ON April 19, 1992, the war in Bosnia was only weeks old...

Salmagundi

July 30, 1993

ON April 19, 1992, the war in Bosnia was only weeks old. In Simi Valley, Calif., lawyers were still arguing their cases in the trial of four Los Angeles police officers charged with beating motorist Rodney King.

And on that Sunday, a young pitcher for the New York Mets won a game.

Anthony Young didn't win again until this past Wednesday night, when the Mets rallied in the ninth inning to beat the Florida Marlins, 5-4. In the meantime, he set a new major league record with a 27-game losing streak in 74 appearances.

More remarkable than that dubious distinction is the fact that Young kept his job and even earned a great deal of respect for riding out this streak of bad luck. Earlier this week, just after the record was set and before the losing streak was broken, one sportswriter said, "Anthony Young has lost 27 straight games but he is a winner. He stands there and takes the heat and is class all the way."

No doubt Anthony Young would be the last person to say it doesn't matter whether you win or lose. But certainly his dignity and determination proved that it also matters how you play the game.

THE CONUNDRUM of our anthropological times is that while the quasi-thinking machines grow ever more powerful, humankind has been stuck for some thousands of years now with only so big a brain. The physique enlarges, with fast food and more-frequent food, plus taboo chemicals; but skulls come only in S, M, L and XL.

So the worry is, will the machines catch up to us? Or rather, the worry was.

Evidence of a change in the equation, this time in humanity's favor, comes in a recent New Yorker magazine advertisement for sun hats. The manufacturer proffers the traditional small (size 6 3/4 to 6 7/8) through extra large (7 1/2 through 7 3/4); but then, egad!, adds XXL (7 3/4 to 8). Are there, somehow unnoticed among us, mutant humanoids -- like Big Foot, only up top instead?

As a guess, perhaps the hyper-extended sweatband has something to do with hair. Yet the familiar, teased, moussed, lacquered Big Hair wasn't meant to be hatted over. Also, isn't the bulbous 'do on the wane?

All the late news from that direction is of less hair, not more: the full-baldie look, the naked pate. Athletes affect it, ad men, talk-show types, rock singers -- men, but also a few women -- who must now be requiring a smaller hat size.

A darker answer occurs. After all, in the age of stagnant IQ and SAT numbers, what indicates that cranium content is any larger?

It could be, instead, that evolution is responding to the current conditions of life on earth, e.g., bludgeoning decibels, misting aerosols, thugs on the assault. It could be that what we have here is simply brain protection, a thickening of the box walls.

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