The Great Game of Politics
The awards have been awarded; the rewards reaped; last year's scorecards have been mercifully incinerated along with the Christmas wrappings; and the time has come once more to bed down the past and wake up to a new year—and a new decade. For those of us whose profession and delight it is to contemplate the world of sport, which includes most of the world, the prospect is bright with promise.
During the decade we have just begun, we confidently expect that more people will find more time for more play than ever before in the world's history, and it will be our job to report and share in their enjoyment and occasional frustrations. In this inaugural year of that decade the greatest experts in the world of amateur sport will gather in Rome and in Squaw Valley to compete in the 17th Olympic Games and to provide a feast of vicarious enjoyment for spectator and sportswriter alike. Best of all, perhaps, from our point of view is the fact that in 1960 we will be active participants in a vital and absorbing pastime which Americans, virtually unaided, have made the greatest and most important sport in the world: the nomination and election of a President of the United States.
This is no mere figure of speech. As played in this zesty and sometimes zany land of bravery and freedom, the great game of politics (which comes to a head like the Olympics only once every four years) is in every sense a sport. It inspires the sportsman's competitive urge, the sports fan's exaggerated partisanship; it is marred by the same temptation to play dirty and ennobled by the same sense of fair play. It partakes equally of sportsmanship and gamesmanship and is prompted by an overpowering will to win; but in the winning, at its best, politics like sport can and does achieve and accomplish more than momentary triumph. It is no accident, therefore, that all of the front runners in the upcoming presidential stakes of 1960 are amateur sportsmen of note and enthusiasm. This, perhaps, is why they are front runners.
January 4, 1960
Nelson Rockefeller, one of the liveliest of all the candidates to date, has now declared himself out of the race, but the sporting oomph that was his when we pictured him at the helm of his racing sloop off the coast of Maine may yet carry him to the White House. Dick Nixon, by now the sole hope of the Republicans, is well known to our readers as a dark-horse golfer of some potential and an inveterate spectator sports fan. In the months to come we will learn and report more and more about a onetime southpaw Yale tennis star named Stuart Symington who can still play a fast game of weekend tennis and shoot golf in the mid-70s. We'll be telling you about a young man named Kennedy from a competitively inclined Boston family who won his H on the Harvard swimming team and later won a Navy and Marine Corps medal for dragging a shipmate three miles to shore when his PT boat was sunk off the Solomon Islands.
We'll be telling you about a man named Hubert Humphrey whose major, and perhaps only, weakness lies in buying elaborate and expensive fishing equipment with which to attack the sportive denizens of Minnesota's teeming lakes, and about a quarter-horse hand from Texas named Lyndon Johnson whose principal passion is shooting deer. And we'll find time again to mention Adlai Stevenson's tennis (at which he's not bad at all), even though everyone knows that his major sport for years has been running for president.
Since we are a sports magazine and not a political journal, our interest is in sportsmen and not politicians. We doubt, however, that any man is a sportsman only incidentally, so in getting to know better the sportsman who will occupy the White House we will know better the man who will run the country, and this seems to us the proper province of all magazines and all Americans.
Along with other sports fans, therefore, at the beginning of the year, not decrying partisanship but reserving judgment, we cry to all sportsmen whether competing at Rome or Squaw Valley, at Los Angeles with the Democrats or at Chicago with the Republicans, or, finally, in the Electoral College Bowl: "Happy New Year and May the Best Man Win!"
Blooding in the Snow
Flopped on the top of a half-bare mountain at Aspen, the United States Alpine ski squad appeared to be hopelessly snakebit. Despite the presence of the finest male downhill skier the country has ever produced and half a dozen of the best women skiers ever assembled in one clump, nothing was going right. First, there was almost no snow; no snow in Squaw Valley where the Olympic Winter Games will be held next month, no snow in Sun Valley or Alta where major warmup races were scheduled, only the residue of an October flurry at Aspen. A shipment of special racing skis was late. A dyers' strike held up delivery of parkas. Declining a U.S. invitation to come and play, Europe's skiers decided to stay home, competing in their own big races right up to Olympic time, thereby depriving the U.S. team of badly needed and hoped-for competition against European talent. Then, to top it all, Buddy Werner, the white hope of the team, broke his leg.
So, since neither the snow-capped mountain nor the Europeans would come to them, and with no Werner left to boost their morale, U.S. officials, like Mahomet of old, decided they'd better go to the mountain. Next week, as soon as the U.S. qualifying trials are completed in Aspen, the entire U.S. team will fly to Kitzb√ºhel, Austria. There, and in places like Davos and St. Moritz and Még√®ve, for the next three weeks they will race down the world's fastest slopes against the world's fastest skiers. By the time the trip is over they may well be moving a bit faster themselves.
"At least," said Dr. Amos R. (Bud) Little, the Alpine team manager, "we won't arrive at Squaw Valley unblooded."
Skiing in the Sheets
According to at least one Michigan psychologist (who prefers to be nameless), the U.S. ski team (see above) might just as well have stood in bed. On the assumption that skiing is 90% mental, the psychologist in question has developed a recording called Ski Relaxed, designed to improve the technique of any skier by germinating "success thoughts" in his subconscious for $8.95.
Appealing to the conscious intellect at the outset, the face of the record is given over to a discussion of hypnotic psychology. The science, says a soothing voice, can be used to dissipate the "many fears, real and imaginary, which plague the novice and expert alike...fears which produce negative thoughts and deeds, tensions and fatigues." The road to "positive thinking and positive action" is taken on the flip side when Skier is told by Voice to lie down and pay attention. "A sensation of warmth is now beginning in your toes," says Voice, hauntingly, mystically. "Creeping up through your legs into your hips.... Every muscle is responding to this extremely pleasant feeling."
At length, when Skier's body has been laid to euphoric rest, Voice gets on to the uplifting business at hand. "After you awaken," it says, "you will be more calm, more relaxed, more confident in everything you say and in everything you do. You will have complete confidence in yourself and in your ability to ski...looking forward with zest and enthusiasm to whatever each thrilling run may bring."
The Colts' City
Baltimore is a city "spacious, charming and full of creature comforts," said H. L. Mencken not so many years ago; but that was B.C.—before the Colts. What the tart-tongued iconoclast might well have thought of his city in the last week of 1959 boggles the imagination.
Santa Claus was playing second string on staid Charles Street as Baltimore's merchants used valuable Christmas-season window space for "Yea Colts" signs. One Santa-led band gave up when Christmas carols inspired no reaction, drew great cheers instead by playing the Colt marching song.
A 19-story office building, which usually used its window lights to spell out giant Christmas wishes, spelled COLTS instead.
As the day of the big game approached, the city's long-established social structure collapsed into just two groups—those with game tickets (roughly 50,000) and those without (roughly 900,000). The Withs included four men who waited in line 56 chilly hours to get first chance at the few (6,000) general admission tickets put on sale.
The Withouts faced even worse ordeals. Their basic difficulty was finding a television set which could pick up Channel 4 from Washington or Channel 8 from Lancaster, Pa., the nearest cities allowed to telecast the game.
Some Baltimore sets with outside aerials could get these stations, and rooftop antenna sales soared. Indoor antenna owners, meanwhile, were trying a recommended practice of putting their sets in windows with southern exposures, clipping six-inch squares of aluminum foil to the rabbit ear tips and hoping.
Others were renting motel rooms in the Washington TV range, helped by the American Automobile Association, which published a special brochure listing all motels with TV in each room within the reception area.
The Baltimore City Council, its own members pinched in the ticket squeeze, listened to a resolution to have the stadium enlarged by 1961, and the Maryland Board of Public Works, the highest executive agency in the state, formally called the playoff game "one of the most important events that has ever taken place in the United States."
"The booboisie has prevailed," H. L. Mencken might have said if he'd seen Baltimore last week, but then he had no way of knowing that the Colts were the most exciting thing to happen to Baltimore since—well, since H. L. Mencken.
I Erh San Ssu
It's been a year or so now since Red China launched its private Communist offensive against the capitalist paunch, and a recent visitor to Peking passes on this account of how the battle is going in a local textile mill:
Each afternoon at 2 the employees are summoned into a courtyard. A loudspeaker chants "I-erh-san-ssu...I-erh-san-ssu," for one-two-three-four, and the People's fingers dutifully stretch to touch the People's toes. Office workers interrupt business conferences to follow the chant, and bosses and secretaries do their knee bends in mid-dictation.
To add spice to the calisthenics, competitive sports as well are being fostered in shops all over the nation, and hardly a week passes that some factory worker doesn't achieve a new sports record. Recently Radio Peking proudly proclaimed: "Model airplane makers Chao Chia-chan and Wang Yung-hsi flew their radio-operated airplane to an altitude of 1,260 meters." This naturally set a new world record for toy planes.
"The ultimate aim of the program," say Peking's gym teachers, "is for the Chinese population to be better in health, taller, stronger, of athletic posture." Also, of course, "to be capable of more and harder work."
Lost Ball in One
Paul Antol Jr. teed up his ball, a Walter Hagen Ultra, No. 3, at Michigan's Pontaluna Country Club the other day and drove it toward the 14th green, which can't be seen from the tee. A few seconds later Bine Rollin, unaware of the duplication, did the same thing with another Walter Hagen Ultra, No. 3.
Reaching the green, the golfers found one ball in the cup, the other two feet away. Who got the hole in one? Antol and Rollin figured it was anybody's guess and flipped a coin to decide whose ball was in the cup. Rollin won (and collected $1 each from the rest of the golfing group for winning the hole). Antol settled for a birdie 2.
That solved the problem in Muskegon, but the thought that golf rules don't mention coin-flipping sent us to Joseph Dey, executive secretary of the U.S. Golf Association, to ask what Rollin and Antol should have done.
The answer, found in a special USGA ruling, might surprise the Michigan golfers more than their double-trouble shots. "If it's impossible to identify the balls," summarized Dey. "and a decision might result in unfairness to any player, both balls must be regarded lost."
This skating queen, undoubtedly,
Is anything but trite;
With her left foot she cuts a three,
Then adds five with her right.
—HARVEY L. CARTER