Opinions and observations that help make the sports world go around:
* It was disappointing Nevada-Las Vegas lost to Duke, the ultimate Final Four champion, because the desert school has little else to recommend it other than basketball. There ought to be a place for academically-deprived minorities to excel athletically. Duke, if it never wins another game in anything, didn't need a victory to enhance its already elegant reputation.
* Credit the Baltimore Orioles with the way they handled Jim Palmer's spring training fling. It's doubtful if manager Frank Robinson and general manager Roland Hemond wanted him there but how could they say no to a Hall of Famer? Palmer conducted himself first rate, which made it easy for all.
* How come the Ben Hogan golf corporation is now manufacturing gloves when Ben, along with Gene Sarazen, was known for never wearing one when he played?
* Don't be surprised to hear a Baltimore sports entrepreneur has been served with a judgment for owing $1.4 million to an associate he can't pay.
* National Football League owners are saying they'll never go back to Hawaii for a winter meeting. They encountered bad weather and coach Bill Parcells of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants didn't even make the trip because he doesn't like flying over open water.
* Miami can feel good about itself, drawing astronomical crowds for exhibition baseball, but the important question is can the city's economy handle major-league ticket prices?
* Two weeks into the season and the Orioles will be selling a book on the history of Memorial Stadium, including chapters on all the events that have been held there, going back to the original facility, Venable Stadium. Then it became Municipal Stadium, where Charles Lindbergh was welcomed by 20,000 admirers in 1927.
* The first name we circle on our annual Polish-American Athletic Hall of Fame ballot is that of Dick Szymanski, former Colts center. Then Cass Michaels, Joe Collins and Tom Gola.
* Sugar Ray Leonard's confession about drug involvement may damage his reputation temporarily but one of the beautiful qualities about America and its sports heroes is the public is quick to forgive and forget.
* NFL "insiders" say losing Bob Tisch as a prospective Baltimore franchise owner, when he bought 50 percent of the New York Giants for $75 million, was a blow to the city but not a knockout.
* A sound of trumpets for Orioles owner Eli Jacobs, who is giving away tickets to 34 games to military men and women who served in Operation Desert Storm. The dates involve every team in the American League, which means the club isn't stiffing service personnel with the dregs on nights and days when they can't fill up the seats.
* With President George Bush throwing out the first pitch for the Texas baseball opener and Gen. Colin Powell written in for New York, you can believe the Orioles will make an effort to similarly honor Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf if he decides to fly home for some rest and recreation.
* When Shaquille O'Neal was a mere lad of 13, he measured (for him) a pygmy-sized 6-foot-5 while on his way to growing up to become the 7-1 standout of LSU basketball. Plus he hits the books with the same effectiveness and ease he pulls down rebounds.
* Ex-Colts linebacker Bill Saul puts on a mini-concert almost every Friday night at Pappas' Lounge when he sits in with Dave Hardin, the headline entertainer. Some listeners say Saul's soul renditions would bring a tear to a glass eyeball.
* It was the intention of the Babe Ruth Museum to honor Paul Welsh for his early efforts in establishing the facility but now it'll have to be done posthumously. Welsh died a week ago.
* When Pete Rose was betting on anything that walked, or even crawled, as with some of his horses, he is said to have became so starved for excitement he even wagered on Canadian football. Now that's desperate.