O.K. Joe, get in there and give it all you've got!" This is the most timeless cliché of the athletic world, and on the face of it the mandate it carries would seem to be simplicity itself: good old Joe is being asked, even ordered, to go in there and bust a gut for good old Siwash. But the less simple fact is that if Joe were ever so profligate in the expenditure of his talent and resources the Siwash coach would have benched him years ago. What Joe is really being asked to do is to go out on the field and conserve his energy for its most efficient and beneficial use. Not so exciting, perhaps, but much more effective.
"The art of running the mile," said the first sentence of the first paragraph of the lead story of the first issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, "consists in essence of reaching the threshold of unconsciousness at the instant of breasting the tape.... The runner must harbor strength to answer the moves of other men before expending his last reserves in the war of the home stretch." Though it is doubtful if any reader either considered or cared about the fact in the excitement of that story, this sentence was much more than the opening line in a thrilling account of the running of the famed Miracle Mile at Vancouver; it was, in fact, this magazine's first official statement about a subject it has discussed in a variety of forms ever since. The subject is conservation, on which we have still more to say further on in this issue.
So what, somebody says, conservation is a fine and worthy subject and we're glad you're for it, but let's get on to the subject of sports—and right there is where we mean to pause for a moment and consider.
If there is a common fault shared by sportsmen of all stripes and sizes it may well lie in the pejorative tendency of each of them to consider his own the one sport that matters. Thus there may be many well-intentioned and earnest sportsmen at Tanforan, say, or Hialeah who consider conservation the concern only of some kind of nuts who probably want to turn all the nation's race tracks into refuges for the whooping crane.
March 28, 1960
There are most certainly other more generous sportsmen and even nonsportsmen who consider conservation worthy largely for sentimental reasons, such as the preservation of old beauty in a museum or rare animals in a zoo. There are still others who believe it vital to preserve a mountain slope but not so important to save a seashore. And others too who believe conservation is only for hunters or only for picnickers or only for the preservation of the giant sequoia forests.
This magazine believes devoutly in conservation not only because it means more room to play in, better views to look at and a greener land to live in, but because the principle it represents is the essence of sport itself, the point and purpose of its being. Every athlete who disciplines his body to perform in joyous response and with maximum effect to his mental command is a practicing conservationist. His whole instinct, whether he is aware of it or not, is against the profligacy of waste and spoliation. His response to this instinct makes of him a whole man, and for his home he needs a whole land, a land carefully trained and conditioned in all its aspects as he is to fill his infinite needs.
If conservation meant only the assurance of room to relax in for those with nothing better to do with their time, there might well be arguments to oppose it on the ground that the nation is too relaxed already. A conservation that meant merely a prevalence of tennis courts over vacant lots, of golf courses over swamps and housing developments, of scenic vistas over factories and roadside advertising might well be discounted as a too-expensive luxury. But in our view conservation goes far deeper than that; it means to the civilized land what fitness means to the educated body, and in essence what the idea of sport itself means to the human spirit: a wholeness of mind and body.
Perhaps better than anything so far written on the subject, Henry Romney's two-part study of what he calls social conservation, which begins on page 72, illuminates a new and vastly encouraging national attitude toward the physical fitness of the nation's own resources. This is an attitude which, for the first time in our knowledge, looks at conservation as an effort to secure a "whole land" for the "whole man."
We hail its advent. In essence, it represents what we are talking about all the time.