The Great Paradox
This is an article from the Aug. 25, 1958 issue
Sixty Young American athletes returned to the U.S. last week after performances in Communist and non-Communist countries that made them the best good-will ambassadors the country has ever had.
Simultaneously, in Moscow, the heady world of Soviet sport heroes was shaken by a new outbreak of the dread occupational disease that has come to be known in the Communist press as "stardom sickness." Two of the best Russian women athletes were summarily dismissed from the track and field team. Beaten by a newcomer at a meet in Tallinn, Galina Zybrina and Tamara Tyshkevich, the two star shotputters, refused to accept second-and third-place medals, and stalked off the field. Miss Zybrina was subsequently expelled for "egotism and uncomradely behavior." At the same time, Nina Ponomaryeva (who created a minor international crisis two years ago when she was arrested for stealing five hats in London) was officially disgraced for undisclosed reasons, reportedly for superior airs and tantrums.
These might be dismissed as feminine trivialities, but they follow the imprisonment of an outstanding Soviet soccer star (12 years for rape) after disclosures that he was petted, pampered and bonused by the Moscow Economic Council so long as he won, despite a semicriminal career. Stardom sickness is defined as "arrogance induced by hero worship." Sport in Russia is an instrument of international propaganda and, at home, a means of diverting Russian citizens compelled to do without what the West regards as essentials. Victory under such a setup is obligatory. Defeat means loss of face, loss of prestige, loss of the whole reason for subsidizing sport.
The paradox is that the unsubsidized American team, winning and losing, really achieved for the U.S. what the 38-billion-ruble sports program was supposed to do for Russia. There were no incidents involving the American team, no displays of temperament, nothing remotely resembling the clash of race against race or class against class. There was, unfortunately, little backing, either. Expenses (about $30,000) were met by the AAU, which hopes to get its money back when the Russian team comes to the U.S. next year. In the four meets in Russia, Poland, Hungary and Greece, the American team won 85 of 121 events, broke two world records and appeared before 485,000 spectators, friendly to begin with and wildly enthusiastic at the end. If the renomination of Orval Faubus in Arkansas looked like an endorsement of racial demagoguery to Europeans, it was more than answered by the Negroes (notably Rafer Johnson) who made up half of the American team. The achievement of the American team in terms of sport was pretty impressive; as carriers of the best traditions of American democracy, they were magnificent.
The obvious lesson might appear to be to let well enough alone, avoid all manner of state support or interference and hope for the best again next year. But the truth is that support is needed from somewhere—support for orphan events, now neglected in the U.S., which Europeans value; support for regular meets with European teams; support for a continuing tradition of American competition in international events. Coach Ed Temple, who held together the American women's team (with no state subsidy, few scholarships, inadequate training facilities and no salary), has come to the conclusion that federal support may be necessary. Daniel Ferris of the AAU believes that private funds may be adequate. In view of the record of the Americans abroad, and the revelations of stardom sickness in Moscow, the distinction seems a little unrealistic. It isn't where support comes from, but what it goes to support. The Soviets are plainly subsidizing a sport caste, dedicated to victory for the sake of propaganda. The triumph of the American team in Europe suggests that when the aim is sport, win or lose, propaganda seems to take care of itself.
Ticklish but Tactful
The captain of an amateur sports team who is unable to play every member on the squad usually faces a ticklish moment when it comes time to introduce the players at presentation ceremonies after the competition. The other day at West Newton, Mass., Daisy Ferguson, captain of the British Isles women's amateur golf team which tied the U.S. and so retained the Curtis Cup, showed how it can be done graciously.
One by one, Miss Ferguson introduced the six girls who had competed in the two days of play. She described the contribution of each briefly but eloquently. Then she came to the seventh member of the squad who had bravely weathered the disappointment of not getting into the lineup either day. Miss Ferguson hesitated not at all.
"And this is our reserve," she said, "Miss Dorothea Somerville, our Scottish champion. Dorothea did everything she was called on to do. She carried messages all over the course, handed out sweets to our girls—and was ready to step in and play at a moment's notice."
To be an only son, and to have five sisters older than yourself, is a rare and rigorous challenge. It happened to young John Palfrey of Brookline, Mass., and with an extra twist as well: his sisters are Polly, Joanna, Lee, Mianne and Sarah; and when he was a boy all five of them could beat him at tennis.
John set to work, though, and eventually got big enough and good enough to beat them all, except possibly Sarah. Sarah Palfrey was an international tennis star with a string of championships to her credit, and because of the difference in their ages she and her brother never met when both were in top form.
Having got off to an early competitive start, John kept going. In boarding school he pitched baseball, and at Harvard he played varsity tennis. As a lawyer, he spent four years in the legal department of the Atomic Energy Commission and then became a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, specializing in the legal problems connected with atomic energy. Through it all he remained a tennis player—a left-handed one—and also took up golf.
"No one else at the Institute for Advanced Studies was interested in either golf or tennis," said Palfrey the other day. "So I played with Princeton students or with Clochette, my wife. She and I can be a very irritating mixed doubles team. She gets the ball back and I make trouble at the net."
Palfrey has been a full professor of law at Columbia University since 1956, and last month he became dean of Columbia College. At 39, he could easily pass for a graduate student.
Does he credit his achievements to the early hardship of having five big sisters who could blast him off the tennis court? "Not at all," said the dean the other day, smiling. "After all, by the time I was 18 I could beat them all, except possibly Sarah. She and I argued for years about whether I at my best could beat her at hers, but nowadays we are so relaxed we just play doubles and don't argue.
"There is one thing, though. Every one of my sisters won at least one national title in tennis, and I never did. Maybe it was only indoor doubles for girls 15 and under, but every one of them has her championship. I figure the only chance I have left to win my national title is to team up with someone really good, like Bill Talbert, when we are 45—and win the Veterans' Doubles."
Beating the Heat
Sometimes it's just too hot to lift a finger and sometimes that goes double in Baltimore. But it doesn't go at all for Baltimore football fans. One night last week the Baltimore Colts put on an intrasquad game at Memorial Stadium for the benefit of police-sponsored boys' clubs. Paid attendance (at $1 a head on a hot August night) was 48,309.
In harness racing, the driver of the horse sits on a light, two-wheeled vehicle called a sulky. Sulky is a nice word, which comes down to us from the Greek aseolcan, meaning sullen, mopey, going off by oneself to, for instance, cultivate one's garden. From this definition it has also come to mean a single-seat vehicle with which the job of cultivation is done—a sulky plow.
This is pertinent stuff because the U.S. Trotting Association will be obliged shortly to come up with its own definition. According to current USTA rules, a man is eligible to compete in the sport if he has a horse in front of him which he guides from a sitting position in a sulky. There was no need to define the word because, since 1892, all drivers have used essentially the same vehicle—a spring-less seat slung between two spoked, bicycle-type wheels, attached through shafts to each side of the horse's body by leather straps. Is this a sulky? Well, up to now, yes.
Here now, however, is Joe King of Lockport, N.Y. with ideas of his own. Joe is 44, about 6 feet tall, with brown hair turning gray, a Bell Aircraft engineer who helped design the Rascal (a rocket-powered air-to-surface missile) and who is now working on jet vertical-rising aircraft. Joe is also a trotting fan and breeder of horses. Obviously employing aerodynamic principles, Joe has designed and built a new—well, a new vehicle for harness drivers.
"My No. 1 objective," he says, "was to decrease the drag on the horse. My sulky is to a regular sulky what a streamlined monoplane today is to the early-type biplane. I arrived at it by a process of eliminating all elements of drag on the old sulky and using an attachment to the horse that leaves him completely free and doesn't hamper his movement." Joe's vehicle has no shafts; instead, a center bar arches up from the base of the driver's seat, over the horse's rump and attaches to the top of the animal's bellyband. The wheels are disk-type, of solid aluminum. The seat is on a bar of spring steel, with another bar off it, supplying footrests for the driver.
The vehicle has now been tested at least twice, by respected veteran drivers in upstate New York. Levi Harner hitched it to a pacer named Baldwin Hanover who promptly worked a half mile in 1:01, the best training performance of his career, on a track whose condition was "not too good." Ed Arthur hitched it to a green 2-year-old, went a solo mile, then went a second mile against two older horses, weaving in and out to test the rig under stress and strain approximating race conditions. Arthur said afterward: "This is the greatest invention since the starting gate."
So now it is up to the USTA to answer the question, "What is a sulky?" or, put another way, "Is Joe King's gimmick a sulky?"
One idea might be to hitch the thing to a farm horse in a corn field. If it cuts a straight furrow, it's a sulky all right.
They Said It
Charles Goren, after winning Life Masters Pairs championships for the second time in 16 years with Mrs. Helen Sobel, explaining why their partnership has survived almost two decades: "There has never been any romance between us."
Birdie Tebbetts, four days before he resigned as manager of the Cincinnati Redlegs: "That's one thing [quitting] you never do in this business.... Pride keeps you from quitting, and pride resists getting fired."
Rafer Johnson, holder of the world decathlon record, asked if he might become a professional basketball player: "I want to be a dentist. However, I also would like to see how good a basketball player I can be."
Bill Mazeroski, second baseman for the rising Pittsburgh Pirates, on why his wedding date, scheduled for October U, was hastily rescheduled for October 11: "That's right after the World Series."