Friday, May 13, 2005

1998 L.A. Times Article on GOTC's 30th Anniversary

Picking up from the immediately preceding entry, I wanted to talk briefly about a 30-year retrospective article on the Game of the Century in the January 20, 1998 Los Angeles Times, written by Robyn Norwood. Like other retrospectives, it covers the "usual" bases (e.g., the attendance, Elvin Hayes's big game). However, there were a few elements in the article that were new to me:

*Norwood quotes a clever line by Sports Illustrated that, given the heavy illumination, "the Astrodome 'very nearly became the first place in the world where a player lost a rebound in the lights.' "

*The ticket prices were extremely cheap, at least by today's standards. Wrote Norwood, " paid $2 to sit in the highest reaches of the Astrodome and only $5 for 'front-row seats,' still 100 feet from the action..." According to an online inflation calculator, today those same tickets would cost $11.07 and $27.66, respectively.

*Although then-UCLA Coach John Wooden is well-known to have been skeptical about entering into the whole Astrodome spectacle, his words in the Times retrospective article were particularly blunt:

"The television people won't like hearing me say it, but I said it before so I'll say it again: I think television is one of the worst things that ever happened to intercollegiate basketball," he said. "It's made showmen out of the players and that hurts team play..."

*Two possible contributing factors to Houston's loss to UCLA in their rematch in the NCAA final four at the L.A. Sports Arena were discussed:

An overlooked fact, in [former Cougar guard Don] Chaney's eyes, was that Houston was without starting guard George Reynolds, a transfer ruled ineligible before the final game of the season because of his junior college academic record.

"Someone had done some research -- I think it might have been the California side," Chaney said.

Besides that, the Cougars had gone Hollywood. Hayes and Theodis Lee appeared on "The Joey Bishop Show" days before the game, and center Ken Spain went on "The Dating Game" as the players soaked up the California scene.

What's becoming increasingly clear to me in researching these archival sources is that, as repetitive as some of these articles can be, one can still usually find some unique nuggets of information from them.