AT A giant reception in Athens last week attended by government and soccer officials, Greece's national football coach Alketas Panagoulias announced his team's slogan for their first ever World Cup Finals campaign. It is 'Greece, still making history', a fine phrase redolent of the country's classical past.
The highlight of the party was the introduction of Greece's mascot, Penelope the Fox. The popular Greek cartoonist Spyros Ornerakis said the mascot was selected in a contest against other animals and marine life, including a turtle native to the Greek islands. 'The fox Penelope is distinguished for its intelligence, quick wit and grace under pressure . . .' Ornerakis explained. But in the light of the aforementioned classical past, perhaps more care should have gone into naming the mascot.
One problem is the nature of the celebrated Penelope of Greek mythology, wife to Odysseus. According to which classical source you select, she was either a model of female chastity during her husband's 20-year absence (as Homer claims), or she 'liberally gratified all her suitors' (as later classical writers claim). It seemed to Almanack that such metaphorical confusion - to defend or not to defend - could only be harmful to the team in the United States.
Researching the derivation of the word itself, we uncovered another puzzle. Far from a witty, graceful fox, 'Penelope' in Greek is a kind of duck. Greece play their opening match against Argentina on 21 June in Boston. We await their tactics with keen interest.
Riling the quarterback
SCANDALOUS goings-on at the US television station ESPN2, a recent offshoot of the pioneering sports channel ESPN. It seems that Jim Rome, a rather cocky sports show host, pushed his luck a little too far in an interview with the New Orleans Saints' quarterback Jim Everett.
During the exchange, which was broadcast live on Wednesday night, Rome referred to Everett as 'Chris Evert', suggesting that the Saints' QB was lacking in courage on the field. Everett quite understandably took offence, and warned him not to do it again.
'You'd better take a station break,' Everett said. 'You've been talking behind my back.'
'Well, now I'm saying it to your face,' Rome said.
'I bet you won't say it again,' Everett said.
Rome said it again.
Everett then stood up and knocked the studio table over into Rome with a backhand of which Chrissie herself would have been proud. As the presenter toppled, Everett jumped on him.
Later, a largely undamaged Rome disingenuously claimed that his wisecracking 'wasn't meant as a slam on his manhood or a slam on his pride. It really was good-natured and it didn't work out.' Everett responded that Rome had provoked him and that he had no regrets about 'sacking' the interviewer. 'I was put in a position that I was going to be in a journalistic-type interview,' he said, 'and, instead, I was put into what I felt was a taunting attack.'
'We're not proud of what happened,' said John A Walsh, executive editor of ESPN, the parent network. But Rome has not been disciplined, and you can rest assured that the station's executives will be paying very careful attention to the ratings of his show next week.
Perhaps the idea will catch on in Britain. Will John Motson be able to resist slipping the odd 'Glenda' into his next post-match interview with Chelsea's player-manager?
Oldest swingers in town
EARLY Wednesday morning at Collingtree Park Golf Club in Northamptonshire. A rabbit skittered across the 10th fairway as three middle-aged men prepared to tee up. In the backgound a miniature tractor harvested a field of bright yellow golf balls on the driving range; beyond that, juggernauts lumbered along the M1. There was an icy cold, blustery wind that threatened snow: not a nice morning for golf.
The players might easily have been taken for company directors out for an early-
morning round before work - until they addressed the ball and swung. Tony Coveney, from Killarney, Renato Campagnoli, from Florence, and John Klatt, from Brisbane, Australia, were attempting to qualify for the 1994 PGA European Seniors Tour. The over-fifties take their game very seriously, as well they might: the Seniors Tour offers prize money of more than pounds 1m.
The qualifying school is a very peculiar occasion. Despite the importance of obtaining one of the four cards that allow automatic entry to all this year's senior events, or of the four further cards that allow 'reserve' places, the 39 players far outnumbered the spectators. Yet the tension was evident as the competitors completed their rounds and assembled, in a riot of pastel sweaters, in front of the scoreboard to monitor the progress of their rivals.
Renato Campagnoli set the target for the day. Playing with the first group, out at 8.30am, he scorched round in a four-under-par 68 and was back in time for elevenses with a tour card and pounds 1,000 as good as in his pocket. Nobody was to get within two shots of him all day. Almanack offered congratulations. Unfortunately the dapper Tuscan speaks no English, but his body language throughout the tournament - cool, reserved, unsmiling - suggested that his victory was no surprise to him. Campagnoli's caddie, Nick West, supported the theory. 'He played just as well yesterday,' the bag-humper revealed, 'he just didn't putt.' A good tipper? 'Thirty quid,' Nick said. 'Better than most.'
John Klatt, who had gone round with Campagnoli, had unfortunately not done so in the same style. Klatt, the club professional at the Virginia club in Brisbane, had flown over specially for this one tournament. Agonisingly, he missed the vital eighth spot - and a place on the Tour - by one shot. But the tall, tanned Australian remained good-natured in defeat. 'I've enjoyed it,' he admitted. 'I've made some good friends.' Not unfairly, he blamed his downfall on inexperience in British conditions. 'Look, Brisbane's in the tropics,' he pointed out. 'I'd never seen snow until yesterday.'
The runaway success of the American Seniors series and the way the European version is expanding means that many golfers who would previously have considered themselves in the twilight of their careers can now look forward to a new, and lucrative, lease of life. But it means that all the pressure of their early years in the game returns as well. Once again, 30 years on, they have another crack at making the grade.
Who knows, it may not even be their last chance. Last week in Augusta the former champions Gene Sarazen (92), Byron Nelson (82) and Sam Snead (also 82) drove 150, 180 and 220 yards respectively to open the US Masters. What price a PGA Veterans Tour with a minimum age of 75?
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