The day before Notre Dame upset Oklahoma to end the Sooners' wondrous 47-game winning streak, a news story out of Omaha quoted a University of Oklahoma psychiatrist as saying that Oklahoma football fans were beginning to be just plain bored with their team.
"Variety is not only the spice of life, it is the very stuff of which life is made," said Dr. Jay T. Shurley, in Omaha to speak at the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute. "That's one reason why Oklahoma fans are getting a little indifferent about their football team. They're beginning to be just plain bored."
Dr. Shurley is an expert on boredom. For the past three years he's taken part in experiments to test the effect of complete isolation on body and mind. Subjects (including Dr. Shurley himself) were floated in a tank of water with all light, sound, odor and even the sense of touch withdrawn. So far no subject has been able to endure the complete isolation for more than three hours. "Man needs stimulation," concluded Dr. Shurley, "from minute to minute, and second to second." And, it may be presumed, from game to game.
November 25, 1957
After the stunning news from Norman had reached Omaha via coaxial cable, a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED correspondent called up Dr. Shurley. Said the doctor: "This is how one gets to be a prophet. After I had chatted with you yesterday, I thought to myself, 'Now why was I talking like that?' I concluded that in the back of my mind I felt that the psychological atmosphere was ripe for a change. But I didn't know it would come so soon."
Dr. Shurley was a little apprehensive lest his pregame comments cause his reception at home to be, perhaps, unfriendly. He was reassured. It was pointed out that his lecture tour would keep him away from home for another 10 days, and by that time Oklahoma would have played—and very likely defeated—its next opponent. Sooner fans would pretty surely be thinking of one victory down and 47 to go for a new record.
"Say, that's right," said Dr. Shurley with the air of a man not at all bored. "Let's hope so."
WORDS OF THE WEEK
I wish I could stay till Saturday," said Dwight Eisenhower the other night in Oklahoma City. "I have heard you have a pretty fair sort of football team, and of course I should like very much to see it play."
This declaration brought the loudest cheer of the evening from the 6,000 who were present to hear Ike's big speech on national defense. Conceivably every single one of them was an Oklahoma University football fan. From Saturday to Saturday it was a football week: football provoked not only cheers, but also snarls, boos, soul-searching and controversy. When people turned their thoughts from satellites and security, they turned, as often as not, to football.
In Columbus a faculty committee at Ohio State fired a thunderbolt in the form of a mimeographed report on big-time athletics. "Skill in any form," the report said, "is marketable in our society.... Because college sport as we know it here is a two-million-dollar-a-year enterprise, whether we like it or not, it is foolish to expect that the program can continue at that level without letting the atnlete in for some portion of the gain."
Ohio came to a rolling boil, PROFS URGE PLAY FOR PAY, the headlines said, and one cynical undergraduate suggested that the Ohio State football players organize a labor union and demand industrial compensation for their injuries. The university could pay the bills, he said, by selling stock in the football team. On the West Coast, Joseph Kaplan, UCLA's faculty representative in the Pacific Coast Conference, said he thought an amateur athlete ought to be defined as one who showed neither financial profit nor financial loss on his college career. Mr. Kaplan suggested further that since faculties have failed to solve the problems of recruitment and compensation, the athletes themselves ought to have a go at it. "I'm confident," he said, "that their proposals would be modest and practicable."
In Des Moines, E. K. Jones, secretary of the State University of Iowa's football-boosting I Club, was forbidden by the Big Ten commissioner ever again to have dealings with prospective Iowa athletes, because he had used his private plane to transport a boy to the Iowa campus. And the Des Moines Register noted, more in sorrow than in anger, that the new press box in the Iowa stadium is going to cost half a million dollars.
Then Saturday came, and football, which for days had just been talked about, was played. There were upsets all over the map, with the biggest one, of course, down in Oklahoma. The subject of football had been kicked around, passed back and forth, and fumbled all week long, but the game itself was magic still. It was a pretty sure thing that Ike wished, when the afternoon was over, that he had stayed in Oklahoma till Saturday.
In this age of highly purposive electronic calculating machines it is pleasant to spread the word of a simple little calculating device—hereafter, we suggest, to be known as Handivac—which has no other purpose than mildly mystifying entertainment. The only equipment required is pencil and paper, and any number can play. Here, as set forth by Mrs. Daniel S. Pelletier, handicap chairman of the Women's Metropolitan Golf Association (New York), is the way to proceed:
1. Write down your club handicap. (If you don't have a handicap, make one up.)
2. Multiply the handicap by two.
3. Add five.
4. Multiply the total by 50.
5. Add the figure 1707 to that total.
6. Subtract the year of your birth.
7. The first two figures of the result should give you your handicap, the second two your age.
Tip for those playing the game next year: add 1708 instead of 1707.
Frank Lane roared into Cleveland at gale force, scattering the dust and cobwebs that too many years of unimaginative management had settled on the Cleveland Indians. At 61 (he'll be 62 on February 1), an age when most men are gratefully plodding down the homestretch to retirement, Frank Lane was taking on a new job, a new challenge, a new chance to demonstrate his extraordinary baseball knowledge.
Lane came out of the minor leagues nine years ago this month to become General Manager of the Chicago White Sox, a last-place team with the worst season's attendance in the majors that year, excepting only for the St. Louis Browns and the Philadelphia Athletics. Lane tore the team apart, trading players with what seemed a wild abandon (he made 242 trades in all in the seven years he spent in Chicago), but in three seasons the White Sox climbed into the first division for the first time since 1943, and their attendance went over one million for the first time in their history. Moreover, they have stayed there, in the first division and over one million, ever since. And where are the St. Louis Browns and the Philadelphia Athletics?
Lane left the White Sox in the autumn of 1955 to take a similar job with Gussie Busch's St. Louis Cardinals. The problem was similar. The Cardinals had fallen that season from a sad sixth to an even sadder seventh, and attendance was steadily declining. Lane took several months to get started, but once he diagnosed the team's ailments to his own satisfaction he administered strong medicine: one sensational trade after another, topped by the one that sent away Red Schoendienst, 12 years a Cardinal and everybody's favorite. Tradition-bound St. Louis was furious at Lane and refused to take kindly to him. Even now, diehard critics deny him credit for helping the Cardinals. But the team rose from seventh to fourth to second in Lane's two years. And attendance rose, too, to over a million both seasons.
But fetters hamper Frank Lane. He left Chicago because young Chuck Comiskey tried to control him. In St. Louis, Gussie Busch is said to have told Lane after the Schoendienst trade: make any deal you want, but get my O.K. first. Frank Lane insists on a free hand. Frank Lane left.
Now, in Cleveland, he comes to a team that stumbled down to sixth' place last season and whose attendance (which in 1948, under the colorful Bill Veeck, was 2,620,627, still the major league record despite five years of Milwaukee enthusiasm) had dropped precipitously: to 722,256 in 1957, worst in the majors except for the New York Giants (who later died) and the Washington Senators.
Lane has to get the Indians back into pennant contention and the fans back into the ball park. No one doubts that Old Doc Lane will call for strong medicine again. "We'll trade anybody," he said on taking the job, "except Herb Score." He talked to New York, Baltimore, Detroit and Kansas City, then flew down to Havana to talk things over with his new manager, Bobby Bragan. He was off and running. Maybe this time his medicine won't work and he'll be, at long last, dubbed a failure. But don't, as they say, bet on it. And relish the thought that the Cleveland Indians, in recent years as dull as ashes, have automatically turned into one of the most interesting clubs in baseball. All because of Frank Lane.
TAXI ON A STRING
An elegant Mercedes-Benz sedan, its seats upholstered in good leather, its chromium and window-glass quietly shining, is serving the public of New York City these days as a taxicab. It lacks the carnival paint job of the ordinary taxi, being a sedate and seemly gray. It is owned and driven by Louis Schweitzer, but the Louis Schweitzer who owns it and the Louis Schweitzer who drives it are two different men. It is soon to be equipped with a radio which will receive only one station, and a mobile telephone with an unlisted number.
Of the two Louis Schweitzers, one is a chemical engineer. His wife is Lucille Lortel, who owns the Theatre de Lys and produces off-Broadway shows. Like any New Yorker, Miss Lortel often has trouble finding a cab when she wants one, and she complained of this difficulty one day to her husband. His solution was to have her Mercedes-Benz converted into a taxicab, complete with meter, medallion and a lighted sign on the roof. (A medallion is a metal plate which is affixed to the body of a vehicle and authorizes its use as a cab. Originally medallions cost just a few dollars. The traffic problem being what it is now, they are not being issued any more, and the holders of the old medallions can sell them for fancy prices to people who want to operate taxis. Mr. Schweitzer paid $17,000 for his.)
The next step was to find a driver. Schweitzer, recalling that an acquaintance had once taken a cab whose driver was named Louis Schweitzer, asked the Hack Bureau to help him find this man. On their first meeting, the two Mr. Schweitzers came to an agreement: one would supply and maintain the Mercedes, the other would operate it as a taxi, and they would split the take 50-50. And whenever Miss Lortel needed a cab, she could let Driver Schweitzer know and he would come running, passing up all other opportunities for business.
The arrangement is working very well. Right now, of course, Miss Lortel has to tell Mr. Schweitzer at the end of one day when she will want him the next; but as soon as the telephone is installed in the Mercedes she will be able to summon him on short notice.
Driver Schweitzer, who is 65 and has been hacking in New York for 40 years, is pleased with his new job. He gets a larger percentage of the take than his old cab company paid him, and people give him bigger tips than they used to because they enjoy being chauffered around town in a Mercedes, even on a one-shot basis.
The single-station radio will be an FM set tuned to New York's Station WBAI. It won't offer the cab's passengers much variety, but Mr. Schweitzer the engineer wants it that way. He owns WBAI.
There is one final, improbable detail. Passengers in the cab are confronted by small, colorful posters with the legend, "When in Venice, use the gondola Lucille. Ask for Bruno...say Louis sent you." Mr. Schweitzer has the same arrangement with a Venetian gondolier that he has with the New York cab driver, so that when he is in Venice he doesn't have to wait around on moonlit nights and other occasions when gondolas are much in demand.
THE NEW CONSERVATISM
Nothing much has been heard lately of that staple item of the used-car business—the automobile sworn to have been driven by a little old lady who never took it up over 30 mph. But no doubt in these matters, as in others, time marches on. The following is from a classified advertisement in the Regional Review, official publication of the Sports Car Club of America in the New York area: "1957 fuel injection Corvette. Bought 6-14-57. Has about 8,500 miles. Four-speed transmission, 4:11 rear, competition shocks, four Michelin tires, tubes and wheels.... Never been driven over 115 mph."
TWO LEGS VS. FOUR
From salt lake city, with fanfare only slightly muffled by falling snow, two distance runners and two men on horseback set out last Friday morning for Roosevelt, Utah, 157.7 miles away. Their object was to settle an ancient question: Can a man on foot show more endurance over a long distance than a man on a horse?
At a dollar a shot, the public had bought 4,000 tickets on which to mark the winner's arrival time, the best guesser to collect $500. Press, radio and TV coverage were extensive, and a caravan of jeeps and trailers followed the contestants, loaded with food, shoes and medical supplies for both men and horses. The rules had it that both runners and riders could run, walk, rest, sleep and eat according to their (or their horses') need. The best western thought on the matter said that the winner, man or beast, would arrive in Roosevelt about Saturday midnight.
But at Saturday midnight there were still 60 miles to go. The horses were walking because a gallop was beyond them and a trot too painful to their saddle-beaten riders. Only one of the men remained: Albert Ray, a 25-year-old track star and accounting student from Brigham Young University. His feet were blistered, his ankles were swollen, and he needed sleep. But whenever he was hauled—on doctor's orders—into a trailer for shots, pills, rubdowns, bandages and food, he invariably croaked, "I feel swell."
"Bet on the man," said one scout, returning to Salt Lake City by car. "That guy's got guts."
Members of the Salt Lake City chapter of the Humane Society protested on behalf of the horses, calling on the sheriff of Duchesne County to stop the race. But the sheriff, as fascinated as everyone else in Utah by the implications of the struggle, persuaded the Humanitarians to compromise: He would ask for longer rest periods for the horses if they would let the race continue. Neither the Humane Society nor anyone else intervened on Albert Ray's behalf other than to give him a fresh running mate now and then for company.
Sometimes the horses led, sometimes the man. The trail ran southeast from Salt Lake City into the Wasatch Mountains and over 8,200-foot Strawberry Pass. At Current Creek Lodge, some 20 miles on the downhill side of the pass, Albert Ray almost closed a 12-mile gap and pulled even with the horses. But while he was struggling to do it, the riders and their mounts got three hours of rest. They rode out of Current Creek Lodge shortly before Albert Ray tottered in. The temperature was 18°. The trackman hadn't run out of guts and stamina, but his leg tendons just weren't usable any more. He gave up at Current Creek Lodge, 58 miles short of the finish line.
The horses plodded on—two nameless creatures of 6 and 11 years, ridden by a 19-year-old oil field worker named Ray Hall, and by Roy Hatch, a tough old Westerner of 76. At 6:50 p.m. Sunday they pulled into Roosevelt, settling for the week at least an argument that has probably raged over drinks and around campfires since the days of Alexander the Great.
He's anxious for the snow to fall
And winter sports to burgeon;
Although he doesn't ski at all
He's such a clever surgeon.
—IRWIN L. STEIN
CURRENT WEEK AND WHAT'S AHEAD
•Match No Match for Medal
The Professional Golf Association, disturbed by dwindling gate receipts and a lack of name pros at its national tournament—Ben Hogan, Cary Middlecoff and Jimmy Demaret passed it up this year because "it was more trouble than it was worth"—voted to switch over from traditional match play to 72-hole medal competition in next July's championship at Philadelphia.
•Return in East Germany
After weeks of bickering, the Russian soccer team has agreed to meet Poland November 24 in a World Cup intragroup playoff match necessitated by Poland's upset of the mighty Soviet side in Poland last month. The Russians gladly agreed to Leipzig as the site, expecting a more salubrious nonpartisan atmosphere.
•Far East Bonus Baby
Japanese baseball, which has been adopting American techniques for years, took another western step when Shigeo Nagashima, a third-baseman at Rikkyo University, was signed by Tokyo's Yomiuri Giants for a whopping bonus of $69,000.
•Death in the Alps
The Alpine Guides Association has long warned inexperienced mountain climbers of the dangers hidden in the beauty of the Alps. Now it has impressive, if morbid, statistics to back up its advice. This year 385 climbers died from exposure, falls and avalanches. The worst previous year was 1953 with 269 deaths.