What Became of Sportsmanship?
Leighton Housh, the executive sports editor of the Des Moines Register and Tribune, in a speech last week to a meeting of sportswriters in Austin, Texas had some sharp things to say about sports fans, coaches—and sportswriters:
"Currently the United States is caught in a period of critical self-appraisal. Maybe the Russians and their moon rockets brought it on. I wouldn't know, but I do know that sports have not escaped and ought not to escape.
"We have got to have more people who know right from wrong, who are not afraid to dig out the facts in unsavory cases and write the story.
January 25, 1960
"Such people will not be popular but they will be respected. Some coaches and managers, and many of the more rabid fans, will criticize them bitterly. But they will be professional newspapermen—not volunteer tub-thumpers—doing a professional job of seeking out and writing the truth as they see it.
"Who knows? Maybe eventually those almost abandoned words such as 'honor' and 'sportsmanship' will acquire once more some meaning and appear now and then in print with the unceasing stream of statistics and ratings that now pass for news.
"And who is responsible for the sad fact that the phrase 'building character' almost always draws a snicker and is taken to mean that the coach has had an unsuccessful season?
"And isn't it a sign of the times that every sports editor finds one of his most difficult year-end jobs is to remember a single instance of sportsmanship worthy of nomination for the Swede Nelson Sportsmanship Award?
"Certainly you'd have to bypass the man from Purdue who spied on Iowa's practice from a tree; the zealous USC tackle who drew Pete Elliott's wrath for slugging but who was made Lineman of the Week by the Football Writers of the area; or any of the coaches who made news in 1959 by using game films to second-guess officials.
"Red Blaik, one of the most articulate defenders of college football, calls the game the nearest thing to actual warfare. I think there is, and ought to be, a difference.
" 'Victory at any cost' is a proper slogan in the emergency of war. No athletic contest ever should be that important—not even Texas vs. Oklahoma.
"Football, to be sure, is an emotional game, and the reflecting of a certain amount of it in coverage is essential on some games, but isn't it possible we have gone too far in this direction?
"What is needed, in my judgment, is some newspaper leadership toward sanity in dealing not only with football but with all sports. For let's face it, we are at least in some measure responsible for the creation of a disgraceful climate that makes the hanging of a losing coach in effigy almost automatic each fall.
"It seems to me we can do a much better job of helping the genuine football fan 'grow up,' actually to learn something about the game and to realize the inescapable fact that when one team wins another just naturally has to lose."
Restlessness in Seattle
WANTED: Swiss Family Robinson. Is your family one of the hundred adventuresome families with the spirit of America's pioneers needed to establish a model community on a beautiful Pacific island in conjunction with a scientific expedition and social planning group? If so, call MA in 3-6540....
Ever since this classified ad beckoned in Seattle's newspapers several weeks ago, hundreds of residents of a seasonally gray city have turned up, in curiosity or longing, at the headquarters of the Island Development Company; some 40 families have regularly attended Saturday night meetings, submitted to psychological tests to determine compatibility and signed on for memberships at $2,500 a family. In a land where other heirs of the Oregon Trail tradition are content to fish, play golf, ride horseback and climb mountains, the Island Developers are aiming for San Cristobal, one of the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.
There they hope to run a coffee plantation, catch lobster, produce agar-agar (a seaweed jelly), transport tuna in two refrigerator ships, eat watermelons, pineapples, limes and papayas, raise cattle. They plan to construct a port, marine repair facilities, a resort hotel, a college, hospital, roads and recreation facilities. "But we have to keep this on a realistic basis," cautions Alex Reuss, 25, a former insurance salesman who is vice-president of Island Development. "We can't think too big."
Organized last February with Don Harrsch, 33, a swashbuckling ex-tugboat captain, as president, Island Development has already made-a $30,000 down payment on a 65,000-acre coffee plantation (virtually all of San Cristobal), including houses, warehouses, freezer plants, a shortwave radio station and 197,000 coffee trees.
Once the settlers reach San Cristobal, they anticipate that their lives will take an immediate turn for the better. "We'll have a healthier life," says Reuss. "Everybody will have a month's vacation. There are no diseases or poisonous snakes down there, and the islands are cooled by the Humboldt Current. We'll save a third of our earnings for promoting science in whatever way we can. It was there that Darwin formulated his theory of evolution, you know."
Accordingly, at San Cristobal, the Island Development Company will change its name to Filiate Science Antrorse, which, according to the company's notably free translation of the Latin, means "Together with science we move forward."
But there will be a slight delay. Last week, after sailing from Seattle, rounding Cape Flattery and heading south along the Washington coast toward Cape Disappointment, the 30-year-old refrigerator ship Alert, carrying a vanguard of 19 adventurers, limped into Grays Harbor, Wash, after taking water up to the plates in her engine room. All aboard were seasick.
Most golfers want birdies, but not Danny Alupo, proprietor of a driving range at Wanamassa, N.J. Thousands of sea gulls have taken over his fairway. "I've tried everything to get rid of them," says Alupo. "They stole 450 of my golf balls. The dopes must think they are eggs. Anyway, they bury them."
Dolph Runs up 15,000
Now in his 12th year as a professional basketball player, 6-foot 8-inch Dolph Schayes of the Syracuse Nationals is a modern rarity: a big man who doesn't have to drive in close to score; he can drop them in from 30 feet out. Schayes takes his long shot in the old-fashioned manner—with two hands—and it rises in a high, looping arc before falling through the net with a sound of whipping cords. Often as not, the sight and the sound so elate Dolph that he raises a clenched hand over his head, shaking the fist in spontaneous salute to a basket well shot.
Schayes had no such long shot when he played college basketball for New York University. "I gave it too much push with my right hand," he explains. "But one season I broke my right wrist and had to work more with my left. That equalized the hands and the long shot got better. It was actually a turning point for me."
Schayes was a frail, gawky youngster at NYU, and he had to content himself with sticking up a cranelike arm to poke in a rebound, or pushing in a layup over the head of a defensive man half a foot shorter. He was so awkward there was considerable doubt whether he would make the grade as a professional. But Schayes had basketball fever: "My ambition has always been to walk down the street and hear someone say, 'There goes the greatest basketball player there is.'" The Syracuse Nationals took a chance on Dolph in 1948, and he has been with them ever since, playing regularly, scoring regularly and developing some thoughts of his own about the game.
"I'd like to see a line on the court," he says, "and shots beyond that line would count three points. Close-in shots would count two, same as now, but tip-ins would only count one. It takes more skill to score from farther out, and it ought to be rewarded."
Last week, late in the third quarter of a game against the Boston Celtics, champions of the National Basketball Association, Dolph flicked the ball up in a high loop toward the basket some 30 feet away, and when it dropped cleanly through, the Schayes fist shot up with more vehemence than usual. The officials stopped the game then, and while the crowd stood applauding, the P.A. system ratified a statistic that everyone in the arena already knew: Dolph Schayes had just become the first player in NBA history to reach a career total of 15,000 points.
Another man might have been content, especially when Syracuse went on to beat Boston, and he himself scored 34 points. Not Schayes. He couldn't help but muse that under his own system—allowing himself four extra points for his long shots and subtracting one for a mere tip-in—he would have scored 37.
No Headstands for Herb
Back in 1958, Arthur Hodsdon, the canny secretary of the Australian Amateur Athletic Union, warned his U.S. counterpart Dan Ferris to stop expecting visits from top Aussie athletes. Too many Aussies, he said, were coming to swell U.S. gate receipts and not enough U.S. athletes were dropping in on Australia.
Last week, despite the pleas of Coach Percy Cerutty, who likes his boy to move around, Secretary Hodsdon proved as good as his threat by refusing to let Aussie Miler Herb Elliott visit the U.S. to run in meets at New York and Los Angeles late this month. Actually, Herb himself helped in the decision by forgetting to say whether he wanted to run or not until it was too late to complete the Aussie AAU formalities. This gave Hodsdon, a kind man for all his sternness, just the excuse he needed. "I act as secretary in an honorary capacity," he said, "and in my spare time I do not intend standing on my head to make last-minute arrangements for Elliott."
Rocketeers vs. Maine
Suppose North Carolina had told the Wright brothers to stop tracking up its sand dunes, or New York had ordered Robert Fulton to cease muddying the Hudson with his steamboat. Well, the state of Maine has done much the same thing in the opinion of the Society of Applied Rocketry (SOAR), an organization of sportsman-scientists whose avocation is filling the sky with homemade missiles.
The trouble started when a SOAR group arrived at Lincolnville Beach, Maine with a 10-foot rocket and 6,000 letters. Its plan: to load the letters in the rocket, shoot it a mile into Penobscot Bay and have it picked up by the local postmaster, thus proving the efficiency of rocket mail and, incidentally, furnishing 6,000 rocket-mail covers for stamp collectors.
That was a month ago, and the rocket hasn't been fired yet. An investigator for Maine's state insurance department, Malcolm Chase, heard about the idea just in time to make a ruling: rockets are "fireworks," and it wasn't at all clear to Chase that rocket men who fire rockets just for sport are entitled to a fireworks license—though if they were professionals, say, it might be different.
The whole thing is now before a state court, and the rocket is in storage in Brooklyn. But we can give the SOAR men some advice. Tradition-bound Maine isn't the best place to try. That state recently refused to let a hunter charge up his game-law violation fine on his credit card. Probably Maine just doesn't deserve rocket mail.
Soccer, or Else
The deplorable state of soccer in Byelorussia has at last been brought to the attention of Soviet authorities. And none too soon, for, according to a stern summation in the party journal Sovetskaya Byelorussia, there has been no increase in the number of soccer teams for seven years, schools are not encouraging soccer, Minsk has only three fields for 238 teams and the coaching is much below socialist standards.
The party's Central Committee has now moved in. It has ordered its party organizers, sports societies, trade unions and young Communist leagues "to take urgent measures to improve the guidance of the development of mass football in the republic."
The Education Ministry was instructed to start teams in every school, collective farms were told that soccer squads better start cropping up all over, and all industrial plants with more than 150 workers were given a new production norm: field a soccer team.
The big outfits, whether factory or farm, drew the stiffest injunction: have a team ready for "a successful performance in the 1960 U.S.S.R. Championships."
In short, get a boot out of soccer, or else.
25-Footer vs. the Atlantic
On a fall night in 1942 a major of His Majesty's Royal Marines paddled a canoe into the harbor of occupied Bordeaux, attached deadly limpet mines which exploded next morning against the hulls of six enemy ships, and escaped on foot to Spain.
"The outstanding commando raid of the war," said a German officer in tribute to the nerve of 28-year-old Herbert George Hasler, the man in the canoe.
On the morning of June 11, 1960 "Blondie" Hasler will embark on another boating venture, a singlehanded crossing of the North Atlantic, east to west against the prevailing winds. There is no harder way to do it.
What's more, Hasler will have competition, for he is just one of four firm entries in a transocean display of derring-do which he helped to organize.
This adventure is a race across the Atlantic undertaken in the manner of Captain Joshua Slocum, who sailed around the world alone in the 1890s (but never tried a Britain-to-America crossing). It will start at Plymouth, a longtime favorite with pioneers, and will end, if all goes well, 45 to 75 days later off New York. On hand and cheering any finishers will be members of this country's Slocum Society Sailing Club, which is helping out with the event.
What makes a man want to cross the Atlantic alone in a sailboat? "Partly," says Hasler, "because yacht racing is moving in circumscribed channels and ocean-racing rules have severely restricted the development of seagoing yachts. In this race we are posing a fresh problem—encase yourself in a boat and get from A to B in the least time with the most comfort. This could produce something entirely different from the yachts of today. Testing equipment and techniques is a main purpose of the race."
Hasler's craft, Jester, is already something different. A 25-foot five-tonner with conventional hull, it is completely decked over with no open cockpit. To keep her on course when he is off watch below, Hasler has equipped his craft with a special wind-vane helm control, something like those used in model yachts. To check up on his whereabouts he will have to poke his head up through a round hole in the deck. Hasler does not expect to be on deck much. His Chinese lug sail ("unchanged for 1,000 years") can be handled by controls below. Steering can be manual or by automatic pilot.
"No established yacht club would sponsor our race," Hasler says. "It's too hazardous, too contrary to orthodox racing. But progress is always made over the opposition of an incredible number of experts."
There's another reason, beyond shaking up orthodox views of ocean racing, for Hasler's voyage. Says the veteran of Bordeaux harbor: "It should be real sport, you know."
Tennis and the Semipro Specter
Everything was coming up roses at the United States Lawn Tennis Association meeting in Scottboro, Ariz, last week as the new-broom administration headed by Seattle Businessman Vic Denny prepared to hand over to a new-new-broom administration headed by Chicago Businessman George E. Barnes.
The effect of able administrator Denny's able administration was immediately apparent in one crisp committee report after another. Optimism bloomed on all sides. Denny himself showered compliments on retiring Davis Cup Captain Perry Jones. Jones showered compliments on his players. Jones's successor as cup captain will not be named until this week, but his future was officially labeled bright. He would be bulwarked, said Denny, by "the best 20 juniors we've ever had."
And—wonderful to state and behold—the committee appointed to study the possibility of open tennis tournaments turned in a favorable report and won a resounding vote of approval. This decision made open tennis a virtual certainty by 1961.
And right then and there the meeting should have ended.
Instead, a specter known as the Borotra Plan for Authorized Amateurs raised its head and cast the entire proceedings into deepest gloom. Put forward by France at last summer's international tennis federation meeting in Dublin and since accepted in theory by most of the federation's members, the Borotra Plan calls for a new class of tennis players located midway between the simon-pure amateur (of ancient history) and the frankly profit-conscious pro of Jack Kramer's professional circuit. It would consist of "amateurs" who would be "authorized" to accept money for their services instead of receiving the same emoluments under the table and calling them "allowances."
Sizing up this plan as a diabolical foreign plot to suborn the very essence of amateurism, the USLTA last week declared itself 100% opposed. "As far as an 'authorized' player being used in Davis Cup competition is concerned," said Denny, "I believe this could very well result in the withdrawal of United States participation."
Actually, it would probably have to be left to a court of law to interpret the terms of the cup's original deed of gift by Donor Dwight F. Davis, just as the competitive status of yachting's America's Cup was left to a court when the big J boats were abandoned. But regardless of Davis' wish, the fact is that in championship tennis today a topflight contender has to be a pro of one sort or another if he is to survive at all. The only question is how much money he is permitted to make.
Once all top stars are permitted to compete with one another in open tournaments—regardless of how they are paid—the whole question of labels and classifications becomes simple hairsplitting.
The Wages of Pessimism
Through Tropical Park's 43-day meet, Miami Herald readers were amused by Turf Editor Russ Harris' selections of "worst bets" for the day. For 42 days Harris looked good, i.e., his horses looked awful. In the last race on the 43rd day the inevitable happened: the "worst bet," Roman Legion, won by a length and a half, paid $151.40 for $2.
Why does this skater never spill?
He's clever, one admits:
He wears his skates not where he stands
But, wisely, where he sits.
They Said It
Wilt Chamberlain, 7 feet one inch, asked by a young fan what he should do to become a basketball star: "The first thing is become 7 feel tall."
Gino Marchetti, Baltimore Colt end, accepting a pro football "Lineman of the Year" award: "It's a great honor. I truly deserve it."
Bobby Locke, South African golfer, on Tommy Bolt's vocabulary: "When you play some of the Yanks you've got to switch off your hearing aid."
Early Wynn, Chicago White Sox pitcher, 40, on his retirement plans: "Somebody will have to come out and take the uniform off me, and the guy who comes after it better bring help."