FOUL SHOT DUE?
A decision to be made by the International Amateur Basketball Association in the next two weeks in Montevideo, Uruguay may severely limit or bring to an end the participation of U.S. basketball teams abroad. The international board must choose a U.S. representative that will have the right to control and sanction basketball activity by American teams.
For years the Amateur Athletic Union had this franchise and did little with it. It promoted few games between U.S. and foreign groups and on occasion even thwarted by technicalities the matches that had been scheduled. But four years ago the U.S. Basketball Federation—a college-oriented organization—asked for the international job. As a compromise, the international board granted the federation certain sanctioning powers while continuing to recognize the AAU's control over the Olympic and World basketball tournaments.
The U.S. Basketball Federation took advantage of its new powers to set up the most elaborate international program in the game's history. In 1966 more than 200 games were played between U.S. and foreign teams. And this spring the number doubled to more than 400. Top college teams like Michigan, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Brigham Young and Wichita State traveled abroad under the federation's program, playing in such places as Japan, Australia, Chile, Iran, Pakistan and Greece.
There was a time, in the 1920s and 1930s, when AAU basketball teams were the equivalent of the NBA teams of today, but since the development of the professional leagues AAU basketball has been dying. There are now only four major AAU teams (compared to 25 in the 1920s), and the AAU championship game this March in Denver drew only 3,000 spectators. Basketball is no longer a major concern of the AAU, but it is a vital interest of the U.S. Basketball Federation, a group composed of the country's college basketball teams. We cast a strong vote for the federation, and hope the same position will be taken by the sport bosses in Montevideo.
Three cheers for the National Hockey League's new Stanley Cup playoff scheme. This is a plan geared to expansion. Next fall six U.S. teams—Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco-Oakland and St. Louis—will begin play as a separate division. Next spring the top four will be eligible for Stanley Cup competition. Following the old NHL pattern, No. 1 will play No. 3 in a best-of-seven series, while No. 2 plays No. 4.
Now comes the part we like. The new boys' 1-3 winner will play the older division's equivalent winner, and the 2-4 survivors in each division likewise will be paired. This means that the new guys will have two chances for upset drama in the semifinals. The winners of those two series then will play for the Cup itself.
The finalists, obviously, are likely to be teams from the older group for some years to come, and a case can be made for separate eliminations and a final series matching old and new—in other words, a pro football-style superseries or, to be realistic, superanticlimax. Hockey's way will double the interdivisional rivalry and thus, as we see it, double the fun, but at the same time it will ensure that the final series is played between the two best teams in hockey.
Never mind that many world-ranking soccer teams play a defensive game and that millions every year are thrilled by it. The owners of the Pittsburgh Phantoms have decided that defensive soccer is not very entertaining. "There is no action and no interest," Team President Peter Block said recently. "It's like hockey, if you dump the puck back to mid-ice all the time."
With that, Block instructed Coach Janos Bedl to change the Phantoms' tactics and play offensively. Understandably reluctant, since the Phantoms were undefeated and were leading the National League's Eastern Division, Bedl finally had to give in. "If we win every game 8-1, it is not good soccer," he said bitterly. The team tested the front-office strategy against the St. Louis Stars last week. With 20 minutes still to be played, Gerhard Wedemeier, a Phantom player, got a bit too offensive, so to speak, kicking the Stars' Rudolf Kolbi and knocking him down from behind. Weidemeier was ejected from the game, and St. Louis immediately scored three goals against the shorthanded Phantoms to win the game 4-1. The St. Louis coach said later, "Pittsburgh has no technique. They do not play with, with—how do you say?—Kultur."
Just consider the possibilities for a cat burglar. In the vaults of Madrid's Salmon Bank are some 10,000 pounds of fish, and official transactions—deposits, withdrawals and loans—are made in salmon. Established in 1964 by a former waiter, the bank now has a clientele that rivals the House of Rothschild. Among those with accounts are Generalissimo Francisco Franco, Emperor Haile Selassie, King Baudouin, El Cordobés, the Maharaja of Mayurbaug and Prince Juan Carlos (who is, at present, six kilos overdrawn).
On a typical day last week a 31-pound fish killed on a Canadian river arrived by jet for deposit, and an 18-pound smoked salmon was dispatched to New York to be served as a first course at a diplomatic luncheon. The bank's depositors can draw fresh, frozen or smoked fish against the balance in their accounts and, on occasion, credit is extended, but a loan must be repaid in kind, not cash.
Ramon Mestanza Pascual, the 61-year-old founder and president of the establishment, says he has had a lifelong interest in salmon. "I've always felt an irresistible attraction toward this brave fish," he explains. "It is one of the most beautiful in existence."
In 1952 he designed and patented a platter especially for salmon. So popular was it that today nearly everyone in Spain who serves the fish owns one of Mestanza's dishes. About the same time he also began to experiment with methods of smoking salmon. His earliest attempts were made surreptitiously in the furnace of Mansard's, the chic Madrid restaurant where he was working as a waiter. "The result was not particularly appetizing," he says. Next he tried using sawdust from a piece of antique furniture, but "the fish smelled of termites" and tasted no better.
Mestanza's present formula, for which he has become internationally famous, is secret. He admits only to using special woods and aromatic herbs such as thyme and sweet marjoram. So great a delicacy is his smoked salmon that it is worth more per pound ($7.50) than Spanish pesetas. It would seem a solid base to bank on.
GAME OF CHANCE
If you want a ticket to the tennis matches at Wimbledon this summer, you have about as much chance of getting one as you have of drawing a live number in the Irish Sweeps. The method of choosing is the same—by lottery—and the odds are not much better.
One day this month Major David Mills, the secretary of the All-England Lawn Tennis Association, will stand in front of a large cardboard box, pour the requests for Wimbledon tickets into it, shake them up a bit and pull until the available seats are taken. Even if you get the ticket you wanted—say one seat in the center court for the fortnight of the tournament—you may not feel like a winner, for the seat can cost $560.
"The ballots are oversubscribed by a colossal margin," Major Mills says. "Literally thousands of people fail to get tickets, but the lottery system remains the fairest way to distribute them to the public."
Major Mills is reluctant to disclose the number of people turned down or, in fact, the number of seats actually put on sale. It varies from year to year, depending on how many seats are allocated to foreign tennis associations and dignitaries by the All-England club.
There is one other way to get a ticket—by buying a debenture that entitles the holder to a center-court seat for five years. The number of debentures is limited, and only a few are sold, usually in Paris. The going price is $2,250, which means a seat costs $40 a day or $450 a year.
You may see an amateur's game, but hardly at an amateur's price.
Chicago's Channel 9, the station that carries the White Sox games, has television cameras that scan Comiskey Park. But there is one place they have yet to focus on—the scoreboard. It seems that another Chicago station outbid WGN-TV for the right to televise the 1968 White Sox games, and that station has put a sign on the scoreboard that reads: "Watch the Sox on Ch. 32 next season."
WHO ARE THE PIGEONS?
The opening of the English pigeon-racing season has put the board of British Railways into a flap. For many decades the railways have played an essential part in pigeon racing, transporting the birds in specially equipped cars at a nominal charge and arranging with stationmasters at designated points to release the racers. The empty cages are shipped back to the owners free of charge. Station attendants also operate a lost-and-found service for pigeons, picking up as many as 150,000 in a year. The strays are returned home for a flat fee of half a crown (35¢). This sporting service started back in the 1890s, when trains were still treated with some suspicion by the general public. Hoping to attract passengers, the railways offered working-class pigeon owners cheap transportation for their birds, figuring that if a man could be brought to risk his pigeon, eventually he would risk himself on rails.
But now the railway board feels pigeon transportation is for the birds. It would like to get out of the business or, at any rate, raise its charges. Birds must be watered and fed while in transit, and first-aid facilities must be provided at considerable cost.
The railways would settle for a percentage of the $28 million in prize money distributed during the course of the racing season, but there isn't a pigeon man from Scotland to Wales about to give up tuppence of his purse. Instead, pigeon owners have formed cooperatives and have purchased lorries to transport the birds. They talk of Sir Stanley Raymond, the railways' board chairman, the way they talk of farmers who shoot their pigeons. In the end, the railways may lose pigeons and passengers.
THREE'S A CROWD
The things people do. Take Al Carter, a dance-band drummer in Chicago. For three years he worked on plans to get the first ticket and be the first person through the gate at Montreal's Expo 67. Al puts a lot of effort into such things. He has a long record of "firsts"-at expressway openings, sports events and the Seattle and New York world's fairs.
"The big thing is to be first through the gates," he says. "I knew at Montreal I'd have stiff competition. The toughest would be two guys from New York-an uncle and his nephew. They're pretty good, and I've run into them several times. They were aiming for Expo 67, and I knew it because of what happened at the New York fair in 1964. I beat them out in their own home town by a matter of minutes. I remember how they looked at me-steely-eyed. They told me, 'We shall meet again!' "
Well, the trio did meet recently at the opening of Expo 67, but the uncle and the nephew kept their distance. As Al tells it, "The guys from New York showed up after me. They stopped a long way off when they saw me. Then they turned around and left. Other people came, but they were too late. They're always too late. When they see me, they leave. What's there to being second?"
THEY SAID IT
•Dennis Ralston, explaining why he has been successful as a professional tennis player although he never could win big matches as an amateur: "The weight of the whole country is now off my shoulders. I only play for me."
•Maury Wills, calling room service last week at St. Louis' Chase Park Plaza: "This is Mr. Wills of the Dodgers in room...."