Bears pull surprise in NFL draft; Bill Russell returns to coaching
Like a box of Cracker Jack, the annual National Football League draft always contains at least one surprise. This week's was no exception, with Jim Harbaugh's selection by the Chicago Bears on the 26th turn of the first round being possibly the most unexpected development. The Bears are not exactly low on quarterbacks, with Jim McMahon, Doug Flutie, Steve Fuller, and Mike Tomczak all on the roster. Chicago's interest in Michigan's Harbaugh, therefore, may indicate that the club doesn't feel sure of itself in this critical department. McMahon, who led the Bears to a Super Bowl victory two seasons ago, missed much of last year with an injury, but is expected back. Even so, it appears a game of musical quarterbacks could shape up in training camp, with the rookie, who completed 63 percent of his passes with the Wolverines, receiving a serious look.
If Harbaugh was the major surprise of the draft's opening round, its most predictable selection involved another quarterback, Miami's Vinny Testaverde, who signed a $8.2 million multi-year contract with Tampa Bay before the draft began. The Buccanneers simply had to formally designate Testaverde as the first overall choice.
Getting the Heisman Trophy winner was some consolation for the Bucs, who also put their claim in on last year's award recipient, Auburn running back Bo Jackson, only to see the No. 1 pick choose baseball over football. Jackson is now in uniform for the Kansas City Royals, a fact that didn't deter the Los Angeles Raiders from making Jackson a seventh-round pick this year. Coach Tom Flores feels Jackson is a unique athlete who could conceivably play both sports.
With the second overall selection, Indianapolis moved to shore up its defense by taking Alabama linebacker Cornelius Bennett. Russell handed key to Kings
Bill Russell's contract with the Sacramento Kings may be basketball's version of a progressive dinner. He will start as the coach, later assume duties as the team's general manager and president, and at some point will have the option to become a part owner. In a nutshell, the Kings made Russell an offer too good to refuse, and certainly attractive enough to lure him away from the broadcasting work he's done the last 10 years.
His last coaching experience occurred from 1973 to 1977 with the Seattle SuperSonics, where he had his only real brush with basketball mediocrity, while guiding a team that posted a 162-166 record. Before that, he was the consummate winner as the star center of the Boston Celtics, who captured 11 National Basketball Association championships during his 13 years with the team, including two as player-coach. A walk in the park
A growing number of fitness-conscious Americans are walking these days, both outdoors and in, where they put in serious mileage at shopping malls before stores open. If this trend continues, people may someday learn to appreciate the athletes who are pushing out the barriers of the sport of walking - the race walkers.
Within the United States, race walking is often viewed as a peculiar sideshow to the more familiar track and field disciplines. It is an Olympic event, however, and one that merits its own major international meet, the Race Walking World Cup, which will be held in New York's Central Park over the weekend.
Many spectators came away with new admiration for these athletes at the first world indoor track and field championships held last month in Indianapolis. World records were set in each event, the women's 3,000 meters and men's 5,000, both of which were won by Soviet entrants.
Americans have generally not been factors in international race walking, but they seem to be closing the gap, particularly as more experienced athletes like Maryanne Torrellas, who spent 10 years running track, make the transition.
John Babington, the assistant US women's coach at the world indoor meet, calls Torrellas, the best new American race walker and one of a new breed of women entering the sport.``Women's race walking is beginning to attract a better quality athlete just as women's long-distance running did 5 or 10 years ago,'' he says. ``As a result, you're going to start seeing the emergence of American race walkers as real world contenders.''
Torrellas, who exhibited national class potential in track until an injury prompted her to take up walking four years ago, says she has found her new event no less challenging. ``I have to use more muscles,'' she observes, ``and as a former runner, I can say it involves more concentration on the technique, which you have to hold over a distance.''
Rules basically prevent competitors from running by requiring them to have at least one foot on the track at all times. In addition, the leg touching the ground must be momentarily straightened (not bent at the knee). This is what causes the walkers to use a waddling heel-and-toe motion that amuses so many onlookers.
Torrellas, who has set several American records this season but finished eighth at Indianapolis, has had to cope with the wisecracks about this odd style. Once while coaching the girls' track team at Clinton (Conn.) High School, she challenged the scoffers on the boys' team. ``I said, okay, let's see if you can do a quarter [mile] as fast as I do a warmup quarter. They struggled to do it and realized race walking wasn't so easy.''
Torrellas, 28, pays a physical price to compete, but she enjoys what she's doing, otherwise why would she go to such lengths to train while she and husband, Richard, her former track coach at St. John's University, raise three young children.