Our lead story this week, beginning on page 10, deals with sporting events in Newport, R. I. On page 18 we describe the sorry state of bookmaking, especially in Newport, Ky. Starting on page 22 is an extended report on the beach explosion in Newport, Calif. If anything much was happening in Newport, Ore. we missed it.
The Associated Press report of the first fatality of the 1962 football season reached the desk of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S football editor last week with a note scribbled across it saying, "...now it begins." The reference was to the related facts that a score of young men died playing football last year, that much publicity was given to this unhappy facet of the country's traditional autumn sport and that the same thing was going to happen this year.
We neither condemn football for these deaths nor exonerate it. It is a rough sport, and many boys play it. Inevitably some are damaged and, tragically, some die. Statistics are cold and comfortless if you are on the wrong end of the statistic, but we sincerely believe that the fatalities in football are very close to a negligible minimum. Over 6,000 Americans drowned last year, for example; only 20 died playing football.
Injuries are another thing. Too many boys are hurt playing football, and not enough effort has gone into a study of preventive measures. Too, the great majority of these injuries are at the high school level, which brings us back to the Associated Press story. The 15-year-old boy who died collapsed after football practice. Football practice? In the middle of August? In high school? Of course. It's routine in many schools. Football is very important.
For years now, critics have charged that football is overemphasized in college. Perhaps it's time to redirect that criticism at the greater offender, at the high schools with misguided booster clubs, school boards, faculties and coaching staffs who place victory in football above everything else, including the health and well-being of the kids in their charge.
RIDERS IN THE SKY
Everybody's trying to get on Telstar, and therefore it is no surprise that the promoters of the Laurel International horse race on turf for foreign and domestic Thoroughbreds should make their pitch. Joseph Cascarella, executive vice-president at Laurel, who goes to Moscow, and would, like the Emperor Henry IV, go to Canossa if necessary to promote his cause, has started negotiations for an international telecast of the Laurel International of 1964 via Telstar.
Racing, unlike cricket or baseball, needs no captions or explanations, so Cascarella thinks it's ideal for international television, and, too, he points with pride and justice to the fact that horse-players are universal.
BATTLE OF HASTINGS, 1962
Britons don't mind a little good-natured teasing about school ties, blood pudding and weather, but they object to anyone who trifles with their birds. In London recently a 100-page report in British Birds, an ornithological journal of international repute, concluded that more than 500 reported sightings of five species of rare birds in England were "completely fraudulent." The effect: as if Winston Churchill had held up crossed fingers instead of the familiar V.
British feathers were ruffled further by revelation that 32 of 49 rare species recorded between 1903 and 1916 may actually have arrived in the country dead and on ice. Collectors paid up to ¬£50 for such specimens, thinking them native.
Throughout the Commonwealth shocked bird watchers braced themselves for the denouement of a rapidly unfolding scandal. If ornithological suspicions prove correct, a long-dead taxidermist, George Bristow of Sussex, may in time be charged with the most ingenious hoax since Lady Godiva chickened out on that ride she is supposed to have taken.
Bristow specialized in the sale of skins of rare birds—like the slender-billed curlew, the masked shrike and the gray-rumped sandpiper. Common in other parts of the world, these were unknown in Britain until the period between 1903 and 1916, when Bristow and friends seemingly began to sight and shoot them all over the Hastings area of Sussex. Enthusiastic private collectors and museum curators flocked to Hastings, but their luck was as consistently bad as Bristow's was good. As the town's fame grew, so did Bristow's skin game.
In recent years more thoughtful bird fanciers have wondered about Bristow's peculiar talent for sighting rare birds. A major analysis of the "discoveries" was undertaken. The resultant report does not accuse Bristow in so many words but it might just as well. The sightings at Hastings, it concludes, were "statistically impossible" and "cannot be other than false."
So much for the habitat of the gray-rumped sandpiper.
The racing yachts that compete for the America's Cup (see page 10) are splendid reminders of the glorious dead world of sailing ships, but we are obliged to report that these aristocrats of the sea are slowly succumbing to the ravages of modern science. Stately pine masts have long since been supplanted by hollow aluminum; cotton and hemp have given way to Dacron and nylon; wooden blocks are now plastic; even lovely wooden hulls are coated with special resins and epoxy. The latest scientific product to go racing for the cup is high-frequency radio. The air off Newport is not only brisk and fresh from the Atlantic but crackling with conversation.
The Australian challenger Gretel and Vim, her trial-horse companion, have a four-way wireless system connecting, electronically, the two yachts and their two tenders, Sara and Offsider. An eavesdropper might hear "Gretel to Vim, Gretel to Vim. Come in, Vim." Someone on Vim leaves the cockpit, goes below to the radio and answers, "Vim here. Come in, Gretel." Gretel then delivers herself of some important announcement like "What say, Vim, when we round the next mark let's stop for lunch."
A less pungent message might come from Sara in the clipped accents of Sir Frank Packer, owner of Gretel, who observes with a keen eye the tactics and maneuvers of the two boats: "Sara to Gretel, Sara to Gretel, the wind is freshening, what weight jib are you carrying?" Gretel answers she is carrying a 7½-ounce jib. Sir Frank then requests Offsider to report on the wind. Offsider says the wind is 12 knots. Sir Frank informs Gretel the wind is 12 knots, and perhaps a heavier jib might be in order. Gretel replies that her 7½-ounce jib is good for 14 knots of wind. Sir Frank is still dubious: "Who says that jib is good for 14 knots?" And the reply comes back, polite, courteous, but firm, "The sail-maker says so." Somewhat rebuffed, Sir Frank tells Vim her main is sagging. Vim promptly tightens the halyard, the sag disappears and racing resumes.
Yet electronics, like all inventions, has its drawbacks. The escape that once was sailing has been curtailed by an ever present voice. But even the synthetics and the alloys, the resins and epoxies have their limitations. Water is still water, and a 69-foot boat is still only 69 feet long. It can go only as fast as its maximum potential speed, which is some 10 to 12 knots, and nothing can make it go any faster—except an engine. They haven't got to that yet.
HIGH COST OF POLLUTION
Last autumn the Pennsylvania State Justice Department brought suit against the Glen Alden Mining Co. for polluting the Susquehanna River and killing 116,280 fish (SI, Nov. 6). The state asked damages of $58,504.50. Last week, in an historic landmark in conservation activity, the state's Justice Department accepted $45,000 from Glen Alden in an out-of-court settlement. It was the largest amount ever paid in a pollution case. The money will be used to rehabilitate the portion of the Susquehanna that was damaged by the mine waste.
DU QUOIN FOREVER
Marjorie Lindheimer Everett, the racing lady of Chicago (SI Aug. 20), who puts on the world's richest race for Thoroughbreds next week—the $350,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity—is now dickering for the Hambletonian so she can also put on the richest race for trotters. Marje is offering to add $100,000 to the Hambletonian purse and run it at Washington Park in Chicago. We're sure Marje Everett would do a good job with the Hambo, but we hope she doesn't get it.
This week The Hambletonian Society meets in Du Quoin, Ill., where the race will be run this year and next, to decide whether to keep it there longer, or give it to a group from Indianapolis, or give it to Marje Everett, or send it back to Goshen, N.Y. We hope they vote to stay in Du Quoin. If they don't, it will be a curious reward for Don and Gene Hayes, who have staged and promoted the race magnificently at their huge and colorful Du Quoin State Fair since 1957. The only real knock on Du Quoin is that it does not have the plush hotel accommodations of a big city. Hambletonian visitors are obliged to use motels and country rooming houses in the vicinity. But this objection would sound curious coming from Hambletonian Society members, who often have expressed pride in their sport's rural origins and have declared their determination to perpetuate its country-fair traditions. The Society's members should realize that they will demean their sport if they put up its most important race to the highest bidder every few years.
Stay put, gentlemen.
FOR NOW, ANYWAY
A couple of weeks ago we told of the defection of two Texas high school football players from Texas Tech (they had signed letters of intent) to the University of Oklahoma (the grass—or something—seemed greener on the other side of the border). Now the more prominent of the two boys, Johnny Agan, an all-state halfback last year, has reversed his field again and is going to Tech after all. His father arranged a meeting between the boy and Tech football coach J. T. King. The two met and talked and, according to a college news release, the pair "shook hands on our agreement for him to enroll this fall on an athletic scholarship." Agan was not available for comment, but was quoted in the release as saying, "I feel greatly relieved to stick by my earlier agreement with Texas Tech. My future is in Texas."
DUCKS IN LOUISIANA
Rumors that Louisiana duck hunters and state game department men would defy the new and strict federal waterfowl hunting regulations apparently are untrue (for one thing, the Louisiana marshland has a very heavy concentration of federal game agents during the season), but it is no rumor that both hunters and officials are sore about the restrictions. They insist that no matter what spring and summer surveys showed about the duck populations in Canada more ducks wintered in Louisiana marshes last year than at any time in the past 20 years. Hunters say that in the last two or three years large numbers of ducks have stayed there after the winter season and that the state had a respectable duck population all summer. They argue that the upper Mississippi Fly way may be short of ducks but the southern end is loaded with them.
THEY SAID IT
•Nestor Chylak, American League umpire: "If Early Wynn was pitching every day I was behind the plate, I'd rather join the Russian Army."
•Earl Gros, Green Bay rookie fullback: "In college a football player has a sophomore year to sit back and watch the other guys work, and you learn lots. In the pros either you make the grade in your first year or you flunk out."
•Lindsey Nelson, who was let off free after being stopped by a traffic cop for speeding: "I said I was a broadcaster for the New York Mets, and he said, "Buddy, you've got enough troubles.' "
•Jerry Norton, retired St. Louis Cardinal punting specialist: "The American Football League has not only made more jobs available but it has lengthened the playing career of the average pro from around 1½ years to nearer five years. It's a better deal for a youngster out of college trying to decide whether to try pro football or not."
•Fritz Maisel, former Yankee and present part-time Oriole scout, on getting award as Catonsville, Md.'s "Citizen of the Year": "I know I should say I don't deserve it, but I don't deserve neuritis either, and I've got both."