A FREE RIDE FOR THE FEW
This is an article from the Aug. 8, 1960 issue
Once again the televised double-header with which organized politics seeks quadrennially to steal the scene from organized sport is over, and once again we feel confident that our franchise is in no danger. If politics ever replaces baseball, however, we hope the pols will be fair-minded enough to make plenty of complimentary seats available for the nation's athletes.
Year after year the victorious politicians of both parties have been filing into the U.S. ball parks and race tracks on free passes or reduced-rate tickets. There is nothing wrong with this practice in the rare cases where it is a genuine reward for years of faithful public service, but too often it is nothing of the kind.
Witness litigation currently on the calendar in the courts of Wisconsin, which involves the issuance of free passes and reduced-rate season tickets by the management of the Braves to local politicians. The details are unimportant and reflect no discredit to the Braves. What is important is Braves' Ticket Manager William Eberly's reply when he was asked the point of this special courtesy. "I don't know," he said. "All I know is that it was the practice when I came here, and it is a privilege extended to politicians by ball clubs in most other cities." A local alderman's answer to the same question was that politicians "enhance the game by their presence."
Since the first cop helped himself to the first apple off the first pushcart this side of Eden, petty potentates have been taking advantage of their potential as troublemakers. It certainly is easier for an enterprise as public as a ball club to flatter a politician than to risk a tax assessment or nuisance judgment at some inconvenient time. Even if no such threat is stated or implied, a shakedown is a shakedown. While the high-sounding sentiments of convention oratory still hang in the air, the politicians would do well to remind themselves as their campaigning starts that the prize they are—or should be—seeking is the opportunity to serve others, not the opportunity to help themselves.
A good ball game, gentlemen, is well worth the price.
A GAME FOR THE MANY
A woman golfer wrote this magazine last week suggesting that the game she loved the best might be improved by easing the rules a little. "A change to eight-inch cups," she said, "as urged by the Duke of Windsor and Gene Sarazen long ago, would be a tremendous boon. Little benefit," she went on, "is derived from the hours of putting practice necessary for a low score with the present cups."
While awaiting an answer, her letter went into a file with reports of a speech made recently by Richard Tufts, a former president of the U.S. Golf Association. Tufts said flatly: "Golf is getting soft. The game's standards are being lowered, and subtly, bit by bit, golf is losing character. Those unable to meet the challenge of the game seem to find a vicarious pleasure in destroying it."
We admire Mr. Tufts' rigorous and exacting point of view, but we doubt if his affection for the game is any greater than that of our letter writer, Mrs. Agnes Thompson. What both Mr. Tufts and Mrs. Thompson are really saying, as we see it, is that the game of golf (a pastime once dismissed by James Boswell as a poor substitute for cricket) has engaged the almost fanatic affection of a spectrum of sportsmen as wide as the difference between the grim Scotsman playing a determined round in the icy rain at St. Andrews and the paunchy millionaire taking his ease in a plush golf cart under the sun at Palm Springs.
During the last 10 years, this universality of appeal has won the game more than a million new and dedicated addicts in the U.S. alone. Without suffering from the vapidity which the term implies, the game of golf can be almost literally all things to all men (and women). As such, and with apologies to Mr. Tufts and Mrs. Thompson, we think it's doing pretty well just as it is.