ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO SPRINT
Verbatim exclusive from Australia, as furnished to readers of the New York Times:
"The wet and rather cold weather that had obtained here during the training period undoubtedly has set back some of them. The spinsters, particularly, have not been able to let out as they would like to."
FUN & (OLYMPIC) GAMES
December 3, 1956
The great cheer which rose when the Olympic flame was lighted at Melbourne last week was more than just a salute to tradition; it was, at least in part, the same sort of applause which vaudeville audiences once gave the juggler who balanced a set of dishes on his head without breaking anything. The juggler at Melbourne was Australia's 19-year-old Miler Ron Clarke, last of the 2,750 relay runners who brought the flame across the continent. Clarke had hardly entered the stadium before it was apparent that he was the recipient of an infernal machine as well as an honor. The aluminum torch he carried was loaded with burning magnesium, and as he galloped (his time for the quarter, 80 seconds) around the track it smoked, sputtered and threw sparks like an old wood-burning locomotive. His bare arm was painfully burned.
When he started up a stairway leading to the top of the stadium it became apparent that the final rite, too, was going to demand a certain rakishness of spirit. The big golden Olympic cauldron burns gas, and those in the audience who had ever approached a gas oven with a match could not help but watch the courier with beady fascination as he advanced on it. He had the deft touch—he raised his torch high, the cauldron whooshed and threw up a mighty flame, and Clarke sprang back completely intact, to receive the cheers of his countrymen.
Clarke was not the only noncompetitor to contribute to the flavor of the Games, and the Olympic stadium did not have a monopoly on open gas fires. Melbourne was almost as proud of a huge torch which has been hung, for atmospheric purposes, above the intersection of downtown Flinders and Swanston streets. The great gadget weighs 3½ tons, stands 65 feet high, and belches flame from a 20-foot mouth; 250,000 people gathered to watch it turned on just before the Games and caused the worst traffic jam since the Queen's tour. Staid Melbourne boasted almost three-quarters of a million dollars' worth of other decoration—buildings were strung with lights, flags and bunting, and flowering windowboxes were everywhere.
This gaudy background and the transient ship-cruise atmosphere attendant on the Games was heightened by a good many peripheral alarums and excursions—one Nina Paranyuk, 34, a stewardess from the Soviet steamship Gruzia, made almost as many headlines as Vladimir Kuts when she went into hiding ashore and stayed hidden despite angry cries of Russian officialdom and the best efforts of the Australian cops. And the street costumes and native ritual of many a competitor add to Melbourne's exotic air: Pakistan's white-turbaned athletes kneel facing Mecca five times daily, the Japanese basketball team bows gravely to the audience before every game, the Nigerians boast rich green coats piped with yellow, and at least one Fiji has emerged in public wearing a lap-lap and sandals.
Some of the noncompetitive efforts of the athletes themselves are causing almost as much talk, at least in the Olympic Village, as their more publicized feats in the arena. There is probably no more persistent topic of conversation in the city than the high wire fence which grimly divides the men's and women's quarters at the village—and even divides husbands and wives, such as the Hungarian swimmers Arpad and Kati Domjan. Scarcely a male in the camp has not designed, at least in imagination, a portable ladder capable of surmounting it.
There is other minor drama behind the scene. The Russians—too confident of winning the broad jump, the hammer throw and the 50-kilometer walk—ordered three big cakes to celebrate their victories. They lost all three events and refused the cakes. The Australian caterer, a man of ironic humor, gravely delivered them, free of charge, at the U.S. camp. The Soviet athletes, however, still smile: the property-minded Reds, in a species of old-fashioned Yankee barter, think they are fleecing the U.S. team members day by day by trading old Russian club badges for U.S. Olympic team badges. They seem unaware of the fact that the American athletes have equipped themselves with from 20 to 30 official pins apiece for just such trading and are collecting all the Soviet hardware in sight.
The tendency of women to gather in small groups and talk about their everyday concerns has remained a constant in history, from the past of the kitchen midden to the present of the electric coffeepot. And the fact that a girl is a topflight swimmer or sprinter or discus thrower has no effect whatever on the ancient pattern; she will have a nice heart-to-heart with her feminine neighbors, even if she has to call in an interpreter before she can do it.
That's what Shelley Mann did the other day (in the women's quarters of the Olympic Village at Melbourne) when her visitors were Marlene Mathews and Betty Cuthbert, two pretty sprinters from Australia, Galina Popova, an equally pretty sprinter from Russia, and Mary Snow of the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Olympic team. Everybody spoke English but Galina, and nobody spoke Russian but Galina and the interpreter, and neither of these facts seemed to bother Galina at all.
She stood the other girls in a row in their stocking feet and measured her height against theirs; then she registered a vast Russian dismay on discovering that she was at least three inches shorter than anybody else. "Our coaches told us we were up against it," she mourned. "We are so small."
While Hostess Mann (who swims but does not run) stored the conversation on her tape recorder, Galina and the two Australian girls sprawled on the bed and discussed the event in which they will all three compete—the 100-meter dash. Marlene Mathews said that her own best time of 11.3 was made with the help of the wind. Did they have wind gauges in Russia?
Yes, indeed, said Galina, and the winds are very strong there, much stronger than in Australia. "But our coaches never let us run with the wind. Always against, for the training." It was the Australians' turn to register dismay.
Somehow the conversation (also following the ancient pattern) got around to men. Marlene showed her diamond engagement ring, talked of her plans for a March wedding, and accepted everybody's congratulations. Galina, questioned about her plans, confessed that she was already married, and had been for two years. Her wedding ring, she explained, had slipped off that day in the shower. "I was afraid I would lose it, so I put it in a little box."
"What is your married name?" Betty asked, and was swamped by the answer: "Galina Mikhailovna Vinogradova Popova."
"Galina is my patron saint," Galina explained. "I'm the daughter of Mikhail. My maiden name is Vinogradova and I married a doctor named Popov."
Shelley (who has been collecting samples of the various languages spoken in the Olympic Village) held the microphone of her tape recorder directly in front of Mrs. Popova and put a question: "Were you a better runner before or after you got married?"
Galina clapped her hands, gave out a delighted whoop, and rolled over backward on the bed.
"Posle!" she shouted, and the interpreter echoed, "Afterward!"
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
A large crowd of cycling fanatics, who had turned up at Melbourne's Velodrome to watch the Olympic cyclists get in some pre-Games training last week, grew restive and surly when pedalers failed to appear. Finally, two showed up on the banked, circular track and put on a brisk exhibition that had the crowd stamping with pleasure and children rushing out of the stands to beseech autographs.
After the fans had filed out of the Velodrome, perspiring Frank Douglas and a fellow Velodrome caretaker confessed their well-intentioned hoax.
"I hadn't been on a bike for 10 years," said Frank, "but all the cyclists were out of town and I thought the people would riot if we didn't put on some sort of a show."
DESIRE AT HOPKINS
John Hopkins University had a new source of pride last week. To the fame of its medical school, the brilliance of its faculty and the high rigor of its academic standards a grace note was added: Johns Hopkins (4-3-1 for the season) won the football championship of the Mason-Dixon Conference. The trophy arrived just the other day, and Coach John Bridgers decided to put it "there on the filing cabinet by the door so everybody can see it. This is only the second one we've had in football, and we're pretty proud of it."
And with reason. It is true that Mason-Dixon football is not Big Ten football (Randolph-Macon, Carnegie Tech and Swarthmore are among the schools in the conference), but this fact takes nothing away from the accomplishment of Coach Bridgers and the 26 members of his squad. De-emphasis has been carried all the way at Johns Hopkins, so that football gets no more official recognition than skeet shooting or contract bridge. The players must fit the sport into an academic schedule exactly like that of a nonplaying student. They face a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the student body that closely resembles apathy. And they are so few in number that Bridgers can truthfully claim to be "one deep at several positions."
"The freshman coach," he explains, "had 35 boys on his squad last year. How many of them turned up for me this year? Four. The other 31 decided they couldn't take the time away from their studies.
"But once the boys made up their minds about winning, there was no stopping them. McGraw, our co-captain, is the spark of the team. He lives in Cumberland but worked here in Baltimore last summer. All summer long he got together with some of the other fellows and practiced two nights a week. They don't have much time to practice during the school year—only about an hour and a half on four days a week—so the summer practice helped a lot.
"Our starting line averaged around 178 pounds. We were playing against lines that went up to 200, but we did O.K. anyway." Bridgers found a simple way to give his lightweight scholars confidence. He listed every one of them on the roster at 10 pounds more than their actual weight. "I think it made 'em feel better," he says.
All the players are serious students of engineering, the sciences or the liberal arts; six of them are majoring in atomic physics. At times they study football as if it were a classroom subject: each man learns the book of offensive plays by heart before the season opens, so that the four weekly practice sessions can be given over to defensive tactics and the digesting of scouting reports. Through the entire season they were able to get in only two scrimmages, and one of those involved only 20 players—11 men on offense, nine on defense.
The team's sparkplug, Kenneth McGraw, is a typically spare-time football player. Majoring in chemistry, he made all Bs last semester in courses which included advanced organic chemistry, physical chemistry, advanced quantitative analysis and the elements of economics. On Sundays he sings baritone in the University Baptist Church, and on eight Saturdays this fall he played tackle through every minute of every game on the Johns Hopkins schedule. Shorthanded though the team was, McGraw was the only player to achieve that distinction. When someone asked him recently bow he felt on Sundays and Mondays after those 60-minute gridiron stints, he smilingly answered, "Stiff."
"They're the most remarkable bunch I've ever seen," says Coach Bridgers. "They really want to play, without any of the benefits that football players get at other schools. This school makes no special rules for football players. They have to study and act just like the other students.
"Sometimes I wonder what makes them do it. But the answer is simple: they just want to play."
AN AGE IN RETROSPECT
There will be a new heavyweight champion this week. But although the Age of Marciano has ended, its principals, like former French premiers, linger importantly. Marciano himself, retired now for some seven months, is doing just fine. Rocky has put on more than 40 pounds, he has a robustious dining room named for him in a busy Manhattan restaurant, and he enjoys his proper share of adulation as the only heavyweight champion ever to retire undefeated over a professional career. Rocky's manager, Al Weill, is busy hunting up new tigers (SI, Oct. 29). That accounts for everybody in Rocky's old corner but his trainer, Charley Goldman.
Charley still trains fighters, but he confessed the other day that he misses the Age of Marciano.
"Anyone would. It's that one little word 'champion' that I miss. It's a great thing. It can do things.
"It opens doors for you," he went on. "It gets you the plane reservation when all the seats are sold. It gets you the best suite in the biggest hotel in town. And every place you go, people want to do something for you or give you something, like a shirt or a tie or a suit. When they do that they think they're part of the champion, I guess."
At 68, Charley is a vintage veteran of boxing, of course, and he knows that this is how it is. But, as anyone else, he isn't sure why it works that way.
"It's a funny thing. I sometimes wonder where all those people were when he was starting out, like the time he made the first trip down to New York.
"That time, he and that Allie Columbo were going to start out on a Sunday, but then they figured they'd better wait until Monday because that way they'd have a better chance of hitching a ride on a truck.
"And you know what he says to me that first time? 'Charley,' he says, 'they had to give me one of those $1.20 rooms at the YMCA instead of a 90¢ one. They said maybe today they could change me to a 90¢ one.'
"Rocky'd never use to dress up.... He's different now, but you used to have to wrestle him to put a shirt on him. Once we were going somewhere on a plane and Rocky has on just an undershirt. 'Who's that?' a lady says to me. 'That's Marciano, the champion,' I says. 'Oh,' the lady says, 'he can't be the champion. The champion wouldn't look like that.' "
Charley saw, sooner than most, the signs that Rocky was losing interest.
"First you got to know he was a tremendous trainer," Charley said. "People ask me, 'How did you help him be champion?' Well, I didn't interfere with his style, but most of all he helped himself. No athlete ever—ever—was as self-sacrificing as he was, even to the point of overdoing it.
"In training, he'd be in bed 15-16 hours. Even if you're his best friend come from California to see him, Rocky still goes to bed right at the dot of 9:30.
"And even when he was not training, every day—I mean every day, too—he'd take a long walk. Even if he comes to your house for a vacation, he'd bring along an old pair of pants and shoes so he could take his walk.
"Well, I noticed before the Moore fight he didn't have quite the same zest in training. He worked, but not the same. And once he saw his little girl and she runs away from him, scared, saying, 'Who's he?' he's been away from home so much. He tried not to show it, but I could see that hurt him.
"But that wasn't what showed me. The first real sign was about a month or so after he beat Moore. I hadn't seen him for the whole time and when I did, he looked big and bloaty.
" 'Hey,' I says to him, 'you look bloaty, Rock.'
" 'Yeh, Charley,' he says, 'I am. And you know something? I haven't even been taking walks.'
"Right then," said Charley, "I knew."
Track records would fall
And last many a year
If the chap with the torch
Were to run in the rear.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•A Walk in the Sun
New Zealand athletic officials gulped large servings of crow as Norman Read, whom they had styled "not up to the standard," forced his inclusion on Olympic team by a brilliant pre-Games showing, paid his own fare and lodging, then won 50-kilometer walk to give New Zealand its first gold medal in men's events in 20 years.
•The Big Battle of the Small Bulge
The well-set Olympic training table defeated U.S. Boxers Harry Smith and Choken Maekawa, both disqualified for overweight. Weight Lifter Chuck Vinci was shorn and sweated by teammates, chewed gum for salivation, spat well and often, lost a pound, made the weight and won a gold medal in bantam class.
•The Blue and the Gray
Three thousand Annapolis Midshipmen, confident of victory in Saturday's Army-Navy game, have put up their blue bathrobes against gray Army models in traditional bet with West Point Cadets, Each Middie forwarded his offer to West Point in a document called an "It-Will-Be-a-Cold-Winter-at-West-Point" Chit.
•The Arithmetic of Championship
Baseball's playing rules committee decided that batting championships will be figured in future on total appearances at plate (instead of official times at bat). This would have given Ted Williams the title Bobby Avila won in 1954, but not the one Ted hoped for in 1956; even under new rule, Mantle would have won.