The behavior of crowds at basketball games seems to be reaching a new low this year. As yet, no player has been hit in the eye with a heated penny, but the season is young. There was a time when every college area had one particular gym that visiting teams referred to as "the snake pit"; today, nearly every court is a snake pit for visiting teams.
What happened to UCLA at Duke University's field house last week is fairly typical. Throughout the game, about 9,000 locals screamed in chorus: "UCLA, go to hell!" Whenever a UCLA player stepped to the foul line to attempt a free throw, the crowd whistled shrilly. Before the game, as each Uclan was introduced, instead of encouraging a semi-polite round of applause Duke cheerleaders led the home folks in a raucous "Who's he?"
What to do about this? How to control volatile collegiate spirits and restore an element of sportsmanship to basketball? It's really very simple. Crowd behavior at basketball games is the responsibility of the home coach. All that he has to do is take the public-address microphone after the first shout of "go to hell" or the first round of whistles and announce: "If this audience does not begin to behave I will take my team off the floor and forfeit the game."
It's been done before.
STAY OUT OF THE GUTTER
The Milby Memorial Methodist Church of Houston, like many another church, has a bowling league. In second place, at latest report, is a team called the Holy Rollers.
The Spartans are going to the Rose Bowl—by the legion. Michigan State's trek to Pasadena may well be the largest transfer of people ever for a Rose Bowl event. Athletic Director Biggie Munn says that 7,500 students already have purchased tickets, and at least 4,000 alumni and friends are expected.
Special group trips will transport 2,900 Spartans to Los Angeles in five jets, nine prop planes, eight Pullman cars, 13 coach cars and seven buses. The university itself has already reserved more than 4,000 beds in the Los Angeles area. One final statistic: officials have had to subdivide the traditional New Year's Eve dinner dance into several smaller, more intimate parties with only 1,000 to 1,200 people at each.
Things are not as bad as they appear around Millersville State College in Pennsylvania. All those guys on crutches are not leftovers from a train wreck—it's just that the swimming team is back in training. "Walking with crutches is a tremendous muscle builder for the upper part of the body," says Coach John Apple, who has instructed his swimmers to crutch it to and from classes before practice. Whether the routine will really help the team remains to be seen, but one can guess that it didn't do much for the woman driver who stopped at an intersection to wave a poor afflicted Millersville student across the street, only to see him tuck his crutches under his arm and sprint.
Jackie Robinson was receiving his plaque from baseball's Hall of Fame in Coopers-town. Distinguished guests were listening attentively. Robinson had paid tribute to his mother and his wife, and now he had begun, "And then there is the one man who guided me like a father, the man who..." He stopped short as a gruff voice roared out: "Turn up the loudspeakers!" Everyone turned to see Branch Rickey, a hand cupped to his "good ear," straining to hear the tribute to himself.
Branch Rickey was vain enough to cherish any compliment, but in this case it was fitting that he hear every word that the first Negro to play major league baseball had to say about him. It is likely that what Rickey did to break baseball's color line will be of more lasting significance than all his other accomplishments in the game to which he gave his life.
It was in character that, in November, Rickey left a hospital to attend the dinner celebrating his own election to Missouri's Sports Hall of Fame, and that he was speaking of courage when he was stricken. It was in character, too, that he attended the ceremony not as a half-forgotten oldtimer but as a still vigorous, vocal and controversial figure in the center of the sporting stage.
Many people loved Branch Rickey; others professed to despise him. But now the critics are still and only the best things are being heard. It might be nice, whenever eulogies are delivered, if someone would see to it that the loudspeakers are turned up high.
Sonny Liston fights for smaller stakes now. Sonny's latest headlined match—abruptly terminated by a court order—was fought for a nickel. A two-headed nickel.
Denver Waiter Ira Martin had borrowed the two-faced coin from Liston and never returned it. The Bear eventually cornered Martin in a barbershop, poked him in the chestbone several times with a massive finger and, so Martin claimed, called him a nasty name and threatened to kill him. Martin fled to a lawyer, who obtained a temporary restraining order against Liston.
In a hearing to determine whether the order should be made a permanent injunction, Liston told the judge that a) he was "only joking" when he told Martin he would kill him, b) he had no intention of causing Martin any bodily harm, c) he had poked the waiter with his finger "because I always talk with my hands" and d) he hadn't cursed at Martin "because I never curse." Anyway, his two-headed nickel had been returned in the mail by some anonymous person "who had come across it."
Judge Mitchell Johns, describing the affair as a "two-bit case over a two-headed nickel," dismissed the action.
"Mr. Liston," he said, "you stay away from this man, will you?"
"Yes, sir," Sonny replied.
"And you, Mr. Martin," the judge went on, "don't get in his way, either."
MISERY IS A FOOTBALL GAME
These are not happy times for Mal Florence, football writer for the Los Angeles Times. He has come to dread road trips. Since taking over the beat, he has seen the Rams win only three away games, tie two and lose 33. In 1963, when Mal was recuperating from a car accident, another man covered three road games. The Rams won two of the three.
Florence also is an ardent USC fan, and he was distressed when he was assigned to cover the Stanford-California game the same afternoon his Trojans battled UCLA for the Rose Bowl bid. Dutifully he sat in the Stanford stadium press box, but his heart and ears were tuned to a transistor radio report from Los Angeles. After UCLA won, in the last two minutes, he sadly packed up his typewriter and trudged to the elevator, where he was reminded that he was there for the Cal-Stanford game. Mal had to return sheepishly to his seat, unpack his typewriter and write a game story in the noble tradition of The Show Must Go On.
NO MORE SNOW JOBS
Snow reports from New England ski resorts are being reformed. The old reports, consisting mostly of the words "poor," "fair," "good" or "excellent," were at best subjective and at worst an inducement to slant the weather news heavily in the resorts' favor. The new system is designed to be factual rather than promotional. A typical twice-daily report might look like this: "Blue Mt.—14/24 PG/PP 1/8." That means the average minimum base-snow depth is 14 inches on lower elevations, 24 inches on upper elevations; lower surface conditions are a combination of packed powder and granular, upper conditions exclusively packed powder; new snow accumulation is one inch on lower slopes, eight inches on upper. Had there been any precipitation—whether snow, sleet or rain—it would have been noted at the end.
We applaud the innovation, of course, but deep inside we feel a small regret that one more element of excitement has gone out of our standardized civilization ("Hey, George, does 'good' mean that the rocks are still showing, or is that 'fair'?").
American League teams have found the perfect way to dispose of their "flaky" baseball players: trade them to Philadelphia and let Gene Mauch worry about them. Last year it was Dick Stuart and Bo Belinsky; this year, so far, it has been Phil Linz and Jackie Brandt. What is a "flake"? Says Brandt, an expert in the field, "It's a guy that's..." and then he took his forefinger and made an airy circle near his temple. Brandt once told a former Baltimore manager, Billy Hitchcock, "I'm going to play with harder nonchalance this year." Stuart threw a bowling ball through a picture window one night when he was locked out of his home. Belinsky once said: "I regret I can't sit in the stands and watch me." And Linz, of course, is the famed harmonica player. Now, if they could get Dizzy Dean to broadcast.
Bob Marks of Bucknell made no All-America team this year and, in truth, no one really expected him to. Yet Marks—even though he's a defensive back by trade—was probably the most effective passer in college football. He was used sparingly on offense and got to throw only 32 passes all season, less than many pro quarterbacks do in one game. But he completed 22 of the 32, and eight—or one of every four passes that he threw—went for touchdowns. He had a nice sense of the dramatic, too. When his team fell behind in its final conference game, Marks came out of the bullpen—er, the defense—and flipped two touchdown passes to give Bucknell its first Middle Atlantic Conference championship.
PROMISE HIM ANYTHING
Men's perfume—cologne, that is, and after-shave lotion—is in the air these days, and the copy selling it is redolent of the finest in sports cliché. Jaguar, for instance, is "for the man...who plays to win, whatever the game," and Tournament is "for the man with drive." Sir is "aggressive," Royal Regiment is "brilliantly rugged," Danté has "subtle power" and British Sterling says you'll "become a legend in your own time." Gant, on the one hand, appeals to the Leo Durocher or win-at-any-price school (it "gives a man an unfair advantage"), whereas Match Play apparently is for the underdog ("you'll stage an upset—whatever the game").
This is all an interesting development, and one that should last for some time. We hope that the manufacturers continue to catch the scent of sport in their pursuit of new products, and we recommend only that they come closer to the target in their search for he-man reality. For starters, we suggest Old Mitt ("you won't drop the ball"), Tennis Socks ("stand straight and tall"), Gray Sweatshirt ("unforgettably masculine") and Locker Room ("she'll remember you").
Fishermen, long driven to fantasies of justifiable homicide by water skiers, have finally found one of their number willing to strike back. When the latest skier buzzed Larry Weber's dock on Clearwater Beach in Florida, Weber stood ready with fishing rod. He made a perfect cast with a hookless dummy plug, the line went around target Phil Lundin's waist and Lundin's water skiing go was abruptly ended.
The cop that Lundin angrily summoned must have been a water skier: he hauled Weber in on an assault-and-battery charge. Judge Robert Freeze of Clearwater kept Weber out of the cooler by reducing the charge to simple assault and fining him $15. The judge also complimented him on his casting.
THEY SAID IT
•Frank McGuire, South Carolina basketball coach, on recruiting talent from the New York metropolitan area: "We have a new delicatessen on the campus, which is nice. Now we need an Italian restaurant so we can get some other kids."
•Andrew Mulligan, Paris correspondent of the London Observer, after viewing a telecast of an American football game: "Sport is an exportable commodity, like language and cuisine."
•Lou Saban, Buffalo Bills' coach: "No, we don't have a Johnny Unitas in the American Football League, but there are 13 teams in the National Football League that don't have one either."