweghe and Alex English turn their machine guns on the basket. Together they have been averaging just under 74 points per game.
Orioles have right idea - Murray Cook, Director of Player Development for the New York Yankees, says the success of the world champion Baltimore Orioles' farm system in recent years is starting to have an effect on the thinking of other major league teams. ''I really believe that most of the money that clubs used to give free agents will be going to improve their farm systems in the future,'' Cook told reporters. ''The Orioles have shown that it's often better to grow your own stars than to bring in players from outside at phenomenal prices.''
New York owner George Steinbrenner must have been listening, since the only rival player the Yankees picked in the 1983 re-entry draft was outfielder Dwight Evans, who later signed a long-term contract with Boston.
The defense never rests - Johnnie Johnson, who played both cornerback and free safety (because of injuries) for the 1983 Los Angeles Rams, says the two positions are nothing alike. ''The job of cornerback is to defend against just one player, usually the fastest man on the other team,'' he explained. ''I mean a guy who can run the 100 in 9.3 and who, if he catches the ball behind you, is usually good for a touchdown. You play with a kind of controlled aggressiveness, so you can react if the interception is there, but at the same time remembering that your chief responsibility is to contain the receiver if he should catch the ball. The difference at free safety is that you are always looking into your opponent's entire offense as it sets up on the line of scrimmage. Part of your job is to try to read that offense; call out instructions if you see something unusual developing; and go where you are needed without jeopardizing your own position by leaving too soon. Of the two positions, the one I feel most comfortable with is free safety.'' Johnson, who has started all 59 games the Rams have played since he was drafted by them in 1980, made 68 unassisted tackles in 1983, third on the team behind linebackers Carl Ekern and Jim Collins. Of his four interceptions, he ran back two for touchdowns, including a 60-yarder.