SHYING LIKE HORSEMEN
Sorely in need of money, or so it says, the State of New York is contemplating a highly arguable step: the legalization of off-track betting on Thoroughbred and harness racing. The New York legislature may well put through an off-track betting bill after it convenes next month. The prospect has been greeted with consternation by the U.S. Trotting Association and the Horsemen's (Thoroughbred) Benevolent and Protective Association. The USTA predicts major losses to harness racing. The HBPA goes further. It threatens to boycott New York racing.
What both associations fear is a decline in on-track betting and track admissions, on which purse sizes are now based. The theory is that bettors will not bother to go to the track if they can place their bets at a shop around the corner.
Aside from the boycott threat, which is patent nonsense when directed against a state that has the largest racing attendance in the country, the horsemen's opposition would appear, at first blush, to be soundly based. Except that there are other considerations. In the first place, the state will almost certainly share some of its take with the tracks. Secondly, there is no real evidence that attendance will be affected adversely. It might even go up. One recalls fears that radio and television would ruin the book publishing business, which in fact is flourishing as never in its history. Betting will undoubtedly increase, and a large part of the increase will come from those who do not now bet on the horses or go to the track at all. We may hope that some of these, developing an interest in racing as a sport instead of a mere gambling device, will eventually want to see the horses run.
December 21, 1964
We suggest that the horsemen rein up and wait to see an actual bill in the legislature before throwing up their hands and putting out inane threats.
DEPENDS ON WHO'S RULING
Since its adoption last spring, the new basketball rule regulating the conduct of coaches on the bench has been viewed apprehensively by the men it was designed to control. The rule says that officials must assess a technical foul against a coach who arises from the bench while the clock is running except for the purpose of signaling his team to call time out or to confer with substitutes on the bench. Coaches spent the summer and fall speculating as to how rigidly the rule would be enforced.
Now they are beginning to find out, but they are not so sure what they are finding. As is so often the case with a controversial rule, it is being interpreted differently in different conferences The Missouri Valley Conference has told its officials to take a tough, literal line. Its neighbor, the Big Eight, much more liberal, permits coaches to rise to direct play while the clock is running so long as they do not appear to be disagreeing with the call of an official.
One of the nation's most volatile and irrepressible coaches, Abe Lemons of Oklahoma City University, was among the first to be slapped with a technical foul call. During a game with North Texas, he leaped up and began gesticulating wildly at the officials, one of whom promptly called the foul. But Lemons won a reversal. He had, he said, merely been calling attention to the fact that a lighted cigarette, tossed onto the court by a fan, was threatening to send the whole place up in flames.
FAREWELL, POOR BOY
At its annual meeting in Las Vegas the Professional Golfers' Association announced that its pro golf tour had hit a $3,500,000 jackpot. This is the sum, a whopping 27% more than was offered in 1964, that tournament sponsors, thanks in part to a 13-tournament television contract the PGA has just signed with Sports Network Inc., will put up in prize money during 1965. Long an outdoor adjunct of show business, the pro tour is now beginning to pay like show business. As with vaudeville, however, some of the old acts are being forced out. The first one to go, not surprisingly, is the Poor Boy Open, the event staged by Oil Millionaire Waco Turner at his lodge in Burneyville, Okla. (SI, May 11) while the rich boys were playing at the Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas. Piqued by talk that his tournament might be given "unofficial" status and by golfers who, in the midst of their new prosperity, imagined they were doing him a favor to show up, Waco abruptly yanked his event off the calendar.
"Golf is too fine a game to be subjected to some of the commercialism it now suffers." said the crusty, rustic Waco. "It is unfortunate, but money has become more important in golf than the game itself. Perhaps some of professional golf's leaders will reexamine the entire picture and bring it back into focus."
Perhaps they will. But then again, perhaps all the leaders are caught in a stampede to the bank.
BOOM ON THE BOOT
Since television abandoned boxing in the United States there has been some improvement, but nothing too exciting, in live gate attendance at the few arenas which present fight cards. In Italy, on the other hand, the sport is booming. Every other Friday night 18,000 fans fill Rome's magnificent Palazzo dello Sport, paying up to $16 (and more to scalpers) per seat. At last week's junior middleweight title fight between the world champion, Sandro Mazzinghi, and Fortunato Manca, 4,000 of the crowd had journeyed from Sardinia to make sure that Manca, a fellow Sardinian, was treated justly. He lost a close decision, but it seemed fair, and there was no riot.
It was, as usual, a capacity house. Mazzinghi's purse was $8,400 plus a percentage of the $72,000 gate, which brought his total take to more than $11,000. Manca was paid $2,600. By way of comparison the four junior middleweight world title fights put on in the U.S. in 1962-63 attracted between 2,500 and 5,000 spectators each and no gate got as high as $30,000.
Few of us, if any, cross the continent by canoe these days. The jets are so much faster. But in case anyone is thinking of it he can count on Canada's Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources for help. All across the 3,000-mile canoe route once traversed by fur traders and explorers the department is putting up signs to point the way for the modern voyageur. They show a black "north canoe" and bear the words, "Historic Trans-Canada Canoe Route." You can't miss it.
The high-ended north canoe was manned by five or six paddlers, whereas the Montreal canoe, or canot de ma√Ætre, which carried up to three tons of cargo, required 10 or more husky men. Some 150 years ago, in the heyday of the Montreal fur trade, brigades of Montreal canoes would set out early each May from Lachine, Que., to rendezvous eight weeks later at the head of Lake Superior with men who had paddled from Lake Athabaska and other inland points in the lighter north canoes. There the Montrealers received furs in exchange for other goods before turning back east. The north canoes would return to the interior and west, some of them crossing the Continental Divide.
In those days it was the fastest way to cross Canada. Then, in 1885, everything was spoiled. The Canadian Pacific Railway was completed.
LIMEYS, FROGGIES AND FISHIES
Though the need for frogmen in Lincolnshire, England may seem slight, the Marquess of Bristol did the handsome thing when county police decided to form an underwater corps. He gave them free use of his 17-acre lake to practice their frog kicks. It now looks as if his generosity may have been anticipating its own reward. Recently the Marquess informed the submersible bobbies that he was restocking his lake, formerly a lair of pike and tench, with rainbow trout. He asked them to keep a froggy eye open to see how the trout were faring. The report quickly came back that most of the faring was being done by a monstrous pike, "as big as a blarsted shark," which had been assaulting and battening upon the trout. Zealous in its pursuit of duty, the local constabulary is now attempting to apprehend the malefactor, but so far he has eluded their spear guns.
When Kelso won the Laurel International last month and Horse of the Year honors for the fifth time, Artist Richard Stone Reeves groaned. And well he might. As America's foremost equine portraitist, Reeves is commissioned each year to paint the Thoroughbred champion, and in the past four years he has painted Kelso and trainer, Kelso and dog, Kelso winning and a picture which might be called Life with Kelso.
"There's nothing esthetically attractive about Kelso," Reeves says. "His head points straight up and down, not out. His legs stretch behind him, and his foot comes out of his pastern in an odd way.
"You know," Reeves admits, "I thought Gun Bow would be Horse of the Year. I couldn't wait to get my hands on him. He's an artist's dream."
But the dream must wait. Back in his studio in Oldwick, N.J., Reeves is planning his fifth—pardon us, his sixth—portrait of Kelso. Mrs. Richard duPont, the gelding's owner, had him do an impressionistic oil of her champion grazing at Saratoga last August. And what if Kelso earns the title again next year? Dick Reeves shrugs and says, "Maybe they'll let me paint Mrs. Kelso Everett, the woman he's named after."
BRING 'EM BACK SIGNED
This is the time of year American and National Football League teams are busy making themselves irresistible to college draftees by engaging in great lonely vigils. The Baltimore Colts rented an entire floor of a motel in Rockville, Md. to keep a Kansas City Chiefs scout from getting at Duke Fullback Mike Curtis; they even monitored Curtis' calls. The scout was Don Klosterman, himself a wily inveigler who once took a prospect in Texas out for coffee—to Miami. Klosterman got through the Colts' early-warning line by having his secretary pose as Curtis' fiancée.
Buddy Young says a special NFL task force, of which he is part, is now at work with instructions to sign the desired property to any team, as long as it is one in the National League and not the American. Young tells of one player who returned to his dormitory to find $25,000 in bills on top of his bed. The boy fled the room in fright, leaving the $25,000 behind. It was a reaction, Young felt, that was scarcely in the professional spirit.
Let those of us who are pigeon-toed and bowlegged and still want to be athletes take heart. It might be the best thing that ever happened to us. Jake Gaither, football coach and athletic director at Florida A&M, cites as living proof none other than his star pupil, the world's fastest human afoot, Bob Hayes, now with the Dallas Cowboys.
"Here's a boy," says Gaither, "who's bowlegged, he's pigeon-toed, he waddles just like a duck, and he's the fastest man in the world. I have a sort of sneaking suspicion that when those toes turn in, that when a runner strides, he gets spring out of all five toes instead of just two. Jackie Robinson was pigeon-toed."
Gaither's theory of the superiority of the pigeon-toed antedated Hayes, he says.
"I always felt that a pigeon-toed back could cut and maintain his balance much better than a boy who was a straight-ahead runner," he explained. "Jesse Owens, if you saw him run, was just like an arrow. His legs were straight. Now here comes a boy who doesn't do like Owens. The position of the toes inward gives him flexibility, more push-off. It gives him more momentum.
"Just a theory. Nothing scientifically proved. But I don't turn down any bow-legged, pigeon-toed boys. I love 'em."
Never mind the science. We pigeon-toed types agree.
Newest fad raging in the Ivy League is a game called Tangle, put out by Selchow & Righter Company, who gave us Scrabble a few years ago. The game is played on a board, with two or four contestants, each holding 29 playing pieces of various shapes and point values. Points are scored when a player encloses all six sides of a hexagon on the board with his playing pieces.
Cornell put on an all-night Tangle tournament and broadcast it over the campus radio station. Columbia's Tangle tournament for students was such a success that one was scheduled for the faculty. Other successful tournaments have been held at Yale, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Pennsylvania. Only Brown's was a washout. "We are too conservative for board games," a Brown man explained haughtily.
THEY SAID IT
•Bob Timberlake, Michigan quarterback, explaining that he sees no conflict between his ministerial ambitions and playing football: "I can't see anything wrong with good clean violence."
•Lou Spadia, 49er general manager, on the simplicity of signing Ken Willard of North Carolina, the 49ers' first draft choice: "We did it with a gentleman's handshake on the phone."