In a durable old gag about the workaday world a visitor to a crowded office asks the boss, "How many people are working here?" The answer comes promptly and wearily: "About half of them." Last weekend as that office and a million like it closed down for the celebration of summertime's first fine holiday, a statistician surveying the nation's crowded golf courses, waterways, beaches and tennis courts might well have asked, "How many people are enjoying their favorite sports today?" Once again the accurate—if cynical—answer might be, "About half of them."
It is probably statistically safe to say that more Americans were out golfing, swimming, sailing, picnicking, motorboating and playing tennis on this Fourth of July than on any before it, but for every golfer who discovered again the thrill of a perfect drive there must have been at least one whose putt was ruined by the enfilading bombardment of the boorish foursome pressing from behind. For every fisherman who hooked a blue or a striper, there was one who hooked a water skier; for every racing sailboat skipper who crossed the line on a perfect course at the precise instant the starting gun sounded, there was one whose attempt to round the first windward mark was fatally fouled up by the wash of an outboard hot rodder roaring through the fleet at a blistering 30 knots.
Unreplaced divots cluttered the nation's golf courses, unsubmerged beer cans clogged its waterways, un-burned garbage littered its beaches, and everywhere as people tried to enjoy themselves unlearned manners spoiled the fun.
Far be it from us to advocate a return to the days when sport was restricted to the wealthy few and crusty country-club protocol came close to suffocating relaxed enjoyment, but we do dream happily of a time, now seemingly gone, when a decent consideration for the other guy was an intrinsic part of the fun. The elaborate etiquette of the sporting elite in yacht and country clubs may seem like sissy stuff to the golfer who has learned his swing (and not much else) at the driving range on Route 5, or to the sailor who bought his outboard at the city showroom and figures all you got to know is how to steer; but like the common law, the golden rule and the other codes developed by enlightened men anxious to enjoy each other's company with a minimum of friction, they are, in fact, just another variation of good manners—without which nothing is much fun.