IN DEFENSE OF WOMANHOOD
There was a time when any athlete who entered a women's event in an international track meet was accepted as being a woman and no indelicate questions were asked. But as the importance of the competition has grown, so have the suspicions that men are sneaking into the female ranks. At the European championships in Budapest last week, three doctors were on hand to inspect each competitor and certify her femininity. The doctors did not uncover a single male, but this did little to allay suspicions, because some of the best European ladies did not show up for the meet. Notably, Yolanda Balas, the matchless Rumanian high jumper, did not enter the competition, and neither did Soviet Hurdler Irina Press or her weight-tossing sister, Tamara. In the face of rumors that Yolanda Balas was abstaining to conceal her manhood, Rumanians explained that she was having a baby. According to the Russians, the Press girls were home with a sick mother. These explanations, given in an atmosphere already supercharged with distrust, brought snickers from newspapermen and assorted cynics.
In this modern day, perhaps it is necessary to inspect and certify athletes as one would a herd of dairy cows. Regardless, we deplore the fact that suspicions can run so loose that performers like Yolanda Balas and the Press sisters are challenged and implicated in absentia. As we see it, any lady, American, Rumanian, Russian—even a bearded lady—should be able to stay home with a sick mother, or a sick headache, or with any other excuse, however valid or limp. When we reach the point where absence from the arena is considered evidence of fraud, it is time to close the show.
September 11, 1966
Over Africa way, in the emergent and sometimes seething nation of Ghana, the Accra Turf Club has been having a time. In the current meeting there have been 11 accidents on one turn of the Accra course. One jockey has died and two mounts have had to be destroyed. Fifty-five of the jockeys at Accra have asked that a cow be slaughtered ritually to purify the accursed corner and appease any evil spirits that might still be hanging around. The jockeys have offered to pay for the cow, but the Turf Club management has turned them down. The jockeys have refused to ride and have been fined ¬£25 each (about $70, which in Accra is a bundle). There the matter stands, unsettled.
We decide in favor of the jockeys on two counts. First, they are the ones who are literally being trampled. Second, any management in the business of slowly and gracefully bleeding its clientele at the betting windows cannot logically object to cutting the throat of a single cow.
THE PITT PENGUINS
Although none of them will be in action for a year yet, five of the new franchises in the National Hockey League have already picked names for their teams. Some of them could have done better pulling names from a hat. The San Francisco entry will be the Seals, perpetuating the name of the present minor league team. Minneapolis has decided to call its team the North Stars, which is apt enough. Los Angeles is calling its team the Kings, and they deserve thanks for being willing to settle for a platitudinous name that franchises in all major sports have avoided for years. The St. Louis team will be called the Blues—its player uniform will bear a musical note of some sort to drive the pun home. Philadelphia, after sorting through a muddle of uninspiring choices, decided on the Flyers, and—perish the thought—may actually spell it "Phlyers."
Pittsburgh is still looking for a name, and well it might. Six years ago, when Pittsburghers were remaking the sooty heart of their town, someone who deserves anonymity called Pittsburgh's team in the now-defunct American Basketball League the Renaissances. That sort of thing could happen again. Right now the name with the inside track around Pittsburgh is Penguins. There has never been a penguin in either the Allegheny or Monongahela rivers, but the team will play in the Civic Arena that has already been nicknamed the "Igloo" and will wear black and white, so there you have it. Penguins it may very well be—but over the dead body of Pittsburgh Coach George Sullivan. "Penguins," Sullivan snorts. "So when we come up with a bad game, the press will say we skated like a bunch of nuns."
Early on a recent morning, Mr. E. P. Wilcox of Grassy Key in southwest Florida awoke to find six two-ton whales lying on the beach behind his house. Being a Floridian and naturally charitable to all transients, Mr. Wilcox did what he could for his uninvited guests. For seven hours he poured water on the whales to keep the sun from blistering them until the state conservation department could drag them back out into the deep water of the Gulf. Before the day was out, 60 whales had swum ashore on Grassy Key. Milton Santini of Grassy Key carted two of the stranded lummoxes off to an enclosed bay. Intercepting another before it hit the beach, Santini led it by the flipper into captivity. (Santini is a porpoise trainer who supplies specimens to seaquariums, so for him the whale invasion was a windfall.) Twelve whales died on the beach, but the conservation department, working its head off, managed to get 45 of them back into deep water. When released, a dozen of these straightway swam back to shore and had to be towed out again.
Just about every year, like a pack of demented lemmings in reverse, whales commit mass suicide on some Florida beach, and no one knows exactly why. The best theory comes from a Dutch whaleologist, Dr. W. H. Dudok-Van Heel, who suggests that when deep-water whales move over a shallow, gently sloping bottom, the sonic signals they emit ricochet on ahead instead of bouncing back to them. As Dr. Dudok-Van Heel sees it, betrayed by their own signals, the whales panic and swim on, subsequently dying and putting up quite a smell. Whatever the explanation, some Floridians are resigned to living with it. When the whale invasion strikes near Crescent Beach, Fla., as it often does, residents simply pull out and take motel rooms inland until the air clears.
Just about everywhere on the beaches and beside the swimming pools of the world, puritanism is fast dying and the bikini is the order of the day. While the rest of the world has charged forward, exposing its navel and shedding its inhibitions at the water's edge, the city of Bloemfontein, deep in the stodgy heart of South Africa, has been stumbling around a modest step or two behind the times. Appalled by the behavior of local bathers, the city fathers of Bloemfontein passed regulations to keep couples from smooching or otherwise displaying their affection around municipal pools. At one pool the supervisory staff, enforcing the rules with extraordinary zeal, blew the whistle on any couple caught holding hands and further insisted that every man and woman on the premises stay at least 12 inches apart. When hoots and jeers of protest arose, the Bloemfontein officials realized their sober intentions had gone too far and blew the whistle on the overzealous pool attendants. Although hands off is still the rule, at any Bloemfontein pool today a bather is permitted to touch a member of the opposite sex when applying suntan lotion or performing any equally useful service.
The coyote, sly scamp of the Old West, is having a harder time now that his home grounds are getting crowded, but do not worry about him on that count, for he is an adaptable cuss and a gypsy at heart. Suddenly, Lord only knows how or why, the coyote has turned up in the heart of the Old South and has developed a taste for watermelons. Tennessee biologists estimate that there are now two or three dozen coyotes raiding the melon patches in Lincoln County, just north of the Alabama border. While inspecting the damage in one patch, Biologist Ed Penrod noticed that the coyotes had left muddy paw prints on a great many melons but had only opened ones that were juicy ripe. Knowing that the way to tell a ripe melon is to thump it, out of curiosity Penrod opened some of the melons that the coyotes had pawed and passed up. Every one of the unopened melons was green.
SAFE WITH SAFEWAY
For the benefit of anyone still unaware that the U.S. is in the middle of a fierce pleasure-boating boom, we submit the latest shred of evidence from Foster City, Calif. The Safeway chain store in Foster City now wraps groceries in waterproof bags because so many women are capsizing in their boats while racing neighbors home from market.
A DAMMING PROPOSAL
Prompted by the droughts that have plagued the U.S. East Coast, Dr. Robert D. Gerard, an oceanographer of Columbia University, has seriously proposed that Long Island Sound, one of the country's busiest playgrounds, should be dammed at both ends to keep out the sea. If dammed, in about a decade it would become a freshwater reservoir that could supply a dozen New York Cities. In his proposal, Dr. Gerard cites three secondary benefits that would be derived. The dams, he suggests, would also serve as highways connecting Long Island and the mainland. The saltwater fish of the Sound, he feels, could be replaced by a freshwater culture in a better, pollution-free environment. Yachtsmen no longer would have to contend with tides or salt corrosion.
The best thing to do with these so-called secondary benefits, in our opinion, is to use them to punch holes in the dams that Dr. Gerard wants to build. The last thing that the overcrowded shores of Long Island Sound need is a connecting bridge that will make it easier for the motorists on either side to add to the congestion that already exists on the other. In touting the future fishing in the Sound, Dr. Gerard ignores the fact that, with the coming of the fresh water, the game wardens will also come, followed by hatchery biologists, conservationists, ecologists, limnologists and statisticians with clipboards—all bent on making the angler's carefree day more rewarding. When the salt goes out of the Sound, so will the angler's freedom. As for the yachtsman, when the tides are taken from him and the salt no longer corrodes his fittings and rots his underwear, he will be a yachtsman no more. He will become a Sunday sailor.
Damming proposals such as Dr. Gerard has made seem fanciful at first, but as the human population explodes, each such scheme gets more realistic, and in time becomes a necessary plan of action. Man, the superengineer, has never been able to regulate his own numbers. Instead, in desperation, he keeps tinkering with the natural plumbing, spoiling more and more of a world that was once altogether beautiful.
THE GUTTERLESS GAME
The Brunswick Corporation has added a new twist to the old bowling game. On the sides of a regulation alley Brunswick has placed elevated, cushioned gutters with guide spots painted on them. On the new alley the bowler has three options. He can play his shot straight to score 10 for a strike, as before. He can try a carom shot off one side for 15 points, or off both sides for 20, with 600, of course, being the perfect score for an unbroken run of double caroms. Brunswick has already set up carom alleys experimentally in Riverside, Calif., Glenwood, Ill., Garland, Texas, Yonkers, N.Y., East Detroit, Mich. and in Brentwood and Kansas City, Mo. It is too early to say how popular the new game will be. In any case, the new alleys are convertible. The bowler who does not care for the new game simply pushes a button to make the carom sides sink back to the level of old-fashioned gutters.
THEY SAID IT
•Joe Paterno, Penn State football coach, discussing one of his players of Italian ancestry: "It isn't that I like the boy because he's Italian. I like him because I'm Italian."
•Sandy Koufax, Dodger pitcher, on Casey Stengel: "When I was young and smart, I couldn't understand him. Now that I'm older and dumber, he makes sense to me."