Putting one little word after another and whatever became of Roger Bannister? . . . If you have ever watched an eagle soar majestically while choosing a landing sight, then you know the sort of rhythm that flows through Eamonn Coghlan as he whirls around the indoor tracks that have become his private preserve. There is a kind of fluid motion to Coghlan's legs as they seem to turn yards into inches; minutes into seconds; and the impossible into the believable. This is a star who missed the entire 1984 indoor-outdoor track season because of leg injuries, his greatest disappointment being that he was unable to compete in the Los Angeles Olympics. However, Eamonn did serve as a television analyst during the '84 Games. And already he is looking forward to representing his native Ireland in the 1988 Games in Seoul, Korea.
In general, though, it is not at outdoor events like the Olympics, but on the banked, wooden tracks of the world's indoor circuit that Coghlan has made his mark. One of the great Irish runner's claims to fame, in fact, is that he has run history's only sub-3:50 mile indoors -- a 3:49.78. The feat has been accomplished on numerous occasions outdoors, where the traditional view is that times will always be better because of longer straightaways and fewer curves.
In Los Angeles recently to help promote the winter track season, Coghlan told reporters that he felt Englishman Sebastian Coe's current world outdoor record of 3:47.33 could be broken. This drew only polite stares until Eamonn added: ``I mean on an indoor track.''
Explained Coghlan: ``Although the general feeling has been that times are always going to be better outdoors, I think track's next milestone will be someone running the mile faster indoors than outdoors. There is a kind of catapult effect that a runner gets coming off a banked track indoors that isn't available outside. In my opinion, it is easier to get your speed and maintain it indoors than it is outdoors.''
Coghlan also provided an interesting insight regarding the Mary Decker-Zola Budd collision in the women's 3,000 meters at Los Angeles. Eamonn claimed that because of their close proximity during the race, Decker almost fell twice before finally getting knocked down from the backward kick of Zola's left foot.
``I can honestly say that as inexperienced as Budd is in international competition, Decker showed as much inexperience on her part when she stayed close to a runner in front of her,'' Eamonn remarked. ``Usually you just touch the person who is blocking you on the hip in a situation like that and the runner will move away and you can protect yourself.''
Off the Grapevine . . . Bernie Kosar, the University of Miami's All-America quarterback, reportedly will ask the National Football League to include him in its college player draft on April 30. Although Kosar still has two years of football eligibility remaining, his academic work is already at the point where he could graduate this year by taking summer courses. If he chooses this path, Bernie will undoubtedly go first in the draft -- and probably would have even if Boston College's Doug Flutie hadn't already signed with the rival USFL. Flutie's lack of size (he's 5ft. 93/4 in.), plus the extra steps he likes to take backwards before he throws made him suspect to a lot of NFL head coaches.
The thing that convinced Tampa Bay Buccaneers Owner, Hugh Culverhouse, to go outside his organization for new head coach Leeman Bennett was remembering how quickly Bennett had previously turned a losing Atlanta team around in only his second year with the Falcons. In fact, no logical explanation has ever surfaced as to why Atlanta fired Bennett after the 1982 season. Bennett is the only coach ever to take the Falcons to the playoffs, a feat he accomplished three times. Culverhouse, in choosing Bennett, ignored the recommendation of retiring Bucs' head coach John McKay, who reportedly argued hard for his long-time assistant, Wayne Fontes. McKay, whose expertise will now rivet on his front office duties, had a 44-88-1 NFL coaching mark.
Off the Wall . . . Because California doesn't want Gary Pettis to think management has lost confidence in him, the Angels are saying that newly acquired Ruppert Jones will be backup insurance for all three of their regular outfielders this season. The fact is the Angels aren't sure that Pettis will hit any better this season than he did in 1984, when his .227 average was underscored by 115 strikeouts in 397 at bats. But there is nothing wrong with Gary defensively or on the bases, where he stole successfully 48 times last season, relying more on speed than finesse. Jones, who batted .284 with 37 runs-batted-in in 79 games with the World Series champion Detroit Tigers, is a streak hitter who for short periods often plays like an all-star.
From Julius Erving of the Philadelphia 76ers on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar deciding to play a 17th season next year with the Los Angeles Lakers: ``The way Kareem can still score against anybody makes it almost an obligation to himself to come back and play another season. The danger of staying too long in pro sports is not as bad as the feeling of incompleteness that comes with leaving too early. If you quit too soon, there is no way you can reclaim that time.'' The $2 million contract that Abdul-Jabbar has signed with the Lakers for next season will pay him $24,390.24 a game or $717.36 for every minute he is on the court. That is, assuming his average minutes played per game this year (34) remain the same.