SAILER UBER ALLES
Long before the last ski jumper thumped onto the out-run in the final event at Cortina, it was obvious to anyone who cared to keep score that Russia, in her very first appearance at a Winter Olympics, had won the Games hands down. And practically everybody kept score one way or another. The system most popular in the U.S. was the highly unofficial one proudly invented by the sports editor of the Associated Press back in 1928 when American heroes were doing handsomely in both the Summer and Winter Games. By this method, which rates the first six finishers on a 10-5-4-3-2-1 scale, Russia scored 121 points at Cortina to 78½ for runner-up Austria, 66 for Finland, 62 for Sweden, 55½ for Switzerland and 54½ for the U.S.
The Swedish press used a 7-5-3-2-1-0 system which not only deflated the Soviet point total but placed Sweden in a tie for third. For the fundamentalists, of course, there was also the traditional Olympic method of counting only gold medals: Russia (7), Austria (4), Finland and Switzerland (3), Sweden, Norway and the U.S. (2).
At this point SI would like to offer a fresh scoring system. Taking gold medals and dividing them into population, tiny Finland comes out the winner, with one medal for every 1,333,333 people. Switzerland thus moves up to second with one medal for every 1,666,667. Then Austria with one for every 1,750,000. Then Sweden, one for every 3,500,000.
February 13, 1956
By this compilation Russia plummets among the also-rans with a dismal average of one medal for every 33 million people; but the U.S. takes the undisputed booby prize—80 million people for each one of its two medals.
Then, bringing the scoring full circle and thus blundering even closer to the original Olympic ideal of ignoring countries and crediting only individuals, you finally arrive at the real winner: Toni Sailer of Austria, handsome hero of the Winter Games. Toni won three gold medals (giving him, personally, more points than most countries at Cortina) and, as any fool can plainly see (page 20), caused an absolute sensation among the female audience every time he flashed a victory smile.
PSYCHICAL TONE AT CORTINA
Ridiculous but human little demonstrations of pinpricked national pride, incidents of sheer zaniness—these have not been lacking in the seventh Winter Olympics.
The Canada-Italy hockey game, for instance, was distinguished by a series of extraordinary decisions by the Czech referee, all directed against the Canadians, which pinned Canada's victory margin down to two goals. The crowd, which knew little about hockey, was delighted, and the Canadians were upset and resentful. Mechanically, the winners lined up on the ice to give their traditional rah-rah for their opponents.
Their cheer was barely audible. But that was not how the Gazzetta Dello Sport, of Milan, saw it. Next morning the paper told its readers: "As the Italians prepared to quit the ice, the Canadians could not contain the great cry of admiration for the gallant losers which burst from their throats."
The French have led the way in Cortina incidents. They can produce great athletes, all right, but they manage to invest their sport with the spirit of chaos which characterizes their politics.
First came a blazing row in their ski team. James Couttet, their ski coach and a great champion a decade ago, dropped Jean Vuarnet from the slalom team. Vuarnet immediately accused Couttet of favoritism, and the Paris press turned on the team's officials. Late one night, reported the French national sports daily L'Equipe, Couttet walked out into the snow to turn over in his mind the question of whether he should resign. It was so cold he decided to return to the hotel bar and turn it over there. Finally Couttet resigned, and Vuarnet was barred from further participation in the Games. "Instead of slicing, with a firm gesture, the difference between the two men," complained L'Equipe, "our officials have deprived us of both. Is this not shortsighted?"
The French bobsledders (les bobbeurs) were not to be left out of the fun and Games. They were first irritated when two of their number, going upstairs to bed, found that their rooms at the Hotel de la Poste had been taken away and given to two officials just arrived from Paris. One was told he could sleep in a bathroom and the other that he would be given a camp bed in the corridor. "Is this wise?" asked a special correspondent of L'Equipe. "Should not the athlete come first?"
André Robin, star of les bobbeurs, hit back promptly. After two descents, he announced that "for reasons of security" he would not go down the run any more. He lacked faith in his bob.
This time authority was swift to react. At noon, a letter from the French Olympic Committee was handed Robin. The letter curtly requested him to surrender his Olympic credentials and warned him that his hotel bill would no longer be taken care of. In fact he would have to start on that day by paying for his own lunch.
This, naturally, provoked great indignation. The Hotel de la Poste has the best of a poor lot of restaurants in Cortina. It was after midday, and the luncheon hour could thus be held to have begun. Surely Robin, who had already twice risked his life for France, deserved better than this shabby treatment? Could he not at least be kept on an expense account until dinner? Three more bobbeurs promptly resigned.
Later that day negotiations were renewed. "They were pursued," reports L'Equipe, "until late in the night. As a result, Robin will resume his sledding, and the incident is considered not to have taken place."
Finally, a belated effort was made to screen from the public gaze these manifestations of French passion for individualism. "A meeting of all officials, trainers and athletes has been held," gravely announced Urbain Cazaux, president of the French Ski Federation. Out of respect for the memory of Baron Coubertin, French founder of the modern Olympics, "it has been decided that all will remain henceforth silently at their posts until the end of the Games, after which the interested parties have reserved the right to make known their respective points of view."
The silence at the bar of the Hotel de la Poste continued to be deafening.
Bobbeurs, of course, are usually men who live hard. After the perils of their early-morning runs, it is not unusual to find these athletes regaining their composure in pleasant female companionship or over a bottle of nerve restorative. So much so, it seems, that rumors reached London about the "orgies" in which the British sledders were said to indulge. This drew indignant protest from Keith Schellenberg, captain of Britain's bob team, which the Daily Express reproduced:
"A disgusting whispering campaign in Cortina suggests that members of our bobsleigh team are out on the razzle night after night.... Let me say for a start that anyone who takes notice of such rumors is a complete clot.... I see nothing wrong with these boys choosing their own sort of relaxation....
"Some people are beefing that they are letting Britain down. What rot! And all because Stuart Parkinson and Chris Williams went to a hotel party to meet Sophia Loren.
"Our team is necessarily made up of tough, beefy fellows, with a touch of devil-may-care.... But the slanderous whispers about suggested drunken orgies are...complete fantasy."
Not that a moderate intake of alcohol at this altitude does harm. That is, if credit can be given to Italy's official Olympic bulletin, which carried the following ad in English for Seagram's:
"To drink alcohol in a moderate quantity, when we are on the mountains, is much advisable mainly because of its corroborating and tonic action.
"Even Professor A. Herlitzca, the well-known physiologist of our time, shares this opinion and...wrote, 'It is no sin, when we are on the mountains, to raise up our psychical tone by drinking a few sips of alcoholic beverages.... When we drink alcohol our organism becomes more resistant to cold weather because of the increased flow of blood into the peripheric vessels of the derm.'
"What shall we drink when we are on the mountains? Without any doubt, Canadian whisky.... Canadian fur hunters have chosen it as well as the renowned Canadian frontier guardsmen during the long winter marches through snow and glaciers....
"[It] is a need when you are on the mountains, a need for the spirit and for the organism. It is not intoxicating.... Even diluted with soda water it keeps entirely its corroborating properties."
THE MILLROSE 60
Olympic-minded Americans who have been appalled by the Soviet successes in the snows of Cortina might well turn their eyes to the cinders of Melbourne and hope. For while American chances of doing well in Olympic track and field at distances above 800 meters are dismal, as usual, American strength in the events the U.S. traditionally dominates seems to be just as strong as ever.
For example, in Half-miler Arnold Sowell, Quarter-miler Charley Jenkins and Sprinter David Sime, the U.S. has three young men who must be—right now, anyway—prime Olympic favorites. Evidence that Sowell and Jenkins are as good or better than anyone in the world at their specialties has been coming in for some time. But Sime is a new name, one that sprang to sudden prominence two weeks ago when he spread-eagled the field in the sprint series at the Washington Star indoor meet (SI, Jan. 30).
However, one rose does not a summer make, nor one good night in Washington an Olympic favorite. "Do it again," was the challenge to young David Sime.
Well, to Madison Square Garden in New York City last Saturday night came young David Sime to do it again, this time in the over-before-it-starts 60-yard dash at the Millrose Games. There were grave doubts that the tall, muscular Sime could get started quickly enough to catch the other sprinters in the short 60, and indeed whether he was good enough to catch them, for his opponents—possibly the finest sprint field in indoor track history—included the 1952 Olympic 100-meter champion, the 1952 Olympic 200-meter champion, the 1953 and 1954 National Collegiate 100-yard champion, and the 1955 Pan-American Games 100- and 200-meter champion. Yet, when the fury of the elimination trials had settled, none of these superb sprinters had survived to the final. Sime did.
In the final he reacted beautifully to the starter's gun and got off splendidly, chest and chest with bullet-starting George Sydnor, who had tied the indoor world record in his trial heat and who had beaten Sime in one of the two semifinals. That was the race. Sydnor hung on for 40 of the 60 yards, but then Sime surged ahead to win. He held off fast-finishing John Haines and gained acclaim as the outstanding performer of the 49th annual Millrose Games.
Later, the point was raised that perhaps the veteran sprinters had their eyes on Olympic trials in June and Olympic finals in November and might not yet be in peak condition. This may well be so, but as anyone who saw the Millrose 60 can tell you, neither peak condition nor a rocket engine is any guarantee that anyone anywhere is going to beat Dave Sime.
HOCKEY IN DIXIE
In the south, where ice is for juleps, promoters from time to time make a desperate effort to introduce the game of hockey. The effort never has succeeded for long, but, on the other hand, it seldom has taken off from a more auspicious launching platform than Charlotte, North Carolina provided a few nights back when the Baltimore Clippers of the Eastern League, orphaned by an arena fire, took shelter there. The homeless Clippers were invited to show their game by an impromptu promotional group calling itself the Charlotte Hockey Club (two businessmen, a dentist and an undertaker). A few nights later history was made as Baltimore rattled sticks against New Haven in the first league hockey match ever played in North Carolina. All reserved seats were sold by afternoon and that night a capacity crowd of 10,101 (thousands were turned away) paid its way into Charlotte's spacious new coliseum, not too sure of what it was going to see but determined to be excited about it. Said a waitress, hustling through her evening chores:
"Sure, I'm going. Isn't everyone? But say, how do they play hockey ball? With a horse?"
And a salesman with an authoritative ring to his voice said: "The game will be played on foot tonight. The building isn't big enough to get in all the ponies."
(Well, that isn't so crazy as people in Detroit might think. In fact, polo was once defined by none other than A. E. Bostwick, the encyclopedist, as "the game of hockey played on horses or roller skates.")
The Baltimore Club, which Charlotte had happily adopted as its own, was trounced 6-2 by league-leading New Haven but when Mike Diselets scored for the Clippers the crowd almost tore the roof off the world's biggest dome (a coliseum boast).
A few nights later, despite fog and rain, 6,074 paid to see the Clippers against the Johnstown Jets but then word came that the Charlotte airport was weathered in and the Jet players were down at Columbia, South Carolina, 100 miles away. The Jets, it was explained, were traveling the rest of the way by bus and the game might be delayed several hours.
"Shall we call it off?" Promoter Herman Moore asked.
"No!" the crowd roared back and 4,500 sat patiently, heartened from time to time by progress reports from the bus. At 10:40 the puck was dropped and the Clippers made it all worth while by winning 5-4 in an overtime period. The game ended at 1:32 a.m.
"And they say Montreal is crazy about hockey," mused Clipper Coach Andy Brown.
HOW BEASTLY CAN YOU GET?
A few years ago it was quite likely that there were more rabbits in England than Englishmen. Something had to be done, old boy, and when a rabbit-killing disease known as myxomatosis jumped the Channel and spread like the common cold, it was generally considered a jolly good thing. In no time at all, an Englishman could go for days without meeting a rabbit and the new state of affairs was not only good for the Englishman's morale, but for his pocketbook as well. The Minister of Agriculture estimated that the farmer alone had profited to the tune of ¬£15 million in the form of better crops.
It was not until the hunt season got under way that anybody noticed that myxomatosis had had a horrible side effect. Not on people, but almost worse than that: on the British fox. Deprived of rabbits to chase and eat, the fox had turned into a downright bounder. He had taken to a diet of field mice, beetles and kale, that sort of thing, and had even been observed raiding trash bins and garbage pails. A Gloucestershire fox hunter reported: "I've been following the hounds for some 40 years. This week for the first time I followed a fox down to that oil refinery by the river where the fox apparently had been scavenging. It was beastly riding down that way."
Other hunters confirmed the horror. Said Colonel Lionel Dawson of Dorset: "The fox's present diet is not good for his training. He has lost his stamina and doesn't go for the long point [a single straight run]." Major Robert Peel, master of the Dorset South Hunt declared: "It is all those empty rabbit holes. Foxes like peace and quiet and duck in when they can. They are lying to ground more frequently because there are so many empty holes."
Hunters throughout England shuddered to think of what a rabbitless future might hold for them. One was not afraid to spell out the worst that might happen: "This could change the character of the sport. We would have to breed a different sort of hound, perhaps like the Americans who use small hounds good for poking into bushes, but not good for the long run. It would be a weaker breed."
A Warwickshire hunter charged flatly that "myxomatosis has upset the balance of nature." That may be what it boils down to. Maybe nature didn't intend that there should be more Englishmen than rabbits.
There is a difference, Tony Trabert will tell you, between being the best amateur tennis player in the world and the second-best professional. The big difference? Well, for one thing, you're not even competing in the same sport.
After eight weeks on Jack Kramer's pro tour, bouncing across the country in a station wagon caravan to play one-night stands from Cincinnati to Salt Lake City, eating on the fly, sleeping when and where he gets around to it and, in between, facing the best tennis player in the world every night, Trabert has even evolved a theory: "Amateur tennis," says last year's Wimbledon and Forest Hills champion, "at least most of the time, was fun. It was a sport. Professional tennis is a job."
Trabert has no kicks about the paycheck and he's not sorry he turned pro; he has even become reconciled to the hectic schedule, "although anyone would be crazy to say he likes it." The one thing that bothers him is the result of the tour: Pancho Gonzales 23 matches, Tony Trabert 7 at week's end. "I can beat him," Tony says "I've just got to play a little better."
Some other impressions of Rookie Trabert:
About Gonzales: "Sure he's tough; a great competitor, the best I've ever played. He hits the ball hard, he's like a big cat and you never get anything past him unless it's perfect. And that serve—you just can't do anything with it."
About his own game: "I'm playing better than I ever have and I'm in the best condition of my life—even with all this crazy traveling. I have to be or I'd never last it out. You never run into anything like this as an amateur; there were always some matches that were easy and even in the tough ones there were times you could relax—even against guys like Hoad and Rosewall. But you don't ease up against Pancho or you get murdered. His serve is the big problem. It isn't enough just to get it back because then he'll put the next shot away. You have to get it back with something on it, and to do that you have to press; then you make mistakes. But if you don't press, you lose anyway. So...."
About the eventual outcome of the tour: "Well, I'm not giving up if that's what you mean. Most of the matches have been close, win or lose. I'm learning all the time and I think I can beat him. We've still got a long way to go."
About the feud: "There's nothing to it; the whole thing has been garbled in the papers. Heck no, we're not going around with our arms around each other—this is a highly competitive business and he thinks he's the best tennis player in the world and I think I am and we're both out to prove it. But no one is taking a punch at anyone else. It's just that you don't get buddy-buddy with a guy who's out there every night trying to beat your brains out on the court."
Tennis lessons, anyone?
A hush-hush fellow,
I would say,
Sending guided missiles
On their way.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Governor Averell Harriman of New York, guest at the New York baseball writers' annual dinner, unintentionally gave the audience of 1,400 its richest moment when he referred to baseball's commissioner as "my friend Ford Frisk." Comedian Phil Silvers, who followed Harriman, brought down the house: "I've been a baseball fan for a long time, so long in fact that I can remember when Ford Frisk was Ford Frick."
While Soviet athletes were plucking medals at Cortina, there rose rumbles of "overemphasis" back home. Komsomolskaya Pravda, Communist youth paper, featured a letter criticizing "championomania." Quote: "Of late the steady, systematic job of training physically well-developed, strong and sturdy men and women has been replaced...by the training of individual champions and record holders."
Nashua and Swaps could meet again on St. Patrick's Day since both are eligible for the Gulfstream Park Handicap in Florida that day. Swaps was a surprise nomination the day before the lists closed last week.
Meanwhile, horse racing fans got set to assess 1956's new group of 3-year-olds in a series of late winter races in Florida and California. Surprise of the week was the victory of a colt appropriately known as Call Me Lucky (aided by the weights) over two of the most touted 3-year-olds of all, the Florida colt Needles, who was 1955's two-year-old of the year, and the much-admired Nail, in an allowance race at Hialeah.
A Congressman with an interesting notion of how to prevent boxing champions from falling into deep tax debt is Democrat J. Vaughan Gary of Virginia. He proposes a change in the tax laws to make a boxer's purse subject to withholding deductions at source. If such a provision had been enforced, Joe Louis would not now owe the U.S. $1,210,789 which he cannot pay.