PROVIDENCE AND THE GIANTS
The accusation that the National Football League is playing unfair with the rival American Football League is heard again in the land, and not merely from the active vocal cords of Harry Wismer, owner of the New York Titans of the AFL. The Wismer charges, some old, some new, some borrowed, are now being echoed by respected journalists and deserve examination.
The claim is that the New York Giants, who currently lead the NFL's Eastern Conference, are being loaded up by other teams in the NFL in a specific attempt to make them look good and focus attention on them and away from the Titans. The argument goes that the NFL, in order to destroy the AFL, must bust it first in the biggest and most prestigious city on the circuit and is conscientiously trying to do just that.
Well, it is a fact—provable by hindsight—that the Giants have benefited greatly from trades with Western Conference NFL teams and have given up relatively little in return. There is no evidence as of now, of course, that this is due to anything more than the astuteness of canny Giant Vice-President Wellington Mara, long known as a demon trader (SI, Nov. 20). And to many it must seem ridiculous to suggest that any NFL team would purposely trade away any one of its valuable players merely to build up any specific rival.
November 27, 1961
The Giants have received their biggest break not in the trades alone but in the NFL scheduling as well. In their first eight games this season New York twice played Washington (loser of 17 straight), twice played Dallas (no wins last year) and twice played St. Louis. By the time the season was half over, the Giants had not been tested either against the championship Philadelphia Eagles or the consensus choice for new champion, the Cleveland Browns.
The effect of this was to give the Giants plenty of time to assimilate their new heroes. Another effect was to give them a fancy 6-2 record by the time the big games on the schedule began to roll around, thus assuring the rich gates and the lavish attention that Wismer, whose Titans currently hold a record of 5-5 in the AFL, claims is aimed at wrecking his team.
Some now argue that the kindly providence that watches over the Giants by providing them with fine new players and soft first-half schedules is not a providence at all but a connived "syndicate" operation in the National Football League. This harsh accusation has not been proved, but it has stirred enough controversy to make it a legitimate subject for speculation. And surely there could be an improvement in scheduling. We recognize all the scheduling problems faced by Rozelle and his staff. Baseball overlaps the pro football season by several weeks, and baseball teams have first call on the playing fields. This explains some oddities of the schedule, but not all.
There is simply no need for the New York Giants to play three teams twice each in their first eight games. And when two of those teams are the worst in the league, the NFL—even with clean hands—lays itself wide open to the charge of building up the Giants.
PLENTY IN A NAME
Two weeks ago Walter O'Malley announced officially that the new $16 million stadium in Chavez Ravine will be called Dodger Stadium. The words were scarcely out of his mouth when the management of the Los Angeles Angels, who will also play baseball in Chavez Ravine, began to kick. They didn't ask that it be known as Angel Arena but said they would never call it anything but Chavez Ravine. So the new park is going to have two names, to the confusion of California's patrons and the nation's sports-writers. "We don't want any tourists interested in seeing our games wondering where the hell Dodger Stadium is," said an Angels' official. The artful Dodger O'Malley is adamant, and so is ride-'em-cowboy Gene Autry, Angel board chairman. As a compromise we suggest Elysian Fields.
Bill Corriere of Easton, Pa. went out to Colorado to hunt big game. Working near the center fork of the Little Snake River, he spotted a big buck deer and dropped the animal with a single shot. Corriere had just begun to dress out the deer when what should blunder into sight but a large elk. He dispatched it immediately with another shot. This presented a major problem: How could Corriere possibly get all that meat back to camp? Off he went to round up some pack horses. He returned later only to find a cinnamon bear nibbling at the deer carcass. Corriere promptly made it three for three.
All of which is far better than what happened to another hunter in Smyrna Mills, Me. Heading through a field near his house, he spotted what he thought was a partridge. His shot was perfectly placed, but the partridge turned out to be his cat.
THE INSIDE TRACK
•To help confuse Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson, Peter Fuller, the millionaire manager of contender Tom McNeeley, has bought up all the films of McNeeley's previous fights. The main effect of this maneuver, some people feel, will be to safeguard Patterson from overconfidence.
•The American Football League plans to revise its schedule next year to avoid competing with televised NFL games. The Buffalo Bills may shift their 1962 games to Saturday nights. The New York Titans will play at home on the same dates as the Giants to avoid the TV competition.
•National Hockey League President Clarence Campbell is trying to get NHL teams to stop competing with each other for young prospects. The Boston Bruins recently outbid the Montreal Canadiens by going to $10,000 for a junior prospect. Campbell believes that paying big bonuses will raise league costs.
•Watch for other cities besides Omaha to bump into attendance troubles in the new National Bowling League. Fresno is currently attracting an average of only 350 per game. But Detroit, with an average of 1,315, Dallas, with an average of 1,145 per game, and Fort Worth, with an average of 1,067, are drawing well in the 10-team league.
•Probably the first college football coach to be fired will be Jim Myers at Texas A&M. His teams have won only five Southwest Conference games in four seasons. Likely replacement is Jim Owens, a former Aggie assistant coach and currently the coach at Washington.
A GUTTER BY ANY OTHER NAME
Back in the bad old days, a bowling alley was a bowling alley and a lady wouldn't be found dead near one. Then came a big advertising campaign by the equipment manufacturers, aimed at giving bowling a new image (and one which it deserved). Bowling alleys became bowling lanes, and pretty ladies with high-society names were pictured enjoying themselves on them. The newest phase of this campaign is now upon us: henceforth, the gutters are to be called "channels." The word "gutter" is considered beneath the dignity of the game. So remember, bowlers, when you throw that sphere down the lane, try to keep it out of the channels—and, if you fail, please refrain from using any channel language.
Fall is the time for raking leaves, putting on snow tires and betting on football pools. Stick to the first two. We like a little action ourselves, but the football pools are perhaps the worst possible way to make money. The pool cards are distributed in factories and hospitals, high schools and public libraries, practically every place where there are more than two suckers assembled. On the card is a long list of football games, with equalizing point spreads aimed at making the games as close as possible. You make your picks and lose your money. The reason you lose your money is that the odds are so heavily stacked against the bettor as to be ridiculous. Consider:
If you pick five out of five winners, you are paid 15 to 1. The odds against you are 31 to 1. Pick 8 out of 8 and you get a handsome payoff of 60 to 1. But the odds against you are even handsomer: 255 to 1. Pick 10 out of 10 (a nearly impossible task) and you get back 150 to 1. You should get 1,923 to 1.
To make matters worse, it takes only one tie to make your entire card a loser. The Treasury Department has observed all this and taken steps to smash the pool racket. We suggest that the public take the job out of Treasury's hands and ignore the pools right out of existence.
DANCING IN THE LIGHT
So 44,000 people are in the stands waiting impatiently for the big game between South Carolina and Clemson. There is applause when the orange-coated Clemson Tigers take the field. Thirty-six strong, they begin their pregame calisthenics with grace and finesse. Then they swing into strange gyrations, zigging and zagging in place, shaking their hips, waving their arms, bumping and grinding like a bunch of fifth-rate burlesque queens. The Clemson fans, no fools, know that this is not the Clemson team, but a bunch of phonies from South Carolina dressed like the Clemson team. Down onto the field pour outraged Clemsonites, and battle is done here and there and hither and yon. Thus was The Twist introduced to the gridiron. We doubt that it will appear again.
For the past 25 years an inspired musician named Ludwig Koch has been prowling around the British Isles, recording such sounds as the rustle of the reeds in the marshes of Norfolk and the whisper of the waves on Dover Beach. He has also recorded the songs of 178 species of birds, and while bird song recordings these days are commonplace, those of Ludwig Koch are not: he started such work, and was the first to record the astounding squeaks, chatters, whistles, buzzes, wails, squawks and wild ethereal melodies with which nature has endowed birds.
Driven out of Germany in 1936 by the Nazis, Koch was welcomed in England, where, he said "is everything for za birds and animals. It is amazing how zey understand how important it is." An old-fashioned character who wore a black beret and lemon-yellow spats on his sound-hunting expeditions, Koch began a radio program devoted to bird songs, enthralling his listeners at least in part because of his accent. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain used to go bird watching with him. Sir Julian Huxley is one of his admirers. At various times he has recorded the complete vocabulary of the mute swan, the rarely heard mating call of the camel, the amorous orations of lions and the cracking sound produced when a greenshank sandpiper breaks out of the shell.
A reputable scientist who has been called the greatest living birdman, Koch has a highly developed sense of humor. Once when he was trying to make a night recording of the sounds of a wryneck—a sort of British woodpecker—he appealed to the neighborhood to silence a leaky cistern. Its sound was becoming confused with the lament of the bird and thus was threatening the validity of his research. The cistern was silenced. Last week the British Broadcasting Corporation prepared a special broadcast in honor of Koch's 80th birthday. He was asked if, in his lifetime of bird watching, he had noted that birds watched people. Yes, he said caustically. He was setting up his equipment one day, and a warbler watched him, waited for him to crawl into the bushes to hide, then hopped up to the microphone and yelled, "Go away!"
THEY SAID IT
•Former Texas League Spitball Pitcher Snipe Conley on his lost art: "They're arguing now that the spitball is dangerous. Why, I walked only 40 or 50 men a season; it's bound not to be dangerous if a man can control it like that."
•Retiring Xavier University Football Coach Ed Doherty, remembering things past: "I once had a tryout with the New York Yankees, but I didn't make it. They told me I couldn't switch blades fast enough."
•Ohio State Football Coach Woody Hayes, commenting on his archenemy, Alumni Secretary Jack Fullen: "He is going to Africa to tell their university people how to build a strong alumni association. And if he doesn't tell them they must have a good football team to achieve this, he's not telling the truth."