Like athletes he covered, Jackson had more than his share of fans

Inside Stuff

October 12, 1992|By Bill Tanton

The American Hockey League honored The Sun's Jim Jackson with the James H. Ellery Award at Saturday's Skipjacks game. Yesterday Jackson lost his long fight with cancer at the age of 63.

Jackson was a beautiful guy -- warm, eminently human, possessed with one of the world's great laughs. To know him was to love him, and thousands here knew him from every area of sports -- high schools, colleges, pros, the racetracks.

At the Naval Academy recently the superintendent (equivalent to a college president), Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, asked me how Jim Jackson was doing.

It struck me that a lot of sportswriters have covered Navy over the years. I've never heard of a superintendent inquiring about one of them three decades later.

Jackson covered Navy's Roger Staubach-led football teams, for

which Lynch was a linebacker. The superintendent has fond memories of Big Jim.

One Sunday long ago on 33rd Street, John Unitas led the Colts to a thrilling victory over San Diego. Afterward, Jackson asked Chargers coach Harland Svare what he thought of Johnny U.'s performance.

"Unitas and 10 girls could win in this league," snorted Svare.

I thought that was a pretty juicy quote and I wrote it. Jackson, who had asked the question, ignored it. Why?

"Nah, I didn't want to write that," he said. "That was an insult to the rest of the Colts players."

Maybe you don't win Pulitzers with that philosophy, but you can, as Jim Jackson showed, win a lot of friends.

* "This is getting like a broken record," Maryland football coach Mark Duffner said after Saturday's 28-26 loss to Georgia Tech, "but these kids just keep battling and I'm proud of them for that."

True and true.

It's true that Maryland has dropped another close one, its fifth loss of the year with only one win (over Pittsburgh).

And it's true that the Terps keep battling in a way that is beginning to defy belief.

Maryland has been playing some of the best teams in the country -- Penn State, Virginia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State -- yet three of the losses have been by four or fewer points.

How do you keep a team motivated with all those close losses? Duffner -- "Mr. Enthusiasm" -- has found a way.

His team comes out fired up every week. None of its losses has come from a lack of effort.

This raises a question, probably the toughest one that can be posed to a coach, and one that Duffner is being asked these days:

"Is it that your players are just not as good as the players on the other teams?"

If Duffner says his players are as good, then he's putting the blame on himself. He's saying the talent is there, so the problem must be the coaching.

If Duffner says his players are not as good as the opponents', then he is telling the young men who will have to play the remaining five games of the season for him that they are not good enough to win. That's unthinkable.

So how does Duffner answer? Cleverly, he answers with a non-answer.

"The players we have," he says, "are working very hard."

The truth is that Maryland is short of talent. Most people understood that going into the season. It's commendable that Duffner has the Terps playing all these teams so tough.

That's why Andy Geiger, the athletic director, takes what he calls "the long view." He knows Duffner needs a couple good recruiting classes, and there's no doubt in his mind that his first-year coach will bring in the talent.

"Mark," says Geiger with assurance, "is going to be a very effective recruiter here."

* Among the University of Maryland's good fans in Baltimore is Dr. Arnold Davidov, a Roland Park druggist. He has the patience to wait for Duffner's program to bear fruit, but not the patience for something else.

"Why do these games have to last so long?" he asks. "The Pitt game started at 7 o'clock and it wasn't over until almost 11 --

and it wasn't even on TV."

The Georgia Tech game, again with no TV, ran 3 hours, 25 minutes. The Baltimore Colts in their heyday played games in an average of 2 hours, 40 minutes. That's plenty long enough.

* The Washington Bullets have acquired (in the trade for John Williams) 7-feet-1 William Bedford. The Bullets are his fifth NBA .. team, his second in five months.

Bedford's record includes one drug suspension and many traffic violations. Last year, with Detroit, Bedford got in 32 games, averaged 3.6 points and 2.0 rebounds. He earns a guaranteed $925,000 a year. He should be a big help.

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