Controversy seems to be an essential ingredient of American sport, not a byproduct. Any good contest is likely to mean a good argument in the letters column, and a bad contest an even better one. From the vantage point of this office—and our vantage point is strategically located out of reach of both sides—it sometimes seems that sports-writers and readers are alike. They are eager to take one side or another in any subject open to dispute. The resulting controversy may be about a close pennant race. But it may also be concerned with the slaughter of kangaroos in Australia, the popularity of curling in Seattle, or Bill Veeck.
A common belief persists that the most unbridgeable conflict is between so-called "spectator" and "participant" sportsmen. People who like spectator sports go to football games and baseball games and enjoy watching highly trained players perform. People who hunt or fish or sail boats or climb mountains tend to think of sport in terms of participation, and have no interest in spectacles where they only sit and watch. Spectators and participants both object to the space and attention given the other. Or so the argument runs.
Well, this issue spans a wide range of midsummer events, and it is difficult to say whether they belong in either camp. The article by Alfred Wright on Arnold Palmer and the PGA tournament that begins on page 24 gives us a dramatic setting in the green hills of Palmer's native Pennsylvania countryside at a moment in his career when golfers everywhere are disputing the question of his future. Since the gallery at Ligonier numbered more than 50,000, the tournament probably belongs with the spectator sports. But not many people follow tournament golfers unless they also play golf, at least enough to share the drama of occasions of this sort.
John Underwood's article on the game between the best high school football team in Texas and the best high school football team in Pennsylvania (page 20) might also be classified as having to do with a spectator sport. However, some 24,000 citizens of Pennsylvania have become involved in the parades and festivities connected with the event, not to mention the thousands of high school students in Texas and Pennsylvania who agonized over its outcome. The game is also news of greater or lesser moment to high school football players throughout the U.S. whose training begins in a few weeks. There are 800,000 high school students turning out for football at the start of a school year. Figures like these make the line between spectator and participant sports seem pretty blurry.
August 22, 1965
Marc Simont's graphic commentary on the New York aficionados who journeyed to Spain to watch bullfights (page 32), Jule Campbell's discovery of the new enthusiasm in Paris for blue jeans and Wild West clothing (page 56), Bob Ottum's account of the skiing disaster in Chile (page 64) help illustrate the wide spectrum of sport—watching and performing—with which we deal. William Leggett's article on the drive of the Minnesota Twins for the American League pennant (page 16) tells of a group of highly resilient performers who are being watched these days with hypnotic intensity by thousands of fans in Minneapolis and St. Paul and thereabouts. Coles Phinizy's essay, The Old Men of the Sea (page 72), shows sport at an opposite extreme. The dedicated pioneers who appear in it began exploring the rocks under San Diego Bay three decades ago with no spectators whatever. They merely developed their distinctive sort of art and adventure, and in the process founded modern sports diving in America. Trying to force such varied kinds of activity into a rigid pattern of spectator or participant sports means the loss of some of their innate excitement. We have found that the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reader generally has a favorite sport but rarely has a mind closed to interesting comment on the favorite sports of others.