1978 Squire Seafair Trophy
‘Unadulterated Brilliance’ Wins Again For Grandpop
As expected, the Bill Muncey Invitational had all the suspense of watching paint dry.
Poor Bill, sensitive over his superiority, tried to even out the odds, and even that didn’t work.
In the end, as he had 48 times before, Muncey clambered off his waterborne missile, flashed the widest grin west of Terry-Thomas and accepted the adulation for one more unlimited-hydroplane triumph.
Age cannot wither nor monotony stale the infinite exuberance which motivates this hyperactive grandfather to risk his wrinkling neck in a pastime better left to postgraduate hot-rodders and dropouts bent on self-destruction.
Anybody meeting Muncey for the first time — if there can be anybody left who answers that description — instantly could perceive that this is no normal, run-of-the-board room corporation executive.
Once curly and fetching hair has gone wispy. The face looks as though it is pressed perpetually against a windowpane. Muncey walks like an athlete not yet contemplating retirement. He talks the way he drives a thunderboat — full throttle, and look out you don’t get washed down in the roostertail.
I regard Muncey as one of the most fascinating individuals I have met in a lifetime of observing athletes. As a singular personality, he is there somewhere between Bill Russell and Jim Zorn.
The air of arrogance some rivals detect in Muncey is only half illusion. Bill has earned the right to expect to hold attention when he speaks.
Once I referred to Muncey as the Babe Ruth of hydroplaning — and that was at least 10 years ago. I thought of it then as a bit of literary license, excusing exaggeration. Excuses no longer are needed.
In his field, Muncey belongs alongside the Yankees in their heyday, the Celtics with Russell aboard, the Bruins of John Wooden. He is, in fact, a kind of literate Ali in his own sport.
The experts hastily will refresh me, but I cannot remember the last time Bill Muncey did not win a race, if his craft did not develop hiccups or pop a gusset. He is remembered best for bisecting a Coast Guard cutter and being struck, once, by a houseboat — low-lights in a brash and flamboyant youth. But it is at the finish line where the real Bill Muncey stands up.
Just as O.J. Simpson and, lately, Sherman Smith babble ardently of the line that opens their holes, Muncey — with extravagant justification — praises his crew chief, Jim Lucero, and the virtuosos of wrench and screwdriver who staple his boat together for every race.
But there has grown up a grudging suspicion that not every hydro jockey, given the same equipment, would have to remodel the rec room to cope with seven Gold Cups.
On the lake where Muncey first captured the imagination of aquanuts when he was half his present age, Bill haltered himself with a handicap in his first trip on the course yesterday. That is, picking his hole at the starting line like an O.J. Simpson, Muncey broke for daylight — after gliding across two lanes, all contrary to statute, as interpreted by Bill Newton, referee.
The disadvantage was not enough — even forced to run an extra lap, Muncey finished third. From then on, as has become customary, it was a question of who would finish second.
With the exaggerated compliance of a kid convinced he was punished unjustly, Muncey played it excessively straight for his second start. "I didn’t want to put myself in a position where any official between here and New York would have to be put in a position to make a decision," said Bill, with a straight face.
In the finale, Bill won from here to New York.
"What won it for you?" somebody asked.
"Unadulterated brilliance," said Bill.
Joking or not, Bill was right.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, August 7, 1978)
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