WARM BLAST IN THE SENATE
Even more than the expectable amount of hot air has been generated by the current Washington hearings on the AAU-NCAA dispute. First of all, the dispute itself is hardly the national tragedy it is said to be. Here is a simple case of one group with all the power wanting to keep it, while a second group lacks power and wants to acquire it. It happens all the time, Senator, it really does.
Sport has a way of surviving its own maladministration. Track and field is doing very well, thank you—so well that a great deal of money is being earned by its promoters, a fact that is not irrelevant to the present quarrel.
The moaning and tearing of hair that goes on over the prospect that the feud might lead to the barring of some athlete from some Olympic competition with Russia and thus to defeat and national disgrace strikes us as childish. None of this is going to happen, and in any case we prefer a more dignified concept of what constitutes national honor or disgrace.
September 5, 1965
The real reason the AAU-NCAA dispute drags on is that there is no pressure of public opinion to resolve it. The public is bored by the battle of initials.
THE CHARACTER BUILDERS
An unsuccessful rival of Paul Dietzel (when Dietzel was football coach at Louisiana State) once made this rueful observation during the annual college recruiting scramble: "If Dietzel ever gets his feet under the same dinner table as the boy he's after, the rest of us might as well go home."
Now head coach at the U.S. Military Academy, Dietzel still knows how to play footsie. He seems to have got his feet under the dinner table of Ron Esmann, who had already signed a grant-in-aid athletic scholarship to the University of Florida. Esmann does not yet have a West Point appointment and while awaiting one will be farmed out for a year to Bordentown (N.J.) Military Institute. This will give him an extra year to mature and play football, making him that much more valuable to Army when he does matriculate.
To Ray Graves, the mild-mannered Florida coach who had previously lost another Florida-bound player to Dietzel, this was a gross breach of recruiting ethics. To which Dietzel replied that for five years he had been a member of the football coaches' ethics committee.
When Dennis Ralston and Clark Graebner blew the doubles and with it the Davis Cup Tie with Spain somebody said: "Why don't they bring back Talbert and Mulloy?" Why not, indeed? Gardnar Mulloy, 52, and Bill Talbert, 47, have just won the National Seniors' Doubles championship at Longwood for the third straight year, thus retiring the trophy. In 1946 the same team retired the national (nonseniors) trophy, having previously won it in 1942 and 1945. Age cannot wither them, nor custom stale their infinite inevitability. Which is more than one can say for our stale and withered youth.
COLLEGE HUMOR REVISITED
A bright young mathematician attended a seminar on computers at Notre Dame this summer and found his fellow math masters toying with what they called "the mathematical theory of big game hunting." The problem: how to get a lion into a cage in the Sahara Desert using any of a variety of scientific disciplines. The following examples are selected from those we came closest to understanding without altogether making it.
THE METHOD OF INVERSIVE GEOMETRY. We place a spherical cage in the desert, enter it and lock it. We perform an inversion with respect to the cage. The lion is then in the interior of the cage, and we are outside.
LOGIC METHOD. procure a cage, stand before it and repeat these statements:
Statement 1. "If there is no Sahara Desert lion in this cage, Statement 2 is true; otherwise it is false."
Statement 2. "Statement 3 is true."
Statement 3. "Statement 2 is false."
If there is a lion in the cage, there is no paradox; if there is no lion, there is a paradox. Nature abhors a paradox, so a lion will appear in the cage.
And, from experimental physics, THE THERMODYNAMICAL METHOD. We construct a semipermeable membrane, permeable to everything except lions, and sweep it across the desert.
Next time we go lion hunting we'll take along a scientist.
BALM FOR GOLF GUILT
When some Kentuckians announced recently that they were founding an organization dedicated to improving the lot of the average golfer, cynics assumed they were kidding. They were not. The U.S. Duffers Association, Inc. is now a force in being.
At last word it had a membership of 175, a rules book and a membership certificate. The Duffers Rule Book proclaims, with a supreme indifference to the Rules of Golf, the organization's purpose: "to adjust or compromise what seems to be unfair restrictions or penalties for duffers who play the game of golf strictly for fun, exercise and sport."
In other words, says President Bailey Root of Newport, Ky., "All we've done is take the things we all do—like changing to a new ball on the greens or fairways, improving your lie and ignoring the two-stroke out-of-bounds penalty—and make them legal."
The USDA is a tolerant outfit, Root explained. If anyone wants to compete under the standard Rules of Golf, that is O.K. with the USDA. But the new organization feels that such rules are too harsh on the common hacker, and the common hacker has been, therefore, ignoring them. There are, according to Joe Martens, one of the organizers of the new, relaxed and heretical association, between 10 and 14 million golfers who could be classed as duffers, which may be an understatement. With the new rules every duffer can have his fun and ease his conscience at the same time.
About 25 years ago a Louisianan named E. A. McIlhenny imported 11 nutria from South America and imprisoned them in escape-proof pens for ill-defined experimental purposes. Quite a few nutria escaped, increased and multiplied. In fact, multiplication is what a nutria does best.
With the multiplication of the nutria, the muskrat, a staple crop for trappers, went into a profound state of subtraction by geometrical diminution. Rice and sugar-cane farmers were unhappy, too. The nutria is a big eater. Besides, though its pelt had a certain market value, trappers were reluctant to bother with it because of its size. Nutria range between 15 and 20 pounds. A well-laden trapper could bring 20 muskrats out of the marsh as against only three to four nutria. Exterminate the nutria, everyone demanded forthrightly, but this proved impossible.
But as the muskrat population diminished the demand for nutria skins rose and, out of necessity, the trappers went after them in increasing numbers. In the 1943-44 season only 436 nutria pelts were taken. By 1950-51 the number had jumped to 78,422. In 1964-65 nutria pelts were worth $2.5 million, as compared to $352,642 for muskrat skins. Add to that a value of $900,000 for nutria meat sold to mink ranchers. And some gourmets say its flesh is delicious.
Now conservationists, noting that the nutria population has diminished from five million in 1957 to 2.5 million this year, are worried. Save the nutria, they cry. Trapping has been banned in St. Bernard Parish and parts of Plaquemines Parish.
STUDY THE MENU
The chalk streams of England have produced their own mythology, their own poetry and some of the world's best
sporting prose. They have also hatched a race of angler-entomologists who, seemingly, would rather tie flies than catch fish and who have lost normal fishermen in a maze of semiscientific doubletalk. You would think that a chalk-stream trout not only could tell the difference between the first and second instar of a dark-olive nymph but also who tied its imitation.
An iconoclast of such theories is Oliver Kite, a retired soldier who specializes in fishing with nymph imitations. He has written a book about it (Nymph Fishing in Practice, Herbert Jenkins, Ltd., 21 shillings) and lectures on the subject.
"If you make a toy mouse, so exact that you can't tell it apart from an ordinary mouse, and put it in front of a cat, the cat ignores it," Kite says. "But if you take a twist of wool or a bit of paper or something on a string and twitch it in front of a cat, the cat is onto it in a second."
Moral: the action of the lure is what counts.
For a day's fishing, he goes on, you need carry only two flies—an Imperial dry fly, on a size-0 hook, and an unnamed nymph nonimitation, which consists of a size-0 hook with a bit of gossamer copper wire tied about its shank. That is all. No fur or feathers for Kite, who has reduced the whole sport of fly fishing almost down to the casting of a bare hook. If the trout are surface-feeding, use the dry; if under the surface, the nymph.
The flies must be used with skill, however. Kite does 75% of his fishing with the nymph, which is why friends call him a nymphermaniac, and has put in 10 years studying the action of the many varieties of nymphs. Once he knows which variety the trout are feeding on, Kite imitates its characteristic movement, and another trout is on.
Where do you get that gossamer copper wire? You find it in the coils of very old radio sets.
Though Peter Snell failed in his recent comeback attempt in the U.S. and Europe, he still has a contribution to make to racing. He is adviser to the latest New Zealand track hope, 18-year-old Rex Maddaford.
Maddaford is much further along in his development than Snell was at his age. At 15 Snell ran the mile in 5:21. Maddaford did it in 4:20. By age 17, when Snell did 4:40, Maddaford did 4:08. Snell was 18 before he broke 2 minutes (1:59.6) in the 880, but Maddaford clocked a 1:55 when only 16. Maddaford also has run two miles under 9:05 five times and three miles in 13:59.8.
For the next three years, according to Coach Arthur Lydiard, who played such a big part in Snell's career, Maddaford will concentrate on the mile, then succeed Snell as Olympic Games champion in the 1,500 meters at Mexico City in 1968.
Don't bet against it.
BACK TO THE TEST TUBES
Every few summers Portuguese men-of-war invade northern Atlantic beaches. They sting bathers painfully, once in a while cause a death. This summer they appeared in such numbers that several beaches were closed.
Some have suggested that it should be a simple matter to protect bathers by spraying the water with a man-of-war repellent. Not a bad thought, except that, according to the International Oceanographic Foundation of Miami, it is impossible. In order to be repelled a creature must have a receptor mechanism sensitive to the repellent and must also be capable of independent motility so that it can get out of there when repelled.
The Portuguese man-of-war fails on both counts. A sort of many-tendriled jellyfish with an inflated body that somewhat resembles a sail, it not only lacks a sensitive exterior, it has no coordinating nervous system. As for motility, it goes where the winds and the tides take it.
Think of something else.
THEY SAID IT
•Pepper Wilson, Cincinnati Royals' general manager, on the Boston Celtics' long domination of professional basketball: "Sure Red Auerbach makes mistakes, the entire Boston team makes mistakes, but they can get away with it because they have the world's largest eraser in Bill Russell."
•Dr. Phog Allen, 79-year-old retired basketball coach at the University of Kansas, on the aging process: "You're not old until it takes you longer to rest up than it does to get tired."
•Earl Blaik, former Army coach, on the AAU-NCAA squabble: "One is more pure than able and the other more able than pure."