Oedipus at HalfTime
This is an article from the Oct. 27, 1958 issue
Oldtimers, usedto a good brassy rendition of Old Nassau between the halves, with plenty ofsis-boom-bah to give it spirit, may have been somewhat mystified as thePrinceton band took over the grass at Palmer Stadium during half time lastweek. Our own representative, a graybeard pushing 30, was forced to admit thatthe intermission at football games was never like this in his day.Nevertheless, autres temps, autres moeurs! Today even the arid author of TheWasteland, who taught us all the lesson of futility, has taken to himself ayoung love and new hope; and if T.S. Eliot can change, why can't we all?
At any rate,while the gridiron Tigers rested from mauling Colgate, the band put on whatseemed to be a satire of documentary TV by Evelyn Waugh out of John PhilipSousa. First they formed themselves into the outline of a Trojan Horse while asepulchral voice recounted Homeric legend. Then the band struck up The Old GrayMare. Following this, an announcer droned on about the sinking of the Titanic.The marchers formed a ship while their instruments blared Row, Row, Row YourBoat.
As a climax theband formed itself into a huge pulsing heart, and the announcer proclaimed:"It is 957 B.C. Oedipus, King of Thebes, is groping his way outside hispalace."
The music? I Wanta Girl, Just Like the Girl that Married Dear Old Dad.
Well, it's anervous business in these changing times, but we promise that we will keepright on watching, and reporting to you, such further fall trends as we spotthem.
On first readingthe news, it seemed the final indignity. It was not enough to be hopelesslyoutpointed in every kind of wind and weather off Newport, not enough to be theobject of scorn and ridicule by news writers and cartoonists on both sides ofthe Atlantic—now Britain's poor, graceful, ineffectual Sceptre (she was theother boat, you remember, in those cup races) had got her bottom stove in onthe deck of a clumsy freighter during a storm at sea on her way back toEngland.
Oh, FatherNeptune, we cried, how could you? But then we paused. That old god of the seais no fool, we reflected, and Sceptre's bottom—bulgy, plump and round as ayearling babe's—was certainly not her best feature. For many a long yearBritannia and Neptune ruled the waves together. Was the old sea-god, wewondered, trying to say something to his longtime partner?
Now that Sceptreis going to need some hull surgery anyway...we hope Britons get themessage.
Sizewise, as theswells say, Texas has come a cropper with the admission of Alaska. Butmoneywise, boy, Texas is still right in there. And like snowflakes on PointBarrow, the dollars fluttered down on the Cotton Bowl for the Texas-Oklahomagame. When it was all raked up, a sellout crowd had made it possible for thetwo universities to trundle off $130,000 each.
Does that proveanything? It proves, for one thing, that it is a seller's market all the way inDallas. Despite rising costs, the annual UTOU game, played equidistantlybetween Austin and Norman, has been a 75,000-seat sellout every year since1946. And when there was only $120,000 left over for each team last year, theyjust jacked up the $4 tickets to $4.50 tickets this year. "Why," saidan official of UT, "we made more the other day than we did in four gamescombined last year." And he added it was a right nice thing to have, too.Not subsidized by the state, the Texas athletic department will use its shareto support 21% of the whole athletic program this year, and that coverseverything from intramural ping-pong balls to band uniforms.
Texans andOklahomans alike take this sort of fortune with graceful good humor. Noshouting. No bragging. They can afford to. The present contract between Texas,Oklahoma and the Cotton Bowl already has eight more seasons to go. At presentrates of increase, the 1966 game should be worth a half million, split twoways.
Cus D'Amato, aman with a nice felicity for getting dead cats flung at him, attracted abarrage of tabbies last week. He did it without ever stirring out of hisBroadway bower—merely by exercising passive resistance to a plan to pit hisheavyweight champion, Floyd Patterson, against Nino Valdes at Madison SquareGarden in December. While Promoter Emil Lence, Boxing Commission ChairmanJulius Helfand and the Garden management fashioned a most attractive offer,including $300,000 for home TV, D'Amato concerned himself with plans for 1959.(As we advised you a few weeks ago—SI, Oct. 6—there never was any likelihoodthat Patterson would fight again this year.) Then Helfand announced thecollapse of the Garden negotiations, and the cat fur began to fly.
D'Amato wasaccused, for instance, of making it dreadfully difficult for the InternationalBoxing Club, owned by the Garden, to maintain public interest in its televisionshows. This is, of course, a naive corollary to the fact that public interestin boxing depends pretty much on public interest in the heavyweightchampionship. D'Amato, who has sworn a vendetta against the IBC, accepted theaccusation as a rose to wear in his lapel.
But other chargeswere more sophisticated, and chief among them is the fact that D'Amato's highpurposes for the restoration of competition to boxing promotion have madePatterson a mighty inactive champion, with rust settling in his joints and hisprestige declining with each passing month. The newest sportspage clichépretends that no one knows the name of the champion.
It is a trueindictment, nevertheless, that Patterson, since winning the title, has improvedonly in physical development and in certain minor moves that can be picked upin a gymnasium. Nowadays he lacks the fire and sharpness of the great fighterhe once promised to be. Against Roy Harris he looked something rather less thangreat.
D'Amato himselfgrants that inactivity has done his fighter no good. How, then, since he is aman who believes that his first obligation is to his fighter, does he justifythis inactivity from the standpoint of the champion's best interests?
Though atalkative man, D'Amato has never been explicit or even articulate on thispoint. But, knowing him and his objectives, it is possible to fashion arationalization from the facts. Thus might speak D'Amato:
"Patteron'syouth and ability make it a good bet that he will hold the title for years tocome. He has no present need to rush into fights. He is only 23, the youngestfighter ever to win the title. Available challengers, present and foreseeable,are not in his class. Today's heavyweights are a paltry lot. The threeAmericans ranked directly behind Patterson have, in the space of a month, beendrubbed by Europeans of no great reputations themselves. And at the Garden theother night one witnessed the collapse of a balloon named George Chuvalo, whocame down from Canada with such a buildup ["another Rocky Marciano"]that professional gamblers made him a 9-to-5 favorite. But Pat McMurtry ofTacoma, Wash., who is unranked, hit him at will for 10 gore-gushing rounds andproved his own lack of stature by failing to knock him out or evendown."
Meanwhile, asPatterson waits, a revolution may be brewing in boxing—one that in the long runwill do him and boxing far more good than the few fights he has missed wouldever do. If the revolution does come, neither Patterson's purse nor hisprestige will suffer.
It is all up tothe Supreme Court of the United States, which is expected to begin hearingsabout November 11 on the IBC's appeal from Federal Judge Sylvester Ryan'sdecision that the IBC is a monopoly and must divest itself of one of its twonetwork shows, among other things. If the court supports Judge Ryan,competition will be established in home TV for the first time. The way willthen be open for some promoter not connected with the IBC to take over one ofthe network shows.
It is no longer asecret that D'Amato, who has preached competition for years, would instantlymake Patterson available to the independent promoter for perhaps as many asthree home TV championship fights a year, in addition to theater TVappearances. Patterson could actually become one of the most active heavyweighttitleholders in history. D'Amato would also turn loose his very competent butpresently buried stable, which may include two more future champions in thepersons of Middleweight Jose Torres and Welterweight Joey (Buzz) Shaw. Othermanagers, now subservient to the IBC solely because it is the only wheel intown, would follow him.
Until the court'sdecision, then, D'Amato is not likely to be enticed into situations which wouldgive aid and comfort to the IBC.
He is, of course,gambling for enormous stakes and he is gambling not only his own welfare buthis fighter's. Even though a prizefighter by his very nature is a gambler, thisfact gives D'Amato's firmest supporters pause. What if idleness so dullsPatterson that he cannot get out of the way of Ingemar Johansson's powerfulrights when they meet next spring?
"WhenPatterson gets into that ring next time," D'Amato says with all theassurance in the world, "he will be prepared to give the kind of exhibitionthat is expected of him."
Well, perhaps.But Oliver Cromwell, a doughty man, too, once offered advice that Cus mightheed. On the eve of his conquest of Scotland, Cromwell offered the Scotsarguments and terms for peaceful surrender, with the alternative of bloodydefeat. The Scots temporized. A reverent man, but outspoken, Cromwell triedagain.
"I beseechyou, in the bowels of Christ," he said, "think it possible you may bemistaken."
In the Bag
The sportsman ofthe year, insofar as the Tea Council of the U.S.A. is concerned, is BillSkowron. He is, says the council, because of the enormous quantities of teathat sluice down his throat every day. And he is, the council adds in perhaps asubaltern thought, because of his "outstanding performance as sportsman andathlete and for his exemplary standards in physical training." The award,the first such signal appointment by the tea people, went to the Yankee firstbaseman a few days before the World Series. Skowron's three-run homer in theseventh game, you better believe it, bothered the Tea Council not a jot.
The councilelected a sportsman of the year to help dispel a common (but unworthy) notionthat tea drinkers are either Englishmen or people who waggle little fingerswhile sipping. But first they made a list. Archie Moore drinks tea, and he wason the list. But Archie, in his "aborigine diet," also drinks raw eggswhipped up in orange juice, which made his credentials a little oddball. FloydPatterson drinks tea, but Floyd is an Arthur Godfrey fan, and Arthur's sellingcoffee nowadays. Johnny Podres and Clem Labine drink tea in the NationalLeague, and Don Larsen and Enos Slaughter drink it in the American. BillSharman of the Boston Celtics drinks tea, and Ron Delany does too, for thatmatter. But Bill Skowron not only drinks tea, he made a 250-station radiobroadcast to that effect last spring. Bill was a shoo-in when the ballots weretotted up.
Bill drinks loosetea or tea in bags that look like first-base sacks. He drinks it (sometimeswith sugar, sometimes with lemon, sometimes with both, never with cream) at therate of four cups for lunch, four cups for supper, two cups at bedtime andthree cups in the locker room before games. "It helps me to relax," hesays. "Tea supplies a lift for athletes," says Jerry Sherman, the PRman for the Tea Council of the U.S.A. "And it's not followed by thedepression that comes with—well, with that other beverage." Bill Skowronsays he drinks that other beverage at breakfast. He does not drink intoxicantsexcept for celebrations. He says he helped himself to champagne on the flightback from Milwaukee the other day.
Thesportsman-of-the-year presentation was made to Bill at New York'sWaldorf-Astoria during the National Food Editors conference. About 150 womenwere present, and everybody was drinking a heady brew of Ceylonese, Indian andIndonesian tea leaves. "I had never talked to so many women before,"said Bill, "and I was pretty nervous." "Let's go into the bar firstfor a minute," said Jerry Sherman. "I don't mind if I do," saidBill, and he ordered a ginger ale. Bill was still nervous, so he returned tothe conference and had a cup of tea. Then he had another. And another. Andanother. Bill was beaming when presentation time rolled around. "Icertainly am honored to be here..." he was saying, and he was the pictureof lift and relaxation not followed by depression.
Test of aTaunt
For the pastmonth, nine variously qualified individuals have been trying with 16-ouncegloves, for the lure of many prizes, to analyze the old taunt: he couldn'tpunch his way out of a paper bag. And they've been trying manfully,pragmatically, in the full view of millions of housewives on a TV show calledCounty Fair (NBC, 4:30-5 EDT); that is, the bag's in full view, the individualsare battling unseen within. As we go to press, these have flailed and failed:Halfback Frank Gifford; Actor Jacques Bergerac; Welterweight Tony Di Biase;Columnist Earl Wilson; former Heavyweight Champion James J. Braddock; ActorRichard Coogan and three husky volunteers from the studio audience.
The bag is as bigas a telephone booth and is made of six-ply paper. The County Fair peoplecontend that the bag is made of the same stuff as cement, flour, feed andfertilizer bags. "And we use a fresh bag each time, yes, sir," said abright-eyed County Fair assistant. Back in the days when County Fair was aradio show the paper barrier was broken. But it took four inspired handschurning in concert to do it. "A honeymoon couple," said the assistantreverently. "Skinny little people, too."
The last man tofail was Coogan, who portrays an upright marshal on a TV western called TheCalifornians. "I'm the slowest draw in the world," Coogan said lastweek, fondling his .44. Coogan weighs 193 pounds, stands 6 foot 3 and ishandsome to a fare-thee-well. "I was a terrible after-school scrapper inMadison, N.J.," he said as he was stripped of boots, jacket and gunbelt.
"Gifford hitharder than anybody," the assistant told Coogan. "His reactions arefantastic and he timed his punches. I thought that old bag had had it; theseams were going. This is not an impossible thing, Dick. The honeymooners didit—skinny little people."
Coogan was loadedinto the bag feet first, and several husky volunteers from the studio crewerected it. "You're on your own equilibrium, Dick," the assistantwhispered. A bell clanged, and Coogan punched away with both hands—short,digging hooks. The bag and Coogan toppled over. He was gently extracted andhanded back his boots, jacket and gun belt.
"I wasfighting to stay upright," said Coogan glumly. "If that thing didn't goover, I think I might have gone through it. But, what the hell, it'simpossible. I got a lousy agent."
An Old Man atAutumn Remembers the Sea South of No Mans Land, Mass.
Was an hundredand two years old;
sat in a cherrywood chair far from water,
hearing, in the windings of his ears,
gulls weeping in the asylum of the air.
Remembered now other evenings returning
south of No Mans where the broadbill breaches,
shaking the bottom from his bronze blade,
and the marlin—dark, Arabic tail and fin, mean beak
and ambiguous eye—runs the bait before him like a silver chain.
Soon winter, when swallows, following legend,
slept in lake bottoms, and only the enginous owl flew, soft as breath.
Had seen a mezzotint once: reindeer; further north
where herds steamed and boomed over the narrowing world.
In the ruinous orchard his great-grandson stood, neglecting leaves,
cleaving the windfall apples with a five-iron toward the orange hill;
could smell the sour chards.
Wished he was beyond hill, smoke, fallen apples,
south of No Mans now on the steep, cold marches of the sea
in the dory with the iron and the keg,
and the swordfish: his mild, blue eye.
His great-grandson lifted him from his chair, light as grasses,
and laid him out in his small, white room.
Was not asleep, was not worth being awake.
Lay there beneath the quilt and no bird sang but a hawk
which whistled, floating near like a tired swimmer in the air.
How many years? he'd seen five herons flying, tidal birds,
legs trailing like sweet-water roots south of No Mans; out of place, these,too.
They Said It
President Eisenhower, asked about his favorite sports:"There are three that I like all for the same reason—golf, fishing andshooting—because they take you into the fields.... They induce you to take atany one time two or three hours, where you are thinking of the bird or thatball or the wily trout. Now, to my mind, it is a very healthful, beneficialkind of thing, and I do it whenever I get a chance, as you well know."
Sveinn Arsaelsson of Iceland, on the weather at St.Andrews during the World Amateur Golf Championship: "It's much colder inScotland than it is in Iceland." CHARLEY COE OF OKLAHOMA: "Thequartering wind behind me reminded me of the Dust Bowl back home." RAYMONDOPPENHEIMER, Great Britain's chief team selector, speaking with proudsatisfaction: "The old lady—the Old Course—is showing her teeth."