Long sports seasons cause problems; Olympic Hall of Famers

The greed of those running pro sports has once again been punished by a fiasco in a showcase event - this time a fog-delayed and blacked-out Stanley Cup game. If history is any criterion, however, no one is going to worry about it as long as the money keeps coming in. On Tuesday night in Boston Garden, though, it was the fog that kept rolling in. The Bruins and the Edmonton Oilers were trying to play Game 4 of their best-of-seven series, but the elements weren't cooperating. It got so hot inside the ancient building, which has no air conditioning, that fog kept rising from the ice. Visibility became so bad that five times during the second period the game had to be halted while players from both teams skated around in an attempt to clear the air enough for everyone to see the puck.

Of course hockey is supposed to be a winter sport. Maybe its playoffs can reasonably be stretched into the first few weeks of spring, as was the case in a saner era. But trying to play a game on ice in late May, when temperatures can get up into the high 80s or even the 90s, is just asking for trouble. And on Tuesday night that's what they got.

But the fog was just the beginning. Late in the second period a power outage stopped play altogether, forcing the game to be called off. In this case too the heat and high humidity were said to be part of the reason for the transformer malfunction that caused the problem.

Hockey, of course, is far from the only sport guilty of stretching its season beyond reasonable limits. Basketball does the same thing, and has had some potentially great playoff series distorted by forcing teams to play all the way into mid-June. And no sports fan has to be reminded of all the ``snow bowls'' pro football has foisted upon us over the years in places like Green Bay, Minnesota, and Chicago, or of the many World Series contested on bitter cold late October nights.

In a way it's too bad that those who have created this bizarre situation don't have to suffer the consequences of their greed. But baseball, football, basketball, and hockey are all such great games that they keep succeeding in spite of those who run them. And as long as the fans are willing to put up with such conditions, they can be sure that's what they'll keep getting.

As for the current hockey finals, the Oilers and Bruins have put on a pretty good show whenever they've had the chance. Edmonton's speed and overall ability were supposed to be too much for Boston to handle, and indeed the Oilers do hold a 3-0 lead with a chance to wrap it up tonight at home, but the Bruins have hung a lot tougher than most observers expected them to.

Games 1 and 2 in Edmonton were both essentially one-goal victories for the Oilers, and Game 3 in Boston also was fairly close. Then in Game 4, Boston was playing furiously and leading 3-2 until Edmonton tied it just before the lights went out late in the second period.

According to National Hockey League bylaws, the game will be replayed in its entirety at the end of the series, if necessary. Thus tonight's game in Edmonton becomes Game 4, after which (as necessary) will come Game 5 in Boston, Game 6 in Edmonton, and Game 7 (actually the replay of Tuesday night's game) in Boston. Olympic Hall of Fame questions

The 1988 United States Olympic Hall of Fame inductions take place in New York tonight, and while this year's choices are all to be applauded, there are still some glaring omissions from the list.

It is gratifying that the voters have at last recognized Tenley Albright, whose silver and gold figure skating medals in 1952 and '56 should have earned her election a long time ago. Track star Mal Whitfield, whose many medals included gold in the 800 in both 1948 and 1952; swimmer Charles Daniels, who won numerous events in three Olympics in the early 1900s; and current U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, who was captain of the gold medal-winning 1964 basketball team, are also all worthy recipients of the honor. And Jim McKay, whose work at Calgary marked his 11th appearance as an Olympic TV commentator, is a fine choice in the ``contributor'' category.

But how can the voters year after year keep passing over Milt Campbell, who as an 18-year-old schoolboy earned a decathlon silver medal behind the great Bob Mathias in 1952, then four years later beat out Rafer Johnson for the gold? What about weight lifter Tommy Kono and skier Andrea Mead Lawrence, each of whom competed in three Olympics and won two gold medals? Or the amazing Bill Steinkraus, a member of six Olympic equestrian teams and a gold medalist in 1968? And the list goes on and on.

Of course they can't all get in at once, but if there is any justice at all, these and other deserving candidates will all make it sooner or later. CBS returns to Olympics

CBS, the original Olympic TV network, will return to televising the Games in 1992 after a 32-year hiatus.

It was in 1960 that CBS launched the modern era of Olympic television, covering the Winter Games in Squaw Valley and also doing the Rome Olympics that summer. The network left the field to its rivals thereafter, though, with ABC televising the lion's share and NBC gaining the rights a few times, including for the upcoming Seoul Games this summer.

In the bidding for the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France, however, ABC opted out because it objected to the bidding process. That left it between CBS and NBC, and the former won the U.S. rights with a bid of $243 million (a far cry, it might be noted, from the $50,000 it paid back when it all started at Squaw Valley). The winning bid was also well above NBC's offer of $175 milloin plus a share of profits if revenues permitted.

Neither bid was close to the $309 million ABC paid for this year's Winter Games. The winning offer was still higher than many had expected, however, especially in view of ABC's $65 million loss in Calgary plus the fact that the time difference between Europe and the United States means all prime-time coverage will be taped.

But CBS, which was last in the ratings this season, clearly hoped a prestige event like the Olympics would make it more competitive with the other networks.

Network president Neal Pilson said gaining the Albertville rights should also give CBS an edge in bidding for the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona. Those rights will be awarded late this year after the Seoul Games. Touching other bases

``Save'' is a word tossed around a lot in baseball circles these days, but hardly anyone bothers to explain its meaning. Most fans basically understand that relief pitchers are credited with saves for preserving leads. It isn't quite that simple, though, since some situations are obviously more difficult than others, and scorekeeping rules reflect this. Specifically, to be credited with a save, a pitcher must (a) enter the game with a lead of no more than 3 runs and pitch at least one full inning, (b) enter the game with the potential tying run either on base, at bat, or on deck, or (c) pitch effectively for at least three innings regardless of his team's lead.

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