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Say Goodbye to Football Huddles; Pro Tennis Tries Musical Interludes

ONE aspect of American football that has mystified, amused, and even alienated Europeans - along with others of a soccer orientation - is the dead time between plays. Football may never totally satisfy an interest some have in perpetual motion, but Tex Schramm, former president of the Dallas Cowboys, says the National Football League will be delivering more action in the future.

``I think the game is going to be faster, that the huddle is going to be a relic of the past,'' Schramm said recently in Washington at a Smithsonian Institution lecture series celebrating the NFL's 75th anniversary. ``Now they finally have the earphone [in helmets], so the coach can talk to the quarterback. I think that eventually the game will be played where you run a play, and you just line up and - Bang! - you go again.''

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For many years, teams have practiced their ``two-minute'' attacks, but the Cincinnati Bengals in the mid-1980s were perhaps the first team to try the no-huddle approach throughout much of the game, relying on hand signals from the bench.

The best recent advertisement for rush-rush football was produced by the New England Patriots, who dispensed with huddles almost entirely during the second half and overtime period of a Nov. 13 game against Minnesota. Trailing 20-3 at the half, New England stormed back to win 26-20, with quarterback Drew Bledsoe setting NFL records for total pass completions (45) and attempts (70), including 53 after the intermission.

Musical tennis, anyone?

IN its attempt to jazz up men's tennis (read: make it more fan friendly), the ATP Tour has experimented with some radical concepts in 1994, most notably music during service changeovers. This was the most-debated and least-popular innovation tried at this year's Volvo International, a survey of spectators found.

The tournament was the guinea pig for an approach called ``Stadium Entertainment.'' The musical changeovers made the matches more enjoyable for 55 percent of the young spectators (aged 12 to 18) surveyed and 44 percent of the adults. On-court player interviews made the biggest hit with fans.

Despite efforts to jazz up the presentation, tour CEO Mark Miles cautions against forgetting the product. ``The sport comes first,'' he says, ``and no innovation should detract from the quality of play.''

Innovations that occur before serious play begins work best, and one of the most unusual - a tennis and rock-and-roll hybrid - served as a warmup act to the ATP Tour World Championship tournament in Frankfurt, Germany, last month. Former Wimbledon champions Pat Cash and John McEnroe starred in ``Rock and Rackets,'' a show created by Cash.

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Bruins may miss sendoff

AT the rate labor negotiations are progressing during the National Hockey League lockout, which is to say at a snail's pace, there may be no NHL games this season. That would be especially disturbing for fans of the Boston Bruins, who would miss an opportunity to see the B's take their last turns on the Boston Garden ice.

The Boston Garden will be razed before next season's move into the new Shawmut Center next door.

Basketball's Celtics, who share the Garden with the Bruins, are the more acclaimed occupants and the ones most responsible for putting the old arena and its parquet court on the sports map. The Celtics, however, are only tenants, a source of some tension over the years, while the Bruins are owned by Jeremy Jacobs, whose company, Delaware North, owns the Garden.

The Bruins have played in the Garden far longer, beginning their residency when the facility opened for the 1924-25 season. Bruins like Cooney Weiland, Dit Clapper, and Eddie Shore were stars in the Hub long before the Celtics, who date to 1946, ever existed.

Literary rookie

ABOUT the only time you find some pro athletes in a bookstore is to sign their ghost-written autobiographies. Then there's Grant Hill, a rookie guard with the Detroit Pistons who looks like future book material himself. Hill told the Boston Globe last week that one of his favorite Detroit-area haunts is a Barnes & Noble bookstore.

This penchant lines up with his academic background: His father, Calvin Hill, a college and pro football star, went to Yale. Grant went to Duke and is drawing rave notices in the National Basketball Association, where he is averaging nearly 20 points per game and is the league's November rookie of the month.

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