To end the year, some random thoughts, opinions, observations, and arbitrary 1984 awards :
* Classiest Act: Julius Erving's initiation of successful peace talks with Larry Bird after the two squared off in a much-publicized fight, the first of Dr. J's career. Rather than wait until the two NBA superstars met on the court again, Erving went to Bird in the Boston locker room before Philadelphia's next game with the Celtics and ironed things out.
* For a guy who became a modern day Jesse Owens by winning four Olympic gold medals, sprinter-long jumper Carl Lewis sure disappeared in a hurry.
* 1984 marks the 20th anniversary of artificial turf. Ugh!
* It's good to see a man of principle like Jerry Claiborne clean up the football program at the University of Kentucky, and produce a winning team to boot.
* Most Disappointing Sight: So-called fans tearing up the beautiful grass field at Tiger Stadium after Detroit won the World Series.
* Reports have circulated recently that the first dunk has occurred in a women's college basketball. That's a nice breakthrough, but nothing to get too excited about. Until women start soaring a la Michael Jordan, their dunks will be poor imitations of those in the men's game. What I find far more appealing are the finesse moves of today's female players.
* Best-dressed city: Los Angeles during the Olympics. Organizers did a fabulous job of bringing a festive atmosphere to this sprawling metropolis with some of most cheerful, large-scale exterior decorating imaginable.
* Post-Game Sour Grapes Award to University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler for calling Brigham Young ''absolutely the worst holding team in the United States of America'' after the Wolverines lost in the Holiday Bowl.
* A budding sport like synchronized swimming couldn't have a better ambassador than gold medalist Tracie Ruiz.
* The way the Los Angeles Raiders demolished the Washington Redskins in last January's Super Bowl, the following headline comes as something of a shock: Raiders Face a Major Rebuilding Job.
* Imagine my surprise upon boarding a crowded Olympic shuttle bus in Sarajevo last winter and finding two of the Games' biggest stars en route to their date with sports history. I would have thought Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, the spectacular British ice dancers, would have sought out an alternative mode of transportation to the arena on the biggest night of their career. Instead, they sat quietly on either side of the bus, an aisle and two empty seats separating them. Their skating outfits occupied the vacant seats, but one sensed the seats were off limits on this occasion.
* Most Graceful Athletic Sight: Diver Greg Louganis in poetic flight at the Summer Olympics.
* The Padres and Cubs making the baseball playoffs together? It still seems impossible.
* A barely noticed act of sportsmanship by a Spanish player was my favorite play during last summer's Olympic basketball competition. With his team fast-breaking at the other end, the noble Spaniard remained behind to watch over injured American Wayman Tisdale. The gesture wasn't entirely ignored, for when US Coach Bobby Knight came onto the floor he gave the player an affectionate tap on the head.
* Best Flipside: Side 2 of the official Los Angeles Olympics record. Playing it conjures up visions of the opening ceremonies and other inspiring moments.
* Most Captivating Personality: Mary Lou Retton.
* Doug Flutie's college football career is the stuff of boyhood dreams. I'm happy to have witnessed it.
* How did golfer Betsy King, the women's leading money winner in '84, slip so quietly to the top?
* Even legal college recruiting can be sadly cockeyed. Just read Bill Brubaker's article in the Nov. 26 issue of Sports Illustrated. Brubaker reveals that North Carolina State landed coveted basketball prospect Chris Washburn after sending him 278 letters, postcards, and Mailgrams! That sort of pampering can give a youngster a pretty distorted sense of himself. Washburn, incidentally, was dismissed last week from the Wolfpack basketball team after his arrest on a burglary charge, a sad start to his freshman season.