WILL AND ABILITY
Santa was very good to Dick Tiger this Christmas. Although a 12-to-5 underdog, he won the light-heavyweight championship from Jose Torres a few weeks ago and now he has been selected Fighter of the Year. If these distinctions were awarded for gentility, Tiger merited them, for he is a wholly admirable man, but, in the main, championships are won by a superior force of arms, and Tiger did not make this point against Torres, to say nothing of his feckless showing in losing the middleweight title to Emile Griffith last April.
Indeed, Torres was manifestly the better fighter and proved it—when he chose to fight. That he did this so infrequently is inexcusable. All Torres had to do was jab and the fight was his, but even this small effort was beyond him. Dick Tiger won not because he was more able but because he was more willing.
Acknowledging Torres poor showing, the New York State Athletic Commission has suspended him for medical reasons. Just what is the commission trying to say? Six weeks before the fight there were reports that Torres was suffering anew from pancreatitis, the malady that had kept him idle for a year after he won the title. Five doctors examined him and four found he was healthy and fit; the fifth said he was healthy but unfit because, reportedly, he was suffering from a psychosomatic ailment. Evidently the commission is now admitting it might have been hasty in allowing Torres to fight, as he must be reexamined before he may have another bout. But at the same time the commission is saying it still thinks it's all in Torres' head.
January 2, 1967
We feel that the commission's action is laudable, but its reasons are needlessly muddled, and the real issue has been obscured. The public has a right to expect a high standard of effort from a fighter, particularly a champion, and a commission should demand it. If there is any doubt that a fighter has given less than he is capable of, his purse should be held up pending an investigation. A fighter, such as Torres, whose performance was so palpably feeble, should be suspended and placed on probation until he demonstrates he wants to or can fight. He most certainly should not be rewarded with a quick return bout, as has been rumored in this case.
But the onus is also upon the commission. Any time there is a possibility that ticket buyers will be shortchanged, there should be an investigation—but not after the fight—and the fighter put on notice. There have been too many post-factum revelations in boxing: an injured hand, a bad back, a diseased pancreas. It is time for all concerned to realize that no fight is preferable to a bad show.
As for the Fighter of the Year—isn't there a heavyweight who calls himself Muhammad Ali?
A few months ago the Mexican Olympic Committee declared in a similar vein that much of the altitude problem was in the athletes' heads; "altitude psychosis" was the diagnosis. Presumably, nothing has swayed the committee from this opinion, but now, in almost the same breath, or lack of it, it has announced that the equestrian events have been moved from Mexico City (alt. 7,347 feet) to Oaxtepec (alt. 4,500 feet), because horses, no matter how imbued with mental health, might break down in a more rarefied atmosphere.
Hollywood's latest stab at motor racing, a three-hour Cinerama film called Grand Prix, opened last week in New York. It contains approximately 10 minutes of unique and marvelous car stuff. There are scenes in which the viewer, in effect, shares the cockpit with a driver and rides the straights and corners of famous racecourses at Grand Prix speeds. In these episodes the film is a richer experience than watching the real thing at the circuit. The catch is that the rest of Grand Prix is as rewarding as driving on the Hollywood Freeway at 5:15 p.m. No fewer than three love triangles are formed to fill out the picture's excessive length. While there is precious little love in any of them, the small, shining corner occupied by Franchise Hardy, the French pop singer, may be enough to keep you from falling asleep between races.
The latest in surefire fish bait is a freshly killed duck, and Guy Newburn of Bullard, Texas has a two-pound black bass to prove it.
The other day Newburn, 17, was duck hunting at a pond on his farm and bagged four canvasbacks, one of which fell into the water. Since he didn't want to get wet, Newburn walked home, got out his fishing tackle, put on a lure with two treble hooks and, on his third cast, snagged the duck. When he hauled it in he discovered the bass, which must have hit the lure at the same time the lure hit the duck, since Newburn wasn't aware of a strike.
"I was really shocked when I saw that bass," says Newburn. "It was the first time I ever reeled in a duck, so I didn't know how it was supposed to feel."
THE GREAT MAN
Something has happened to the NFL's old chestnut of a slogan: "Anything can happen in a NFL game—and it usually does." The happening is Vince Lombardi, the head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers. When you play the Packers, the Great Man—as Lombardi is referred to in Green Bay—usually sees to it that you lose.
To no one's surprise, Lombardi's Packers won the Western Division title a few weeks ago. They also won it and the NFL title in 1965. And it looks like they're going to win in 1967, 1968, 1969.... The Packers have been best in the West five out of the eight years Lombardi has been coach and, except for 1959, when they were third, they have never finished lower than a close second. At a time when the Boston Celtics are heading for another second place and the New York Yankees are shooting for the first division, the Packers show no sign of packing it in.
Is Green Bay that good? Thanks to expansion and easy money, no franchise is that good. But Green Bay has the Great Man. "Vince commands victory," says one NFL player. Two Sundays ago, when Lombardi felt his team wasn't up for a meaningless game with the Rams, he called a meeting and, in essence, ordered the Packers to win. They won.
Green Bay seldom beats itself—never in a big game—and seldom has there been a more opportunistic team. The opposition senses but cannot believe what the Packers know: that the imposition of Lombardi's intelligence and his fierce, unrelenting will make them a more closely knit and better team. "Coach Lombardi insists on perfect execution and goof-proof football," says Ken Bowman, the Packers' center and a second-year law student. "He won't accept an excuse for mental errors. That's the quickest way to lose a job at Green Bay." It helps that the vogue in the NFL is a balanced attack coupled with ball control. Who started it? Lombardi. And no one plays his kind of football better than he does. What's more, since he designed the game, Lombardi knows exactly the players he needs to keep it on top. For example, Bob Jeter was with the Packers for three years as a little-used flanker. This year he's a starting corner back, and a first-class one at that. Carroll Dale was a Los Angeles discard. Now he's the Packers' leading receiver. But the best evidence of Lombardi's genius is the seven players who were with the team before he arrived in Green Bay. For the most part, they were undistinguished members of the worst Packer club in history (1-10-1). Under Lombardi, all seven became All-Pros or have played in the All-Star game, but they don't get star treatment. No one does at Green Bay. "You missed the block, Taylor," Lombardi will roar in practice. "You missed the block. Remember, we don't miss blocks. Run it again and again and again." Green Bay doesn't always have the best team, but it always has the best coach. As the bookies say: "Lombardi is worth points."
Amateur athletes are rarely called upon to promote their own events, but then Ron Clarke is in many ways an exceptional man. When, last September, the Victorian Amateur Athletic Association invited three Kenyan runners to Australia for a series of races and then backed out, fearing the tour would be too great a financial risk, Clarke—the world record holder in the three-mile, 5,000-meter, six-mile, 10,000-meter and 10-mile runs—felt obliged to step in. Not only did Clarke think that the VAAA had been unmannerly, but he wanted to even the score with Naftali Temu, who beat him over six miles in the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica (SI, Aug. 22).
With 12 friends, Clarke raised $1,800 for expenses, contributing $224 himself. Then he "sold" appearance rights to the South Australian and New South Wales Amateur Athletic Associations for $952 and $672, respectively. Next he persuaded two of the firms for which he works as an accountant to come up with a $1,120 advance, got four companies to guarantee $1,800 against any possible loss and talked Trans-Australia Airlines and various hotels and motels into providing accommodations and travel at either no cost or cut-rate prices.
In the first race of the tour Runner Clarke easily beat Temu at three miles, and last week, in the final race, he ran the second fastest six miles ever (26:52). Moreover, Clarke had to run that one virtually by himself, as Temu withdrew on account of blisters. Promoter Clarke was equally successful with his one-man show. The tour made a profit of $2,000, of which 25%, or $500, belongs, by rule, to the Victorian Amateur Athletic Association.
DABBLING IN DEATH
One of the least known and most discouraging aspects of waterfowl hunting is that shotgun pellets can be fatal to ducks and geese even when they miss. Birds feeding off the bottom of hunted lakes, ponds and marshes invariably pick up expended lead shot. Once ingested into the gizzard, the shot is ground up and exposed to digestive fluids. The residue thus formed has a toxic effect on the liver, kidneys and the gizzard, and too often leads to agonizing death. In the 1950s the Canadian Wildlife Service estimated the annual kill by lead poisoning of mallards alone at 630,000. More recent estimates range from 500,000 to 1.5 million birds a year, mostly mallards and other dabbling ducks.
Back in 1948 Winchester's Western Cartridge Company spent more than $1 million developing iron shot as a possible substitute for lead, but was unable to make the manufacturing process economically feasible. In point of fact, iron shot is so hard that it will score the barrel of a shotgun, and several hundred rounds put through a full-choke gun will carve out all the choke. Nor is lead shot plated with nickel the answer. Says Western Cartridge's C. O. Williams: "Nickel is just another coating. It comes off within a few days in a bird's gizzard and then the lead poisoning sets in."
There is a glimmer of hope, however. The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute, the industry's trade group, is financing a two-year, $100,000 study by the Illinois Institute of Technology to find a non-toxic, economical and ballistically efficient substitute or modification for lead shot.
The Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife is cooperating, but in its press release it called lead poisoning of waterfowl a "vexing problem." Vexing is a rather bland adjective for describing the death each year of hundreds of thousands of birds.
HOW BELOW CAN YOU GET?
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has built a concrete cap and reinforced door over the 1,700-foot shaft of an abandoned lead and zinc mine and is going to use it for the disposal of trash from the Pecos camping and picnicking area. With typical western hyperbole, it is called "the deepest garbage pit in the world."
THEY SAID IT
•Millie Ignizio, 19, one of five of the Woman's International Bowling Congress' nearly three million members to have a 200 or better average in 1965-66: "I...I...I couldn't have done it without my bowling ball."
•Paul Mickey, 6-foot-9 Penn State center: "When I first came to Penn State I was so uncoordinated I couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time."