In the early days of college football the coach gave his team necessary training during the week and on Saturday turned the strategy over to the quarterback, the game over to the players, and simply hoped for the best. It has been a long time since things were all that simple, but until this year there was at least room for some initiative on the part of the actual contestants. Now, with the new "wild card" rule, the coaches have taken the game to the doorway of automation.
Under the rule, the coach can send in any "free" substitute he chooses after each play. The substitute may have an actual job to do, but often his first responsibility is to tell the team what play it is to use next. That has been decided by the coach, who may be sitting in the press box manipulating his automata by telephone (SI, Sept. 26). The quarterback, once called a "field general," thus becomes something less " than a staff sergeant. Before long football may be played by IBM, with coaches pushing buttons.
A reason usually cited for increased coaching control of the college game is the competitive pressure of professional football. They are (or were) different games, and should be. The college game has its own traditions and spirit. It cannot be as good as pro football in a technical sense, but it ought to be, in its own way, as much fun to watch and certainly more fun to play.
Coaches make big money when they win and sometimes get fired when they lose. It is understandable that they should want to control the game. College administrators, accustomed to paying for their whole athletic program out of the proceeds of football, want to win almost as desperately and therefore do not resist the trend. But let them beware. If they permit the game to be played by faceless puppets, instructed via a dull and interminable parade of substitutes, they will lose the money as well as the fun.
DEDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM
The Internal Revenue Service has discovered the Daily Double, and horseplayers are planning a Boston Tea Party. One day last week a bureaucrat was sitting in his office dreaming of new taxes when he read in his morning paper that a bettor who had picked six consecutive winners had collected $9,382.20 for $2 at the Lincoln Downs, R.I. race track. The IRS announced that all payments of $600 or more in any taxable year had to be reported by the payee. The order went out promptly from Washington to all tracks in the country to record identification of such exceptionally lucky people before giving them their money.
The points to be made about this silly administrative order are:
1) It will be impossible to enforce. A man who wins $600 with a $10 ticket is likely in the future to buy five separate $2 tickets, so he can win $120 five times (untaxed). If he wins $600 with a $2 bet, he may produce four friends who will agree that each was betting 40¢ and only winning one fifth of the pot.
2) Some tracks can blame themselves. If they worked at improving the sport instead of vying with each other at spreading misleading and amoral get-rich-quick stories, they would not have caught the eye of the tax men.
3) The Internal Revenue Service graciously says that if you lose as much money at a track as you win in any taxable year, you can charge off that loss—but no more. The burden of proof is put entirely on you, and losing tickets are not accepted even as prima-facie evidence. You have to show by admission tickets, transportation vouchers and bank withdrawals that you are a bona fide, losing horseplayer.
The Internal Revenue people defend their action by saying, "We don't make the laws, we just apply them." Well, this is a law they have not been applying for years, and we suggest they go right back to not applying it some more.