Cure for Nostalgia
Whatever nostalgia for Brooklyn and Ebbets Field still lingered in the camp of the L.A. Dodgers was suddenly dissipated last week. For winning a World Series before the greatest crowd of fans ever assembled in the history of baseball, each transplanted Dodger was awarded a cut of the victory pie worth $11,231.18. For each White Sox participant: a go-go $7,275.17.
The city of Rome tried on its Olympic facilities for size last week in an 18-nation track meet and found them, like all new suits, in need of some alteration.
It wasn't so much that the javelin, discus and hammer locations forced competitors in the 100,000-seat Olympic stadium to look into the sun, or that the soft turf clogged spiked shoes, or even that poor drainage left puddles in critical areas. Such minor matters could be quickly fixed.
October 26, 1959
But when the 1,500-meter race began, a serious and horrible suspicion became appallingly confirmed. The six-lane Olympic track was simply too narrow, forcing the 12 contestants to elbow and shoulder each other from starting gun to final wire in a quest for running room.
Their Mediterranean aplomb shaken, the Italian Olympic officials moved like sprinters. Two days after the international meet (won, incidentally, by Poland—neither the U.S. nor Russia entered) workmen were ripping up the track and starting a new one, in the approved Olympic width of seven lanes.
Aside from this major matter, providently repairable, Rome's gigantic ($20 million plus) Olympic building program appears moving toward a successful close. Architect Pier Luigi Nervi's domed Palazzetto dello Sport showed its readiness for 1960 just last week when a large crowd filled it to see a visiting team of Japanese gymnasts defeat Italy's best.
Seating is being increased to 20,000 at the Olympic swimming pool, which is in use, and Flaminio Stadium, the Olympic soccer site, is also ready. Scheduled for completion by May are the huge Palazzo dello Sport for boxing and basketball, a velodrome, another swimming pool and the $10 million plus Olympic Village.
With workmen clearing up the athletic traffic problem on the Olympic track, one of the few critical areas of Olympic concern still left was the problem of spectator traffic in Rome itself.
Games officials are fretting at the low-gear pace with which the city is preparing for that fearful day when 150,000 visitors struggle through its ancient narrow streets between the two Olympic centers at opposite ends of town.
"Traffic and tourist lodgings are the two biggest worries now," summarizes Mario Saini, director of Olympic construction and physical arrangements. "Everything else is right on time. Rome will be ready."
In a 1952 election to find a suitable living symbol for their football team, students at the University of Tennessee were asked to pick a mascot which was at once "easygoing, loyal, intelligent, a fighter when aroused and a testimony to the pioneer spirit of Tennessee." First choice was no boy scout but a flop-eared, sad-eyed, cold-nosed coon dog named Smokey. The hound ("There never lived a finer," said his owner) shouldered his noble obligations proudly until a day in 1955 when he was dispatched to an even higher calling by a speeding automobile. Thereupon his son, Smokey II, snatched up the UT colors and through last week was still following in papa's paw prints.
But uneasy lies the head that wears the mascot crown at Tennessee. In a scathing personal attack upon Smokey II, Ike Greene, a UT alumnus, exclaimed last week: "That dog just doesn't have enough dignity for a team as fine as the Vols. We're missing the boat by having an old hound for a mascot when the university could be represented by a Tennessee walking horse." Backing up Greene was Colonel M. M. Bullard, a Tennessee horse trader, who owns three time world champion walking horse Setting Sun. Bullard has obligingly offered to loan his $200,000 specimen free for the asking and has, moreover, volunteered to transport the horse to all Tennessee games, at home or away. "Why," said the horse's suddenly excited trainer, Sam Paschal, heaping more abuse on top of old Smokey, "that ol' dog probably wouldn't know a coon if he met one face to face or got wrapped up in a coat that had four legs. But if that ball club had Setting Sun for a mascot, they'd sure have something to be proud of. And before this season is over [Vols' record to date: 2-1-1] they may need something to be proud of."
Smokey's loyalty down the years has, of course, been reciprocated in this crisis. Said one student, hackles bristling: "He's ours all the way, win or lose, on the field or off. He may be ugly to some, but he's no stuffed shirt like some overrated horses I've heard tell of. Smokey's staying."
Whether Smokey stays or Setting Sun comes will not be decided until UT students hold another election, as yet unscheduled. But in the meantime they might do well to consider, too, the sentiments of Bowden Wyatt, the football coach. "Frankly, the whole business is silly," he said last week, dog-tired of all the horsing around. "Who ever heard of an animal winning a football game?"
As USUAL at this time of year, France's school kids are once more back in harness burdened with the huge loads of books that school-children must bear the world over. What makes the French children's lot different and notable this year is that for the first time they are facing a required course which promises to make their burden lighter by giving them new strength to bear it.
"Your children," ran a letter to France's parents at the beginning of the school year, "take part in absorbing, fatiguing intellectual work which it is necessary to compensate for. This year, tests in physical education have been made mandatory for all those who want to take a baccalaureate."
In the U.S. such a letter might cause no surprise—you still must learn how to swim to get a degree at Harvard or Barnard—but in France, where the educational system has long been directed toward grinding application to the books with no thought of anything else, it represents a revolution as drastic as that which ended the impotent Fourth Republic. Up to now, no French professor would be caught dead admitting that physical education is a vital and important asset to the classroom. The fact that Charles de Gaulle's new Republic now admits it officially is a triumph for famed Mountain Climber Maurice Herzog, De Gaulle's High Commissioner of Youth and Sports, a triumph as great as his conquest of the 26,500-foot Himalayan peak Annapurna, which cost him the tips of all his fingers.
Herzog's ascent of the arid and windswept ranges of French intellectualism was a tough climb accomplished in the face of long-prevailing winds of pedagogical prejudice and parliamentary parsimony. Many a French taxpayer is still horrified at the thought of the $20 million for sports equipment that Minister Herzog wheedled out of the government. But the students themselves were enthusiastic. "The government is on the right track at last," said one husky young basketballer from Paris' Hautes Etudes Commerciales. "I only hope it isn't too late."
Educators in the U.S., who believe that the only way to meet the challenge of Soviet Russia is to concentrate on study to the exclusion of all else, would do well to take note of France's about-face.
Go It, Free World!
Cassandras have it that America's high school students these days are too absorbed in such trivia as football to pay much attention to vital matters like the cold war and the space race.
Perhaps the Cassandras will feel better on hearing what happened just the other night at the Sherman High vs. Greenville High football game in Texas. First the band played the Sherman alma mater and youngsters on one side of the field yelled, "Beat Greenville!" Next the Greenville song was played and the shout from the other partisans was, "Beat Sherman!"
Then The Star-Spangled Banner was played, and as the last note faded away an adolescent voice echoed through the Texas night: "Beat Russia!"
The Ethics of Subterfuge
TV's quizmasters would have done well last week to drop in at Harvard Law School where the familiar sounds of orderly debate echoed through the corridors. One subject under discussion concerned the ethics of those classic examples of sports subterfuge: the baseball catcher's attempt to "pull" balls into the strike zone in an effort to sway the umpire's judgment ("A ball!" the catcher exclaims incredulously. "Look where my glove is!") and the football player's feigned injury that is designed to stop the clock ("Limivitch!" yells the coach. "Get in there and suffer a groin injury!") "What," Lon L. Fuller, eminent professor of jurisprudence and avid sports spectator, asked his students last week, "are the effects of these practices on ethics and morality?" It was Professor Fuller's own opinion that the catcher's sleight-of-glove was ethically acceptable but the footballer's feint was inexcusable. One student disagreed.
Student: The catcher's acts are repeated throughout the contest while feigned injuries occur infrequently. Isn't it far worse ethically to allow a catcher repeated deceptions, as opposed to the occasional deception in football?
Fuller: Aren't you assuming that the catcher's act is a deception? Examine the catcher's actions in the same manner you would a lawyer's advocacy. In making close calls look like strikes he is presenting a persuasive argument to the umpire. After considering the evidence the umpire is free to make his own choice. In the case of feigned injuries on the football field, however, the referee has no choice but to call time because he cannot take the risk of doing otherwise. The latter is a true deception, disruptive of the referee's power to govern the game.
Student: If the practice of feigning injury is accepted by society, should not this be sufficient?
Fuller: The judgment of an action should come from something deeper than passive acceptance. View the practice from the position, "If one can do it, all can do it!" and observe the results. If the catcher tries to make every pitch look like a strike, the game is not affected. Should there be an injury following every play in football, however, the game would soon degenerate into an uninteresting farce.
"Have you ever heard of a football player," the professor asked to clinch the argument, "who is not only a great runner and a fine passer but also great at faking injuries?"
Nobody could think of a glistening example.
At the close of the 1958-59 basketball season, 5-foot-11 Alan Seiden seemed like a little man with a big future. Named on just about everybody's All-America, the back-courter from St. John's University of Brooklyn had been his team's top scorer and playmaker, had climaxed his senior year by leading St. John's to victory in the National Invitation Tournament. It seemed only natural that the professional St. Louis Hawks should make him one of their top draft choices, and it seemed fairly certain that Seiden would perform as well for them as he had for St. John's. But last week a thoroughly disgruntled Alan Seiden was back in his New York home, all 5 feet 11 inches of him, asking the Hawks either to play him or give him his release.
"I can't help feeling the pros don't give a rookie who's small a real chance," he said. "Believe me, this is the first time I ever felt lost in the shuffle.
"At St. John's I was a star. I didn't even have to try too hard in practice. I built it up for the game. But in the two weeks I was at the Hawks' training camp I scrimmaged harder than I ever did in my life. One time we rookies played the vets for 20 minutes. We beat them 46-43 and I got 13. Three for six from the floor, seven for seven from the foul line. Slater Martin was covering me. Another time I played with Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagan for 12 minutes. I got 14 off Martin. Four field goals and six foul shots. I was scoring with Slater Martin covering me. It made me feel good. But I knew a scrimmage was no substitute for a game."
Up to now, Seiden's words had rushed out in a torrent. When he continued, his tone was more deliberate.
"Then we started on our exhibition tour. We played our first game at Los Angeles. I never even got in. We went on to Las Vegas, and I didn't get in there until the last three minutes when we were 14 points down. Sihugo Green had water on the knee. He played and I didn't. It was like a slap in the face. I asked the Hawks to play me or give me my release so I could try out with another club. They wouldn't so I flew home. I just couldn't see sitting on the bench.
"Don't get me wrong. The Hawks are wonderful fellas. I'd love to play with them. The five backcourt men are great. What can you say about Martin besides he's a real pro? The only veteran in the league under 6 foot and he's starting his 11th season. Jack McMahon went to my school. I've known him for years. And Al Ferrari. He's one of the hustlingest ballplayers I've ever seen; 6-foot-4 and he moves. Green. Well, he's Sihugo; he can jump with men four inches taller. And Johnny McCarthy. Why, John took time to give me advice. Things like 'If you get pushed, push back' and 'Remember to pace yourself.'
"I guess it sounds like I have this height business on the brain. I don't. It never kept me from helping a team before and it won't now. You know, all I want is a chance to play." He paused for a moment of thought. "I'm working out now with a kid named Ivan Kovac," he said. "He's a soph at St. John's this year and I call him the Comet. He's that fast. If he comes around, St. John's will be a terror. He's only 5 foot 10 but they need someone like him in the backcourt."
The only organization in Great Britain that could have gotten away with it has imposed a fine on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
England's aristocratic and autocratic Jockey Club assessed her the usual ¬£50 ($140) for failing to advise them three days before the running of the Champion Stakes at Newmarket that she was withdrawing her horse, Above Suspicion.
The Queen can afford it. Her horses have won her nearly half a million dollars in four years. And the Jockey Club isn't worried, either. Its exclusive membership includes six dukes, one of whom is the delinquent Queen's own husband.
Score It By Rounds
This boxer stuck out his finger,
But never delivered a blow.
Yet, strangely, he won.
If you ask how 'twas done,
He simply outpointed his foe.
They Said It
Walter O'Malley of the Los Angeles Dodgers, contemplating the immediate future in an expansive post-Series mood: "Our executives will take short vacations and bask on cloud nine, reflecting on the pennant playoff and the world championship."
Wilbur Evans, assistant athletic director at the University of Texas, introducing a sharp note on recruiting shortly before the Longhorns' pigskin clash with Oklahoma (won by Texas 19-12): "We ought to be favored by two points, since Texas is starting with 11 Texans and Oklahoma has only nine."
Sam Pooley, 90, lone survivor of the Grinnell (Iowa) College team that beat the University of Iowa 24-0 in 1889, slamming home a pep talk to modern-day Grinnell footballers: "I don't want to see enthusiasm out there—I want to see frenzy."