IN FULL VIEW OF THE WORLD
The American Olympic team has just written a shining chapter in the history of sport, and its members are now piling back home with well-earned grins on their faces. In track and field they won 16 gold medals for the most brilliant record in half a century. In rowing, basketball and weight lifting they performed with high spirits and characteristic success. In swimming they were second only to the incredible Australians, who seem to have set about developing freestylers with the same zest and thoroughness with which they produce tennis champions.
In general, the Americans did well in all sports which are both 1) popular in American colleges and 2) included in the schedule of the Olympic Games. It is pleasant to report that even in Greco-Roman wrestling—a sport almost unknown in the U.S. and one in which the Americans were undertaking Olympic competition for the first time—the U.S. team actually won a few bouts before disappearing in the third round. They were good losers and absolutely refused to feel downcast. "Only one teammate is in the hospital, and he gets out tomorrow," said a grinning Greco-Romanist from Cedar Rapids named Dale Thomas. A Sioux City boy named Kent Townley reported in graciously exaggerated praise of his opponent that he "threw me so high in the air my nose started to bleed."
The Russians meanwhile reaped the fruit of their massive, painstaking (and state-subsidized) athletic program and "won" the Olympics. The score (under the American 10-5-4-3-2-1 point system) was: Russia 722 points, the U.S. 593—with Australia, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Great Britain finishing in the next five places. The Soviet press, which snapped critically at Russian athletes (particularly at track men and basketball players) during the early days of the Games, suddenly turned benign. Pravda jovially noted that the early lead run up by the Americans had finally been "liquidated."
December 17, 1956
Pravda's use of the familiar Communist term liquidated was as revealing as it was doubtless unconscious, since to the rest of the world it carried ironic overtones of slaughter in Budapest. But to the Kremlin brass hats, sport has long been just another form of politics, and the Russians have made it clear that their overriding interest in sports is victory—victory calculated to glorify the Soviet system. By last week Moscow papers were solemnly claiming Melbourne as another victory for "our own Communist Party and Soviet Government."
Unfortunately for the world effect of all this, the Russians at Melbourne disclosed themselves before the Games were over as men and women living under the pressure of vast uneasiness. They seemed well and truly fearful of their reception back home if they failed to win—and the strain showed to the world.
The revelation came gradually. The Russian track and field team, although beaten by U.S. college boys, behaved in an eminently sportsmanlike manner, and its great star, Vladimir Kuts, won the warm-hearted admiration of millions as well as two gold medals for his country. Soviet officialdom should have breathed a sigh of relief at the world's reaction. It did not. Russian hopes for victory were predicated upon the so-called minor sports—notably Greco-Roman wrestling, shooting and gymnastics (in which it is possible to win 42 gold medals, as many as in track and field), and they set about making certain of points with a dour crassness. Russian officials, in their final scramble for medals and points, reminded observers of a bunch of Molotovs—they were humorless, dogmatic, suspicious of competitors and bent on taking every advantage of referees and judges. Teammates criticized each other openly and bitterly for any failure.
Gymnasts, for instance, are supposed to warm up on the horse vault for no longer than five minutes; Russia's women competitors kept at it so long and so stubbornly that an embarrassed official was finally obliged to stop them physically by posting himself in front of the horse. The Russian soccer team resorted to rough measures in maintaining a slim 1-0 lead over Yugoslavia in the last half of their final game—at one point, despite the boos of 100,000 Australians, the Russian right winger, Boris Tatouchine, first pushed and then began kicking the Yugoslav back Nikola Radovic while the referee's back was turned.
The most dramatic violation of sportsmanship—and of all the precepts of effective propaganda—was the work of one E. Bogdanovskaya, a Russian woman who acted as a judge for the high diving. Solemnly, openly and consistently, she down-scored the U.S. divers. Even the winner, Mexico's 28-year-old Joaquin Capilla, was moved to comment: "It amounted to a competition between the nationalities of the judges rather than a competition of divers."
The world was left with two incandescent and thought-provoking impressions. First, to the Russian athletes it is not nearly so important what the world thinks as what the Russian masters think. Second, to the Russian masters it is not nearly so vital to persuade the world of victories truly won as to present—to 200 million Russians at home—the shiny gilt trophy of a "victory."
THE BATTLE OF MELBOURNE
The first (and last) pitched battle of the Olympics broke out, unfittingly but inevitably, in Melbourne's gleaming new swimming pool 10,000 miles from the bloodstained streets of Budapest. The event was water polo, a sport admirably suited for ventilation of ill will.
The game was a minute old when Russia's Peter Mchvenieradze hammer-locked a Hungarian player and wound up in the penalty box. With the battle continuing below both the water and belt lines, the Hungarians gained a 2-0 lead by half time. Just after the second half began, a Russian smacked Hungary's Antol Bolvari in the right eye, and the ball was all but disregarded as fighting broke out all over the pool. Like barracudas, the contestants flailed at one another underwater, sending up whirlpooled proof of titanic struggles beneath.
The closing whistle was still reverberating when the Russian back Valentine Prokopov slammed an elbow into the eye of the Hungarian center Ervin Zador, opening a deep gash. Zador struggled from the water and fell into the arms of a teammate, Hungarian-born spectators rushed toward the pool for revenge, the Russian team formed a protective knot, and police quickly stepped in to enforce peace.
Miklos Martin, youngest of the Hungarian poloists, decided: "They play their sports just as they conduct their lives—with brutality and disregard for fair play." But Martin and his teammates had the consolation of victory: Hungary 4, Russia 0.
The next day the Magyars defeated Yugoslavia 2-1, won the water polo gold medals for the fourth time in the last five Olympiads. Then Hungary's wonder team dissolved. Five of the players, including Gyorgy Karpati, the most feared shot in the world, announced they were not returning to their shackled homeland. For many of them, the agonizing final decision had been made in the wet heat of Olympic competition against Russia and Yugoslavia. Their coach, Bela Rajki, had encouraged them to make up their minds in action. "You boys think clearest in the water," he said.
THE AUTUMN HONORS
Planting, nourishing and bringing to full bloom an All-America football player is one of the truly testing tasks of a major university each year. After all, the colleges turn out scores of Phi Beta Kappas and 32 Rhodes scholars, but there can be no more than 11 genuine All-America players—and sometimes not that many.
Long before the first kickoff, the college publicist prepares, mimeographs and distributes across the nation volumes of biographical and "human interest" stories on the candidate along with a portfolio of photographs in black-and-white and color. In cases which require special treatment, the publicist pays personal visits to influential columnists and broadcasters to explain the qualifications of his man. If the work has been done properly, the candidate is first selected on a "preview All-America" team published a few weeks before the season begins.
Throughout the season the radio and newspaper observers always refer to the prospect as an "All-America candidate." The eyes of the football public are now on him, and the ultimate success of his campaign depends only on his playing as well as he can on a team that wins most of its games. Just one small element is left to fate. According to the inviolable laws governing the selection of an All-America team, no more than two men may come from the same college or more than one player from any one section at any one position. There is the added proviso that each section of the country must be represented by at least one player. And, of course, there must be one man from Notre Dame.
Just about every All-America so far this year (and we have studied the choices of A.P., U.P., I.N.S., NBC, Collier's, Look and Sporting News) has honored these principles. If you don't believe it, see the consensus on page 46. But the football department of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has found no All-America yet—even a consensus one—which it likes as well as its own. Here, in the spirit of the season, it is:
Ends—Ron Kramer of Michigan, Joe Walton of Pittsburgh.
Tackles—John Witte of Oregon State, Norm Hamilton of TCU.
Guards—Sam Valentine of Penn State, Bill Krisher of Oklahoma.
Center—Jerry Tubbs of Oklahoma.
Backs—John Bayuk of Colorado, Jim Brown of Syracuse, John Majors of Tennessee, Paul Hornung of Notre Dame.
Well, whaddya know, seven of the blokes we pick have the same names as those chosen by the dreadfully iniquitous system we just told you about.
THE RELUCTANT LUNKER
A few hours after Floyd Patterson won the world's heavyweight championship James D. Norris, president of the International Boxing Club, sat on the edge of a coffee table and, while celebrating roisterers shouted and sang around him, said wistfully:
"I'd like to pique Rocky into challenging Patterson."
It was some seven months since Rocky Marciano had signed a pledge of total abstinence from the ring. At that time, last April, there was no challenger in the heavyweight division who could draw an impressive gate. Rocky had enough money anyhow, and he was sick of the training grind. So he retired, began to sleep late mornings and to eat his mother's spaghetti as he never had dared to eat it before.
He didn't even attend the Patterson-Moore fight, the fight that chose his successor. He was through with boxing.
This week, like an angler planning a fishing trip for the most reluctant lunker of them all, Jim Norris picked over his lures and sharpened his hooks.
There was a report that he would offer Marciano $400,000 to fight Patterson (who is by no means reluctant). In his Coral Gables home, Norris half confirmed the report, half denied it.
"I would," he said, "though I don't know what success I would have, be only too happy to guarantee Rocky $400,000 to fight Patterson. But $400,000 is not what would bring Rocky out. The money would be just part of it. If Moore had won over Patterson, I don't think $1 million would have drawn Rocky into another Moore fight. He proved he could beat Moore.
"But when Rocky's friends in Brockton start asking him, 'Hey, Rock, do you think you could beat this Patterson?' that will have more effect on Rocky than a money offer. If I start talking it up seriously with Rocky I won't start out by talking money. If anything will bring Rocky back it's his pride. If he should show any sign of wavering, then I'd talk money. $400,000? I might even go for a little more than that."
He might well go for more than that. A Patterson-Marciano fight would be such an exciting prospect that a promoter would be justified in lifting the old "Battle of the Century" slogan out of the bottom of the trunk and dusting it off. It would almost surely be one of the great fights of modern times. Both men believe in punching until something gives, both are lethal in their punching, both believe in Spartan conditioning. It could go on for round after round. Fifteen might not be enough.
"Everyone who fought Rocky hit him," Norris says. "It's a cinch that this kid [Patterson] would hit him. It would be a great fight. I'd do practically anything to make it."
What's to prevent his making it? Well, while Norris was checking his lures in Coral Gables, Rocky was in New York, dropping in at his favorite restaurants. He is 40 pounds above fighting weight.
"Rocky is eating very well," reports Gene Leone of Leone's, where eating is the favorite sport of the sporting crowd. If Gene thinks you are eating well, you have won a gold medal.
"Last night," said Gene, "he really ate big. He ate two of those stuffed birds, you know, Cornish hens. And he had a double order of dessert [Sicilian pastry].
"When Mel Allen asked him if he was going to fight again, he said, 'I just ate two desserts. What do you think?' "
Before Rocky got to the hens and the pastry, Gene reported, he helped himself to plentiful antipasto and some manicotti, which is a kind of delicate noodle stuffed with cheese. Very farinaceous. Naturally, he drank a little coffee.
What are pride and money against these delights? Why should a man turn his back on Cornish game hens for pride, $400,000 and the puritanical strictures of Charley Goldman?
Norris is wrong. Only an appeal to Rocky's New England conscience will get him into the ring. Only the tug of the superego, as Cus D'Amato would put it, can divert Rocky from his present courses—six courses for breakfast, eight for lunch, 12 for dinner.
Rocky's conscience can be appealed to. Unless he fights Patterson, generations of fight fans to come will be subjected to a modern variation on sport's most boring refrain: Could Jack Dempsey have beaten Joe Louis?
It is a frightening prospect to think of all the nitwit arguments in saloons, the drivel of newspaper and magazine articles, the dull drone of radio and TV interviews that will take up the question: Do you think Rocky Marciano could have beaten Floyd Patterson?
Think of this, Rocky, as you chew on a leg of Cornish game hen at Leone's or Toots Shor's or the new Rocky Marciano Room over on Lexington. Think of it, and think of suffering humanity, which you alone can save. Come back, Rocky. Then you can retire in peace. And all the manicotti you can eat.
In its relentless drive toward automation, professional football first tried to make players into robots by setting up radio communication between them and the coach. The technique didn't work out very well, and was abandoned; now the experimenters have turned their attention from the field to the stadium, and a brand-new automanikin has made his debut in Chicago. His inventor, Andy Frain, calls him a "robot director," but it seems likely that a lot of people are going to call him a mechanical usher.
He is a member of a flourishing tribe: a grandson of the traffic signal and a younger brother of the woman who says, "At the tone, the time will be one...forty-five." Dressed in a blue and gold uniform, he has stood outside Gate 2 of Wrigley Field on recent Sundays as the stands filled up for the Chicago Bears' home games.
"Standing room for sale only," he told the gaping fans. "All reserved seats are sold out. Watch your step! Gate No. 1 to your right, Gates 2 and 3 enter here...." Stepping lively (and watching their step), the people followed his instructions. "He moved 3,000 people in no time," said Mr. Frain proudly.
The robot speaks with a human voice, recorded on tape. Anatomically he is a little peculiar. His only good eye—an electric one—is embedded in his left leg. He uses it to count the customers as they file past. Soon, when the finer adjustments are made, he will be able to bat his eyes, move his lips and gesture with one arm.
Mr. Frain has six robots at present and says he could easily use a hundred. As owner of the Andy Frain Usher Service in Chicago, he maintains that his robot is one bit of automation that will not cost anybody his job. "The big thing [with robots] is crowd control, not ushering. It's not going to take the place of men, I'll tell you that. My ushers all want stock in it."
These cannibals are sportsmen, see,
Although their team's no winner
They hang no coach in effigy—
They have him in for dinner.
—IRWIN L. STEIN
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•New Look in the Western Conference
Big Ten faculty representatives, seeking to regulate financial aid to conference athletes, voted (not unanimously) in Chicago to require players to show need of aid before getting it and limited awards of assistance to 100 students a year in each college. Final O.K. or rejection of measures may not come till March.
•Pride Goeth Before an Upset
The unbeaten Miami Hurricanes, denied a bowl bid by NCAA probation, were favored to make Pittsburgh their third bowl-bound victim (the others: TCU, Clemson). But the Panthers, headed for the Gator Bowl win or lose, dealt the Hurricanes a 14-7 defeat before a homecoming Miami crowd and a national TV audience.
•Home to the West
Swaps, the Horse of the Year, still an invalid because of a leg fracture suffered nine weeks ago at Garden State Park, was flown from Philadelphia to the California ranch of Owner Rex Ellsworth. Swaps made the trip in a sling suspended from a special framework, covered last 40 miles in a trailer with police escort.
•For Services Rendered
DeWitt Weaver, Texas Tech football coach who was a hero last May when the school was admitted to the Southwest Conference, was hanged in effigy twice on the campus after a 2-7-1 season. One effigy bore a sign: "No Cadillac this year. So long, Gray Fox." Football team members cut the figure down.