STILL HOPE AT THE TOP
Clenching his fists in the accepted style of outraged TVirtue last week, Jake LaMotta, onetime middleweight boxing champion of the world, told a U.S. Senate investigating committee: "I ain't afraid of none of dem rats."
Jake's cutting contempt was aimed at the agents of corruption that have long infested the prizefighting profession. It was, however, considerably dulled by the fact that he had just told the committee the sorry story of his collaboration with the very rats he professed to contemn. And—despite his bravado—he seemed unable to recall a single one of them by name. "Some hard hands and long arms have reached into this committee room," said Michigan's Senator Philip Hart, voicing some contempt of his own.
To those who have followed boxing over the years there was nothing startling in Jake LaMotta's confession that he had thrown a fight to Billy Fox in Madison Square Garden 13 years ago. Nor was there much of a surprise in the suggestion of widespread corruption in the Fifth Amendment nontestimony of a convict named Irving Mishel (once known as "the banker of the underworld") and a parade of additional witnesses whose silence was more damning than speech.
This magazine, like most honest partisans of sport, has made no secret of its disgust at boxing's dirty business. But even we are not yet ready to admit, as one Senator declared last week, that "boxing is rotten from top to bottom." As it happened, while the Senators were investigating the murky bottom, most of the sports world's attention was focused on two young men at the top who seem far from "rotten." This magazine thought highly enough of one of them six months ago to name him Sportsman of the Year. Ingemar Johansson, in turn, thought well enough of his sport to assist us in formulating a plan for the worldwide control and supervision of boxing (SI, Jan. 4).
In general we are opposed to governmental interference in any sport, but boxing has shown so little inclination to clean its own house that drastic measures may be necessary. Senator Alexander Wiley of Wisconsin says "a hard sock in the jaw" in the form of federal legislation is what boxing now needs. Accordingly, Wiley last week introduced what may be the first of several congressional bills to deliver that sock. If these bills hit the hoodlums who foul the sport—and not the athletes who grace it—we are all in favor.
NO DOPES AT THE TOP
By now the last diploma has been handed out and the echoes of the last valedictory have died among the ivy leaves. Once more the nation is richer by some 400,000 newly minted bachelors of art and/or science, and if many of these young men have been spurred on to academic attainment by an interest in athletics that seems to us very much all right.
It is fashionable in some circles these days to decry the athletic scholarship as an academic fraud despite a host of statistics to the contrary. But in our estimation, the bluestocking argument that athletic grants-in-aid contribute nothing to scholarship as such has become too tired to deserve rebuttal. We cite it now only because a single young man in the current crop of graduates is almost enough in himself to lay the argument to rest for good.
Tommy Gresham, a kid from rural Griffin, Ga., came to Georgia Tech in 1956 on a full-scale athletic scholarship with the primary purpose of playing football. He played in one game during his freshman year, injured his leg and was forced off the athletic field for good. Under Tech policy, however, his scholarship continued uninterrupted. Last week Tommy Gresham graduated No. 1 in the Class of 1960 with an average of .392 out of a possible .400.
Did someone say that's just because he couldn't waste time at play any more? Possibly, but in 1957 the top scholar at Tech was also its football captain and in 1959 the football captain was the only honor graduate in an engineering class of 140.