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Mathias’ Victory in ’48 Left Indelible Impression

Paul Zimmerman, the former Times sports editor who died Sunday at 92, was asked in 1988 to name the biggest story he ever covered.

“Bob Mathias winning the Olympic decathlon in London in 1948,” said Zimmerman, who ran The Times sports department from 1939 to 1968.

“I consider that the most exciting story I ever covered, certainly the biggest sports story I ever wrote.

“Here was this 17-year-old California kid, who’d never even been in a decathlon until a few months prior to the Olympics, competing in the rain . . . and he was right up there, with the greatest athletes in the world.”

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Now that was a party: Did the guests at your Super Bowl party have this much fun?

At the Green Parrot Pub in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, a man from Anheuser-Busch walked in and handed each of 90 guests a cashier’s check for $545.50.

“I don’t even watch football . . . I just came here to have a few beers,” said a stunned Tammy Santiago, 38, who was with her brother.

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The Green Parrot Pub turned out to be the winner of a contest that about 40,000 U.S. bars had entered. To win, the bars had to be having a Super Bowl party with the theme of Anheuser-Busch’s “Bud Bowl 8" promotion.

“For me, this is about the same as two weeks’ pay,” said Ben Mendez. “I’m gonna use this money to buy me a nice stereo system for my car.”

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Trivia time: What sport requires its Olympic and world championship competitions to be played on artificial turf?

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Message of the week: Art Aragon, the “Golden Boy” Los Angeles welterweight contender of the 1950s, called and left a message on the answering machine:

“This is Aragon. Remember me? Let me give you a hint: ‘Eight, nine, 10--he’s out!’ ”

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That certain touch: The Times of London assigned Oliver Holt, who normally covers motor sports, to the Super Bowl, and his prose had that inimitable English touch:

” . . . O’Donnell hurled the ball into the one area of the field bereft of Pittsburgh players.”

” . . . Smith, the Cowboys’ relentless running back, waltzed in for his second touchdown of the match.”

” . . . It was another victory, too, for the new America over the old, the America of stretch limousines and corporate entertainment, brash and loud, over its fading blue-collar alter ego, a place of rusting steel mills and declining population.”

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Out with the old: In 1968, Atlantans built a 16,378-seat arena and called it the Omni.

In 1997, they will tear it down and build a 20,000-seat arena on the same site. Cost: $200 million. The project will be funded by bonds, a car rental tax and Turner Broadcasting.

Why the new place?

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“The Omni has only 16 suites and the new building will have 100,” said a spokesman for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.

“Also, the Omni doesn’t have a video screen. It’s one of the older arenas in the NBA. . . . We’re trying to keep up with the Joneses.”

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Trivia answer: Field hockey.

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Quotebook: Announcer Mel Allen, on his law school days: “I did pass the bar. But as some might say, I haven’t passed one since.”


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