LET THEM BEGIN SLOWLY
Put a young man on an arbitrary line and urge him to clobber another young man on the opposite side and there will be bloody noses, cut lips and twisted ankles. Football is a tough game and, partly for that reason, a good one. But when young men and boys are killed playing football—in a much greater number than in other contact sports—one must question its values. The 1964 football season is coming close to being the most fatality-ridden in the game's history. So far this year 24 youths have died.
As always, advocates and antagonists will study the figures and come to conclusions ranging from the inadequacy of equipment to the thesis that football is monstrous in its very conception.
We hold with neither theory. But one set of statistics fairly jumps from the page and demands an answer. On the college and professional level, where the players are bigger and faster and impact is greatest, deaths are relatively uncommon—three this season among 300,000. It is on the high school gridirons that football becomes lethal. That teen-agers should be encouraged to play a game in which some may die (21 this year up to now) is indefensible.
We suggest that age 15 is too young for football as the high schools now play it in premature imitation of the collegians and the pros. The fully developed muscle and bone structure of a well-conditioned grown man can tolerate far more than the baby fat and immature skeleton of a high school sophomore. And the high school player is seldom in as good condition as his elders.
There are ways to prepare boys for the rigors of adult football without exposing them to it in its entirety. Common decency and a proper regard for the values of sport demand drastic modification of the high school game.
DONNA'S DECISIVE DUNK
The secret of Donna de Varona's Olympic victory in the 400-meter individual medley swim may lie in a tale she told last week.
As a tension-reliever and to reduce the shock of sudden transition from air to water at the start of a race, most swimmers like to dunk themselves before mounting the starting box. Donna is no exception. But Olympic rules forbid jumping into the pool immediately before a race.
"I stood on the starting box awaiting the gun and feeling uncomfortable," Donna related, "and I said to myself, 'De Varona, you haven't been slaving for seven years just to be beaten.' So just as the starter raised his gun I jumped in. That intentional false start gave me the bath I needed. After that, I just knew I had to win."
It's known as swimsmanship.
Since 1884 100 games of football have been played between Lafayette College and Lehigh University, which is the most times two colleges have met on the gridiron. (In the old days they used to play two and three times a season.) The game played last Saturday, which ended in a 6-6 tie, was memorable only because it was the 100th, but there were old grads in the stands who recalled not the Game of '98 but the Riot of '02, the Pregame Riot of '33, the Brawl of '48, and the Snowball Fight of '55. The 1964 game was pretty quiet—Lehigh's flagpole was painted a Lafayette maroon and the Lafayette leopard statue was painted a Lehigh brown, but not much else of interest happened.
Pish-tush. One year, they say, Lehigh students burned down the Lafayette library. And there was another year that Sam Harleman, Lehigh '01, remembered. "We played two games at Lafayette," he said. "That meant two fights. It got kind of rough." Just how rough may be judged by the legend of Tom Keady, who coached Lehigh from 1912 to 1920. A big man, he was a quiet one, too, and therefore considered weak on the pep talks that preceded each game. Ah, but before one game, the story goes, he evoked the proper mental attitude by silently choking a leopard to death and throwing the carcass of the beast at the feet of his players.
He did it, a Lafayette follower said, "to appeal to their intelligence."
BACHELORS OF BANKO, CUM LAUDE
When Britain's betting and gaming act went into operation in 1961, permitting the establishment of betting shops the length and breadth of the land, bookmakers had difficulty finding clerks trained to handle the action. But in time this was solved by the London School of Turf Accountancy, founded 18 months ago by Liam Cavanagh, son of an Irish bookmaker.
The school offers four courses. They range from the simplest, for telephone operators and counter clerks, to the most advanced, ominously entitled The Super Settler. A settler is a man who settles bets, determining how much winners should receive. Students of settling must learn such basics as the difference between a "banko" and a "super Yankee." (A banko consists of three selections, seven bets, three doubles, one treble, plus a "roundabout." A super Yankee consists of five selections, 26 bets, 10 doubles, 10 trebles, five foursomes and one accumulator. That's as close as we can come to explaining it. A "trixie," incidentally, combined with a roundabout makes a banko. All clear?)
Among those who have failed to master the arithmetical intricacies of the settler's course are a doctor and a barrister, who matriculated for kicks. And small wonder that they failed. A settler student must work out, with more than deliberate speed, such problems as how much is owed on an each-way treble involving favorites, two of whom have dead-heated, while the third, a co-favorite of three, has finished third at odds of 7 to 2.
Cavanagh says he is now seeking a "proper degree examination for the professional."
"Why not?" he asks. "It's the fifth largest industry in the country. Not so long ago you couldn't get a degree in dentistry."
SUGGESTION FROM AN ARMCHAIR
The isolated camera and the flashback technique have added an enjoyable new dimension to life for the living room football fan. Unfailingly, however, they follow only backs and ends, and that is a disappointment to those who believe that football games are won largely in the line. Once in a while, at least, give us a camera focused on the mischief in the middle. Show us the cross blocks, the red dogs and the artfully tossed elbows. That would really be a new dimension.
OUT AT HOME
The announcement the other day that Yogi Berra, the fired manager of the Yankees, had signed on as a coach with the Mets made us wonder. Certainly Berra will draw more people into Shea Stadium and we would not be at all surprised if the last-place Mets outdraw the Yankees by 2 to 1 next year instead of a mere 500,000—the 1964 figure.
Moreover, by the luck of the draw the Mets open the season on April 12 against—of all teams—the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that means that Sandy Koufax will be pitching and that the Mets should have the largest crowd in their young history. But CBS, new owner of the Yankees, thinks not so much in terms of large, live crowds as in large television ratings. When and if Yogi comes to bat as a Met, New York's television watchers will certainly not be tuned to the Yankee broadcast on Channel 11 nor to CBS itself on Channel 2. The audiences will be watching the Mets on Channel 9, thus enabling Berra—not normally considered a fast man—to execute a marvelous corporate double steal against his former employers.
Should Berra get a key hit (we seem to remember him getting 1,243,009 key pinch hits as a Yankee), he will be an immediate immortal—the man who enabled the Mets to win their first Opening Day game in history; should he strike out and leave fellow Mets on the bases he might even replace Marvelous Marv Throneberry as a new Met idol.
Although CBS does not yet televise the Yankee games, the network must be considered a prime sponsor and, as sponsor, it might just as well get ready for one of the biggest ratings defeats in the history of professional sports.
THE KOOKY KUDU
Among the meaner features of the southwestern deserts is their vegetation. The catclaw acacia is known to cowhands and hunters as "devil's claw" because its short, curved thorns rip clothing and lacerate skin. Mesquite and its cousin "screw bean" are not much better.
This fall the New Mexico Game and Fish Department offered a suicide salad of such greens to its imported herds of ibex, kudus and oryxes. The crazy critters, who had been dining and thriving on alfalfa, loved the stuff. The idea was to find out if such animals can survive when, one day, their descendants are turned loose to be hunted.
"Of course," said Levon Lee, game management official in charge of the project, "the kudus and oryxes come from a desert area of southwest Africa that resembles some of our country. This vegetation looked like home cooking to them. The ibex are members of the goat family and they eat anything."
Now the department has started a shuttle service. Whenever it sends a truckload of fencing to the 320-acre kudu corral it is building, the drivers are asked to bring back a load of desert shrubs. So they fling catclaw, mesquite and not a few cries of pain into the truck and drive back marveling that any beasts can be so hardmouthed.
OLD COLLEGE TRY
Philadelphians long have felt that Ambrose F. (Bud) Dudley and the Liberty Bell have something in common. Dudley dropped $60,000 while promoting the first five Liberty Bowl football games.
But that is by no means all. Ambition has always seemed to be blocking for Dudley when, suddenly, failure has tackled him from behind. That is the scenario of his life. In 1958 he staged a game of Canadian football between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Rough Riders—in Philadelphia—and blew $26,000. As president of the now defunct Philadelphia Ramblers hockey club, he had only one profitable season in four. In his promotions of auto racing he was a good rainmaker. Downpours washed out five straight weekend cards. In 1954 he was appointed a special assistant to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Two years later Ike swamped the Democrats.
Dudley has, of course, had his successes. As athletic director at Villanova from 1953 to 1956 he promoted five Grocery Bowls, so named because tickets were sold to a food store chain at a reduced rate, then given to customers with each $10 order. The bowls attracted 357,327 fans. Alas, Villanova lost all five games.
Now Dudley is promoting his sixth Liberty Bowl game, this one scheduled for December 19. It will be a unique indoor affair in Atlantic City's 12,000-seat Convention Hall. Optimist Dudley expects a sellout at $10 a ticket, and ABC will televise the game nationally over 204 stations.
"I've always been an admirer of Lincoln," says Dudley, who has a bust of Abe on his desk. "I think Lincoln was defeated 32 of 37 times before he became President."
THEY SAID IT
•Ara Parseghian, Notre Dame football coach: "Every successful coach must have a successful quarterback."
•Joe Foss, American Football League commissioner, on the league's surpassing the one-million attendance mark: "We invite anyone to gauge the progress the American Football League has made in the last five years with the initial five years of any sports organization."
•Les Lear, trainer of Sadair, who won the $301,700 Garden State Stakes, asked to compare football coaching and training horses: "All I can say is you know where the horses are at night."
•Charley Wallgren, baseball scout, after the Baltimore Orioles signed Mike Epstein, 220-pound All-America baseball player from the University of California: "We've been looking at him since he was only 165 pounds."
•Television sports commentator, interviewing Bill Edwards, Wittenberg football coach who has enjoyed a successful career coaching at high school, major college (Vanderbilt), small college (Wittenberg) and professional (Cleveland Browns) levels: "Do you like to coach football?"