USFL considers switch to fall; Borg makes tennis return
During its second season, which ended last weekend, the United States Football League experienced a modest attendance increase, but a slight decrease in TV viewership. The latter development understandably concerns USFL executives , some of whom want to switch to a fall schedule.
Despite the league's desire to avoid head-to-head competition with the National Football League, a spring/summer season seems a force-fed solution. Engrained spectating habits are hard to break, and as one TV executive has observed, the USFL will ''have a minor league stamp on it'' as long as it plays in the spring.
Of course, stadium availability is limited in the fall, with NFL teams in action. And in some cities, major league baseball also shares the same turf. This doesn't seem to leave much for the USFL, but owner Donald Trump of the New Jersey Generals suggests scheduling games on Thursday and Sunday nights. (Laws designed to protect high school and college football generally prevent national pro telecasts on Friday night, Saturday afternoon, or Saturday night.)
Even with a patchwork fall schedule, the USFL would likely enjoy greater visibility. As it is, much USFL news goes unnoticed even by so-called football fans.
Among the things they may have missed this past season were:
* Pro football's longest game, a three-overtime playoff marathon that saw the Los Angeles Express defeat the defending champion Michigan Panthers in the 94th minute of play.
* A record-breaking 44 touchdown passes by quarterback Jim Kelly, who shattered the previous high of 36 for a pro season. Kelly, a rookie quarterback with the Houston Gamblers, was the league's MVP.
* The job Coach George Allen did in taking the Arizona Wranglers to the USFL championship game, won by the Philadelphia Stars 23-3. Touching other bases
* Bjorn Borg has ended his tennis retirement, picking up exactly where he left off 16 months ago - by losing to Frenchman Henri Leconte. Only the defeat was worse this time. Borg had lost to Leconte 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 last March in what was billed as his swan song from major competition. The score was 6-3, 6-1 in this week's rematch, which occurred in the first round of a West German tournament that marked Borg's return to action. The world's former No. 1 player plans to de-rust his game in several minor events and possibly play an exhibition against John McEnroe.
* Doesn't it seem appropriate that placekicker Jan Stenerud, a native of Norway, should finally wind up with the Minnesota Vikings? Stenerud, whose 388 field goals are a National Football League record, was traded to Minnesota by the Green Bay Packers.
* A strong junior development program has made Czechoslovakia a power in women's tennis. The program's leading graduate, of course, is Martina Navratilova, who defected to the United States during the 1975 US Open in New York and is now a naturalized American citizen. But enough other players have stayed home to field an outstanding team, one good enough to be the defending champion in this week's 37-nation Federation Cup competition in Brazil. The squad, which ended an eight-year US reign in 1983, is led by Hana Mandlikova. Joining her in the women's equivalent of Davis Cup play are a pair of upper-echelon clay court players, Helena Sukova and Iva Budarova.