BRAVO, BIG TEN!
If there is one detestable TV practice, it is having that little man in the red hat ram through a commercial by calling time out in a football game. Now the practice has been stopped, in the Big Ten at least.
Meeting in Iowa City last week, conference athletic directors voted to stop phony time-outs for commercials. From now on, sponsors will be able to pitch their wares only during normal lulls in the game. This will be good news to anyone who likes football, but it will be especially welcomed by coaches whose teams have been stopped short of a score by a defense given time to reorganize during a commercial. "Television is entitled to coverage on the basis of giving the viewer the best seat in the house," says Big Ten Commissioner Bill Reed. "Our conference takes the stand it will not adapt the game to television but rather would have television adapt itself to the game."
Bully for the Big Ten! Other conferences and pro football, please copy.
A year ago Mike Venezia was 19 and the hottest rider in the country. As an apprentice jockey or "bug boy"—so called because of the program asterisk used to designate the weight allowance—he rode more winners than any other apprentice in New York history (SI, Jan. 25). Was Venezia destined to continue breaking records as a jockey? "I won't know," he said, "until I lose the bug."
Last April 24 Venezia lost his bug, and by last weekend, he was on a 38-race losing streak. "I got set down for 20 days," he says. "That's what happened." His uncle-agent, Al Scotti, gloomily agrees. It is true that a jockey's business suffers during a suspension, when trainers find he can be replaced, but Venezia's market crashed qualitatively the day the bug flew. Forgetting about a 93-to-1 shot (which ran fourth), the 20 horses he rode in his last four days as a bug boy—after the suspension—carried an average price of 5.45 to 1, just about as good as anyone could have. The next 30 Venezia rode, bugless, averaged 12.10 to 1. Venezia has just been getting bad horses. Almost all the trainers who entrusted 177 favorites to him in New York last year have decided that it must have been the bug and not the boy that won 177 times, including six in one day. This is the fossilized way most trainers think, and Venezia's manifest versatility and talent will not change them.
With the likes of Walter Blum and Milo Valenzuela riding at Aqueduct, there is little chance for Venezia to get good mounts in what veteran Bill Boland calls the "toughest ever" big league of jockeys. Tracks are running in New Jersey and Chicago, but Venezia's bridges to these lesser leagues are burned. He is under contract to Greentree Stable, which runs its horses in New York and not too often.
Science has at last found a way to automate bullfighting by electronically transforming a brave bull into a creature as docile as Elsie the Cow. In experiments on electrical stimulation of the brain, Dr. José Delgado, a Yale professor of physiology, inserted fine wire electrodes into the brain of a ferocious Spanish bull, bred in the best tradition of the brave. The electrodes were centered in that part of the brain which controls certain functions of personality and behavior, and when triggered by remote control, electric impulses set off a behavior pattern.
The bull, unaware of the tiny wires barely visible between his scruffy ears, charged Dr. Delgado in the sunlit ring in Córdoba, Spain. The doctor, who had never before faced a fighting bull, bravely stood his ground in the interests of science and then charged back himself, so to speak, from a hand-held transmitter. An arm's length away, the bull skidded to a stop. Dr. Delgado transmitted another impulse, and this time the bull ambled away. To Dr. Delgado, the experiment showed that some inbred personality traits, such as aggression, can be examined and controlled electronically. He believes that such studies may lead to solutions of human anxieties and frustrations. To aficionados, however, Dr. Delgado planted something else besides wires. Now, when they watch a corrida, they may well wonder which bull has the transistor.
HULL ON WHEELS
Art Arfons is a clever man. Last October he drove his Green Monster 536.7 mph to set the world land-speed record. The Green Monster is really nothing more than a powerful jet engine on the loose, and when Arfons is roaring over the Bonneville Flats his main concern is to keep it from flying. But record regulations require that a vehicle have no less than four wheels, so Arfons mounted his projectile on four Firestone tires. Firestone paid Arfons $25,000 for setting the record, and the company will pay him another $25,000 if he holds the record a year. Arfons is prepared. The Green Monster is ready to drag from a standing start to 300 mph over a quarter of a mile (his best so far is a mere 238 mph) and to hit 600 mph through the flying mile.
But holding the land speed record is not enough for Arfons. He intends to smash the world water-speed record of 276.33 mph this fall on Lake Mead. He has built a watertight hull for his jet engine and, to the delight of Firestone, the hull or boat also has wheels with tires. The tires serve as hydrofoils. They lift the hull above the surface, thereby decreasing water resistance and giving the engine maximum thrust. Since there is no rule prohibiting wheels on boats, nor any rule disqualifying wheeled boats on land, Arfons' artful amphibian can run on land or sea. In fact, under the right conditions, he could set both records simultaneously.
TRIUMPH IN CANNES
The army of critics, producers, directors and distributors that dutifully trooped into the Riviera Festival Palace one night last week could not have cared less. On the bill for the Cannes Film Festival was a color movie of the 1964 Olympics, Tokyo Olympiad, directed by Kon Ichikawa. The picture had opened earlier this month in Japan, and it immediately caused a controversy. Ichikawa had spent $1 million in government funds using 164 camera men to shoot 400,000 feet of film, but a cabinet minister scorned the finished two-hour movie as "too artistic." Indeed, a committee was set to work to produce an acceptable film from Ichikawa's footage.
But in Cannes the audience, which expected to be bored by sports, was deeply stirred. Critics emerged from the showing with such comments as "magnificent," "a masterpiece," "Homeric reportage" and "one of the finest pictures ever made." SI's man on the scene reports that some fans may feel that the camera does not linger long enough on their sport, but millions of people will be moved as never before. The volleyball final between the Japanese and Soviet women is a thriller, and the 100-meter dash is so exciting that audiences ooh and aah in perfect harmony with the spectators in the Tokyo stadium. The high point is the marathon. Never has the character of that race been shown so accurately, movingly or humorously. There are Chaplinesque scenes of runners gulping water as if at a frenzied cocktail party while the tireless Ethiopian Abebe Bikila grinds his way to victory.
Director Ichikawa said, "I have tried to grasp the solemnity of the moment when man defies his limits and to express the solitude of the athlete who, in order to win, struggles against himself. I wished people to rediscover with astonishment that wonder which is a human being."
The film will be shown in the U.S. this fall. Meanwhile, back in Japan, where the Cannes raves got scant notice, the committee is still plodding ahead with its own film version of the Olympics. After all, there are two Harlows.
When a man embarks on a solo ocean voyage, it becomes a saga, a hardy epic of human courage and ingenuity battling the elements of nature. But let a woman do the same thing and adventure blurs to romance, with the perils not in the sea but the soul. The first woman who will attempt alone to cross the 2,225 miles from Los Angeles to Honolulu is a young divorcee, Mrs. Sharon Sites. She sails next week in a 25-foot sloop with no radio. She started sailing only five months ago. Even so, her venture has provoked more sympathy than concern. "I just want to be alone for a while," she explains, "and I don't particularly want to talk to anyone." Only Garbo said it better.
Our favorite bedside reading these days is the two-volume Professional Guide's Manual written and published by George Leonard Herter and Jacques P. Herter of Herter's sporting goods company off in the wilds of Waseca, Minn. It is a compelling work, offering advice on all sorts of oddments, among them "How To Start a Fire with Your flashlight," "How to Slice Bread While Traveling away from Base Camps," "If a Client Gets the Wind Knocked out of Him," and "In Case You Have to Leave the Road or Trail in an Automotive Vehicle at High Speed in a Brushy Area." Sound stuff, all of it. But there is one that really gets us. It is called "Last Resort When Attacked by Dangerous Animals," and it goes: "If a wounded bear, lion, leopard, jaguar or wolf attacks you and you fail to stop him with bullets your chances of survival are very small. The following is very hard to do and takes a great deal of courage but it works every time if you can do it. Spit into the animal's mouth. No matter how mad he is he will immediately stop and go away or stop long enough to give you a chance to get away."
Great, Herters, great. One question: Where do we get the spit?
TENNIS FOR EVERYONE
Anyone for tennis in Washington is in luck. All he or she, beginner or expert, has to do is dial 622-5349 in suburban Bethesda, Md. and speak to Tim Coss, an education writer, a former Middle Atlantic singles champion and a man with imagination. Last year Coss noted that friends had difficulty obtaining opponents. They could not play at the same time or they were too good or too bad. This spring Coss ran a two-line personal ad in a Sunday newspaper offering tennis partners for men and women of all skills. The phone began ringing. Each buff who called and agreed to pay $5 was introduced to other callers of comparable ability who could play at the same time. Anyone who was not satisfied could ring up again for fresh introductions, but so far Coss reports 98% satisfaction from clients.
Patrons range from diplomats to store clerks and housewives whose abilities are as varied as their backgrounds, and requests are about split between singles and doubles, with many husband and wife teams looking for mixed opponents doubles. Recently Coss began advertising for golf partners, and he is even looking forward to the winter months. Says Entrepreneur Coss: "Well, there's ping-pong."
A recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has a couple of articles on football equipment that should make school officials pause. Two University of Michigan Medical Center physicians made a study of six different helmet and face-guard designs and concluded that a lavish face guard can be more dangerous than helpful. Why? Because a potential blocker or tackler coming in low might not be seen and the player with too much face guard may be hit without warning.
In the other article, a team of medical researchers says conventional high shoulder pads provide more neck protection than lower style pro pads, especially for high school and college players. "We are sure," the researchers write, "that the experience and trained coordination of professional football players enable them to avoid these injuries more successfully than do college players. Unfortunately, many high school and college teams adhere to the theory, 'If it is good enough for the pros, it is good enough for us." This is dangerous reasoning."
THEY SAID IT
•Arnold Palmer, accepting a plaque as Flying Athlete of the Year: "If it hadn't been for flying, I wouldn't be playing golf today, because I loathe driving 2,000 miles every Monday."
•Ed Runge, American League umpire, responding to applause when introduced at a Kansas City sports luncheon: "That's the first time I've been cheered since I got hit by a beer bottle in Baltimore."