THE STATE AS BOOKIE
The recent success of New Hampshire's state racing lottery and the probable imminence of action by the New York State legislature on an off-track betting bill suggest that a national trend toward legalized gambling, on a broader scale than now obtains, may be in the offing. A heated debate on the moral, social and practical issues is developing, and we would like to give our opinion on some of these.
Moral attitudes toward gambling are very like those toward drinking. A puritan ethic shrinks from both. Other ethics accept or even embrace them. Most of the bigger states authorize (and profit from) gambling in some form, usually by pari-mutuel betting at racetracks. So far as the states are concerned, the question would seem to be more a problem in politics than morality. From a political standpoint, the off-track betting proposals derive from a dire need for tax money, nothing more.
But state-operated betting shops might well create a serious sociological problem. They would, it is suggested, make gambling temptingly easy for the so-called economically underprivileged who now perhaps find only rare opportunity to bet at a track or with an illegal bookmaker. This would seem to be a particularly valid argument in a city with large slum areas or one that has as high a percentage of its population on relief (5½%) as New York.
Except that the poor do bet now anyhow. And quite easily. The most lucrative of the gambling rackets, policy, derives its millions from the pennies of the very lowest economic class. Whether the slum dweller would bet more if betting shops were open to him is a question. Certainly the prohibition of liquor did not diminish drinking appreciably in the slums, nor did repeal increase it.
Some people find it appalling that city and state should turn themselves into bookies—but they are already that, by virtue of the cut they take out of the mutuels; with legal off-track betting, they would merely become bigger bookies. On the other side, it is argued that off-track betting would divert into constructive channels money now going to illegal bookmakers. A naive thought. Most of the bookies' action is on the numbers game (which would be affected by a legal lottery), football, baseball and basketball—not horses. Furthermore, bookies could compete with the administration by offering, say, 5% over the official odds; bookies, not as greedy as politicians, would be happy to settle for a 10% cut instead of 15 or more.
Our direct concern is with the welfare of the sport of horse racing. Horsemen in Thoroughbred and harness racing are violently opposed to off-track betting, but we predict their opposition will melt if they can gouge out of city and state a bigger share of the spoils. Money is what this particular issue boils down to—money for the state and money for the horsemen. We would feel far more sympathy with the latter if in the past they had shown equal concern for the integrity of their sport. As for us, our favor or disfavor with respect to off-track betting will be determined when a specific bill is presented for a vote and we then may judge how it will affect horse racing itself.
CHALLENGE FROM THE EAST
As recently as 1946 there was hardly a hockey player to be found in all of the U.S.S.R. Now there are 300,000, and a team drawn from these has been embarrassing Canadians at their national sport. The Russians have beaten or tied all opponents on their just-completed tour, among them the Montreal Junior Canadiens, bolstered with professionals, and Canada's National team, which the Russians beat three times.
After seeing Montreal go down to a 3-2 defeat, Lynn Patrick, general manager of the Boston Bruins, had this to say:
"The Russians didn't go off-side once, and they lost the puck on a bad pass just once. I wish I could say the same about my own club."
Viktor Kuznetzov, Russian manager, challenged the National Hockey League to a game, but Clarence S. Campbell, NHL president, pooh-poohed the idea, holding in effect that such a game would be no contest. Perhaps, but there are those, observing the Russians' deft puck control and elaborate pass patterns, who think otherwise.
"It is a matter of biology," Anatoli Tarasov, Russian coach, said of the NHL pros. "It is like when a tree stands by itself. It gets lonely and dries out. So with your pros. They have no opponents, so they get no stronger. One of your good pro teams should meet a good amateur team and establish who is better."
Why not, Mr. Campbell?
If the British cannot win the Walker Cup or Ryder Cup, they may nevertheless be able to tell their betters a thing or two about the game. At a cost of some $30,000 annually, the Golf Society of Great Britain is sponsoring an investigation into golf that has already produced results shatteringly painful for golfers to stomach.
Massed behind the project are such centers of scientific renown as the Royal Military College of Science, the Medical Research Council, the Loughborough College of Technology and University College, London. Studying golfers in play and experimenting with clubs up to five feet long, they have reached some early conclusions:
1) Grooves on club heads make practically no difference to spin or direction. Indeed, clubs with smooth faces may produce more distance and accuracy.
2) The type of grip on the club is of more importance psychologically than physically.
3) Hands and arms supply very little hitting power. Most of it comes from the legs and hips.
4) The hitting power is equal to about 4 hp. Maximum acceleration during the swing is about 75 times gravity, or seven times that of a rocket launching a space satellite, but most of it is wasted.
Its faculty representatives have yet to give their approval, but it is probable that the Big Eight will soon join the Big Ten and other major conferences in trying to protect college interests against the inroads of booming professional football. A conference committee has brought in a report with recommendations to that end.
If the recommendations are adopted professional scouts will no longer have the run of press boxes; they will pay their money at the box office and take whatever seats are available. Radio and television announcers will be instructed to use time-outs, half time and post-game periods to boost the college game. Interviews with pro scouts and coaches will be forbidden, as will, of course, plugs for coming pro grames.
Six ardent boosters of the Livermore Falls (Me.) High School basketball team, feeling that school spirit was low and needed a pep pill, decided to dribble a couple of basketballs the 22 miles between their town and Farmington, where the team was to play. In freezing rain it was no easy job. Weary, wet, chilled and dedicated, the six arrived at the Farmington gym, there to learn that the game had been postponed—because of adverse traveling conditions.
The physical fitness drive that President Kennedy inspired has by no means lost its momentum. Among the more unusual ideas for carrying on the good work is one from Congressman Henry S. Reuss of Wisconsin. Reuss notes that in the last six years railroad operations have ceased on 8,200 miles of right-of-way and that a total of 40,000 miles have been abandoned since the heyday of railroading. A good bit of this land, he says, is available for development as cycling paths at very modest cost.
It strikes us as a sound idea and, as a matter of fact, private groups, state and local governments have already gone to work on it in Wisconsin, Illinois and Maryland. There cyclists will have safe paths away from automobile traffic, often through country of unusual natural interest, as the Congressman points out. Pedal pushers of the world, arise.
PRESENT FROM THE SKAGIT
Christmas morning on Washington's Skagit River, world's finest steelhead stream, dawned clear, snowy, 17°. To a steelheader at this season, the state of the river is even more important than Christmas. So the anglers came to check, gathering in chilled little knots at the Burlington Bridge Bar, Storr's Bar, Young's Bar and the Tarheel Hole, and all hands found the river aswarm with giant silver fish moving upstream on their annual spawning run.
Among them was Joe Oldani, Bellingham telegrapher, who took the limit early and set out for the homes of his friends. Into the freezers went the friends' turkeys. The changed menus: eggnog, cranberry sauce, mince pie and whole roast steelhead.
THE WELL-SECURED ATHLETE
To win draftees, the Dallas Cowboys have come up with a sort of kickoff-to-grave security policy. In signing Malcolm Walker of Rice, No. 2 draft choice, as a linebacker, the Cowboys gave him $5,000 in cash, a 1965 automobile and a four-year, no-cut contract with a guaranteed annual $1,000 raise going from $16,000 to $19,000.
Well and good. Then came the whopper. The Cowboys put $80,000 in a bank to work for Walker. He can never touch the principal, and he will not begin to collect the interest for 10 years. A Dallas actuary has estimated that in 17 years Walker will be getting $800 a month from the money.
MUNITION MAKER'S DELIGHT
North America's dove population, even though 3 million are shot in Florida alone each year, is the highest it has ever been, according to Dr. Earl Frye, assistant director of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. And, curiously, automation has something to do with it. The mechanical grain harvesters now in use—"combines"—are made to order for doves. They leave so much waste grain on the ground that the birds thrive and grow fat.
It takes 21 million shots to kill those 3 million doves, Dr. Frye estimates on the basis of an informal survey which disclosed that it requires an average of seven shots to bring down one elusive dove. And that also helps account for the fact that there are so many of them.
THEY SAID IT
•Fritz Meyer, 5-foot-10, 160-pound guard on the University of Cincinnati basketball team, on why his teammates carried him off the floor after the team's 76-62 victory over Kansas: "I was the lightest."
•Tim Mara, New York Giant owner, trying to sign Michigan Quarterback Bob Timberlake, whose goal is the Presbyterian ministry: "We owners are Catholics; our coach, Al Sherman, is Jewish; our head scout, Em Tunnell, is a Negro. All we need, Bob, is a Presbyterian minister for quarterback."