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One of the things that has been driving Navy coach George Chaump nuts for the past month is who or what sprang the trap door that turned a promising Middies season into well, bilge water?
"When it's over [after the Army game Saturday]," said Chaump, "I'll think back to those first eight games. That's when we played well against good people, proving we're a pretty good team. We were 2-1 when we played a game against Tulane we shouldn't have lost [27-25]. We ran 86 plays against Louisville, were dominating the statistics and were still losing."
Then there was the terrific first half against Notre Dame, Navy leading, 24-17. The Mids got bombed by the Irish in the second half, no surprise, before the rudder fell off and the boat developed a thousand leaks.
"You have to wonder about the time off [a week] before the Vanderbilt game," he continued. "We played our worst game [during his years at the academy]. It continued last week against SMU."
Forget the talk of a bowl appearance during midseason; that was bogus. A winning season was a strong possibility, though, and that came crashing down when the Mids were outscored 169-47 while losing four straight and falling to 4-6.
"It's been somewhat of a life lesson for me. Who knows why or how these things happen?" said the coach. One thing the turnaround probably has accomplished is Chaump and the players have seemed so much more relaxed readying for the challenge at the Meadowlands Saturday (noon, ABC-TV).
Traditionally, the buildup to the meeting sees everyone getting emotionally involved too early. The anticipation and the hype seems to wear everyone out. "We've been in pads five days and sweats two days the last two weeks. We won't practice today and we'll go lightly at the Meadowlands Friday," said Chaump, obviously feeling a more relaxed approach is the way to go.
Army enters a game better off than Navy with a 5-5 mark. But the Black Knights' schedule borders on the scandalous with half the teams in their generally cupcake schedule combining for a snappy 12-42 record. Among only three of 10 teams with winning records is Lafayette, a Division I-AA club.
On the other hand, Rick Roper is the Cadets quarterback, he can run and pass and anything else a good player can, and, as Chaump points out, "Any team gets better with repetition and Army's been running the wishbone for about 10 years."
* "Hey, I wonder what the guy [judge] who gave me the fight was smoking," Jake "The Snake" Smith wanted to know after he was soundly defeated by Fabian Garcia for the state light-heavyweight title at Martin's West the other night. "At the most I think maybe I snuck [won] one round out of the 10." Sounds about right.
Regardless, judge Karl Milligan saw the Fells Point bar owner as the victor and such folly only serves to put another dent in the credibility of the Maryland Athletic Commission and its ability to oversee boxing shows here.
To commemorate the occasion and as testament to what he feels is his future in the ring, Smith announced his retirement while still in the ring.
As for Garcia, after he had battled him twice previously, Smith introduced the "Fabian" drink at Shiner's Pub, a potent mixture almost assured of knocking you out if you have a couple.
* The winner-take-all "Superfights" pay-per-view show tomorrow night has Bonecrusher Smith and Bert Cooper on one side of the draw and Tony Tubbs and Tyrell Biggs expected in the other semifinal if the seedings hold up. The hope is, of course, that the expected doesn't prevail and there are upsets as 16 guys match off in a three-hour tourney that sees the eventual winner get $1 million.
Biggs, whose career is hanging by a thread, probably has the toughest passage among the name fighters, being pitted against former Russian champion Yevgeni Sudakov in his opening three-rounder.
* Good news for all you corporate boxholders at the Capital Centre/USAir Arena: Owner Abe Pollin says he's going to lower the expensive boxes, which are currently located about 3,000 feet above the playing surface. Question is, lower them where since there are rows and rows of seats all the way down to court or rinkside.
* The headline act of the Durasoft World Professional Figure Skating Championships at the USAir Arena Saturday (7 p.m.) figures to be Kristi Yamaguchi and Midori Ito going head-to-head just as they did in the Albertville Winter Olympics early last year. Tickets are available by calling (202) 432-SEAT or (410) 481-SEAT.