It is understandable, in the current emotional context, that black American athletes, angry over the International Olympic Committee's decision to allow apartheid South Africa to compete at Mexico City, should seriously consider boycotting the Games. But insofar as the U.S. itself is concerned, such a boycott is illogical. We have never refused to compete in sports with countries that do not subscribe to our political or social principles. On the contrary, the official theory behind our encouragement of competition with the Soviet and other Communist nations has always been that this exchange should benefit our side in the long run. The notion that we should become dropouts if someone else does not do things the way we do them contradicts the democratic spirit. Political and social sentiments aside, sport provides a middle ground for the intermingling and understanding of diverse beliefs. This has been true since Athens played Sparta.
The old Madison Square Garden has closed after a series of sentimental lasts—the last horse show, the last Knick game, the last hockey game, the last wrestling match—and last of all the lasts, the last Westminster dog show.
By the time the dogs arrived the dismantling of the building had already begun. The scoreboard was gone, and the signs had been removed from the rest-room doors, making it something of a sporting proposition to open them. Only one pay phone was working.
In the minimal space, 2,850 pedigreed dogs barked and whined, and their owners did likewise. The biggest fuss was caused by the fact that for the third year in a row the judges chose a British dog as best-in-show, and for the fourth straight year a terrier.
After hearing all the bitching, someone came up with the suggestion that the dogs be judged by computer. Their height, weight and various dimensions would be fed into the machine and out would come the name of the most perfect dog.
But the owners wanted no such breed of judge. As the handler of a bloodhound said: "Westminster is like the Atlantic City beauty contest. Do you want to put the girls through a computer? No! If a girl's got the legs, she hopes the judge is a leg man. If he isn't this year, next year's judge may be. But lose once to the computer, and she'll lose every time. There would be no sport."
And that was the end of sport at the old Garden.
GREAT BARRIER GRIEF
Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the extraordinary shelf of multicolored coral that lies off the country's northeast coast, is being destroyed by giant starfish.
Large areas of the reef have already been turned into limestone rubble as thousands of Crown of Thorns starfish, which are some two feet across and have 13 to 17 arms, feed on the living coral. Dr. Robert Endean, a University of Queensland zoologist studying the problem, has reported that, "In some places 80% of the coral has been destroyed. Tourists now notice the reef is losing its beauty."
The increase in the number of starfish probably results from the dwindling population of tritons, the starfish's natural predator. A triton, which is a snaillike shellfish about 18 inches long, consumes a large starfish a day, but it sometimes seems a tourist consumes a triton a day. Triton shells are much sought after, and U.S. collectors pay high prices for them. There is a definite relationship between the presence of the giant starfish and tourist resorts where the shells are collected.
Several months ago the operators of one Barrier Reef resort began paying skin divers 10¢ for each starfish killed. Some 50,000 were destroyed before it was discovered the slaughter was hopeless—the starfish were proliferating too fast for individual extermination to have any effect.
After studying the problem for two years, scientists are no nearer a solution. Meanwhile, each starfish kills about 24 square inches of coral per day. There is little consolation in the theory that the balance of nature eventually will be restored when the starfish increase so fast they run out of food. They have 1,250 miles of coral reef to chew on. Meanwhile, conservationists can once again chew on the thought of how effortlessly man upsets the intricate ways of nature.
No one is sure that the 18th century poet William Blake would have disapproved, but his British devotees certainly did recently when it became likely that Blake's home at 17 South Molton Street in London might be converted into a betting shop. Impassioned letters were sent to The Times Literary Supplement, and a group of Blake enthusiasts hired a lawyer to block the bookmaker's application for a license.
A betting shop would not be out of place on South Molton Street—there was one until recently down the block. But as the Blakean counsel noted, "One appreciates this is rather an unidealistic age. No place seems sacred, but it is going to be difficult for people to conjure up visions of William Blake while surrounded by gentlemen, however respectable, in a betting shop."
Unmoved, authorities granted the license, but the bookmaker lost out anyway, for the lease was given to a maker of ladies' gowns.
How's that for sacrilege?
SMU OVER ARKANSAS
As is usual at this time of year, Southwest Conference coaches are hotfooting it about Texas recruiting football prospects. Hotfooting is not quite the right word, however, since a number of the coaches have taken to flying around in private jets, presumably to impress the high school boys whom they hope to sign.
Frank Broyles of Arkansas tells of landing in Dallas recently in a Jet Falcon 622 belonging to Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. "My pilot happened to remark, 'There's Coach Fry's plane now,' " says Broyles. "I kind of sat back and said to myself, I hope Hayden sees me in this.' Then his plane pulls up and it's a bigger jet than mine."
French chauvinists have long decried the use of Anglicisms such as "le weekend" and "le living room" and have called for a cleanup of the French tongue.
The Olympic Games at Grenoble provided a unique opportunity for showing that there is really nothing that cannot be said in excellent French. Television announcers of the European-wide ORTF network received strict orders to use pure French. Hence, ice hockey became "hockey sur glace" the puck turned into "le palet" and the stick, "une crosse." Apparently it did not matter that in French Canada, where the sport originated, hockey is called "hockey," the puck is "la rondelle" and the stick "le b√¢ton."
That's just the dialect of the colonies.
The House of Lords devoted a recent parliamentary session to the virtues and defects of British sport. A summary of the debate appeared the next day in The Times. The newspaper reported:
The Lord Chancellor took his seat on the Woolsack at 2 p.m.
Lord Pilkington, formerly Sir Harry Pilkington, took the oath and subscribed the roll.
Lord Willis (L.) said the strength of British sport lay in the fact that most of it was organized on a voluntary basis.
Lord Byers (L.) said there was a good deal to be said for encouraging leisure interests that did not depend on winning or losing against anyone else. He said there is so much of this in our working lives that a capitalist society needs an antidote. He had led groups of young people to Eastern Europe to walk and climb with the nationals, and they concluded that they had had the best summit talks. (Laughter)
Lady Burton of Coventry (L.) said that in 1958 she had pursued the question of amateurism in lawn tennis.
The Bishop of Chester said there was danger of a division between those in the top class and those who still wished to play games just for the sake of doing so. He said it is unlikely that we shall ever see again an all-rounder like Lord Desborough who can achieve excellence in a number of sporting events.
The Bishop of Lichfield, who rowed for Cambridge University in 1930, said hooliganism was not caused by the game.
Lord Ferrier (C.) said field sports received plenty of criticism, largely from people whom he regarded as ignorant and sometimes bigoted or both. He said the followers of field sports did not smash up railway trains and harm each other or anyone else.
Lady Phillips, Baroness-in-waiting, said, Lord Ferrier notwithstanding, the problem of hooliganism had been played up too much. But I am sure that you will accuse me of class consciousness, she said.
The House rose at 8:52 p.m.
IT'S A GAS
Bill Rosensohn, who a few years back was promoting Ingemar Johansson, showed up at the National Boat Show in New York a fortnight ago with a new winner, a jet-powered surfboard that packs quite a punch. Called a Motor-board, it is supposed to make surfing possible on the calmest lake or on a river and can be used by ocean surfers just like a conventional board. Rosensohn claims it will triple or quadruple an ocean surfer's wave-riding time by eliminating the need for paddling.
In 12 days Promoter Rosensohn sold 508 boards (at $450 apiece). The board, which is aluminum and operates without propellers, has a throttle to adjust speed and can be controlled from a sitting, standing or prone position. If Rosensohn could have controlled some of his partners (not to mention Ingo) with comparable versatility, he might still be in the boxing business.
In Hamilton County, Ohio, the Board of Park Commissioners was looking for a name for a new 1,010-acre park. There was a suggestion that the commissioners might call the place what the Indians once did, Moqueghke Kitchokema Wehyahpihehrsehnwah Sepe. After lengthy consideration, the commissioners chose Shawnee Lookout instead. Which seems pale-faced by comparison.
Last year the NCAA Football Rules Committee passed a controversial punt-return rule, one that had gloomy coaches in a fury of protest about possibly maimed players, ruination of the game and similar claptrap. Try it anyway, said the committee. The rule declared that only ends and backs could go down field when the ball was snapped.
The result was no maiming, no ruination and some slightly livelier football on punt return plays. In short, the coaches had been wrong. Nonetheless, the NCAA committee has now revoked its one-year rule. Presumably, all the coaches who protested the rule—in part because it made them work on an element of the game they had been able to ignore before—are pleased, but it is Penn State Coach Joe Paterno who should be listened to.
"It seems ludicrous to change a rule that has only been in effect one year," says Paterno. "We just started to learn to live with it. Why can't the NCAA make up its mind and let us play the same game two years in a row?"
Why not, indeed.
THEY SAID IT
•Christl Haas, Austrian skier, on the drug test at the Winter Olympics: "I understand that this will concern only the first three, the medal winners. Why, you would think we were a bunch of racehorses."
•Bob Ferry, Baltimore center, after a fracas with Wilt Chamberlain in a Bullet-76er game: "I threw a left hook, but I was backpedaling so fast it never got there."