THE SKY'S THE LIMIT
The cost of building and maintaining municipal stadiums has become increasingly exorbitant, and the misleading information being given taxpayers about construction financing can only cause anger and suspicion.
Eighteen months ago the citizens of Louisiana approved a constitutional amendment authorizing a hotel-motel tax to pay for a new $35-million stadium in New Orleans. The voters were assured that no other state taxes or backing would be needed to complete the project. It all sounded big league and glorious. However, the ground has not yet been broken, and the estimated cost of the complex has already risen to $95 million, up $60 million.
The Louisiana legislature is now being asked to guarantee a $95-million bond issue to pay for the project. Since stadiums almost always lose money (events at St. Louis' Busch Memorial Stadium drew 3.1 million people last year, more than anywhere else in the U.S., but the stadium lost $1.2 million), the state, in effect, is being asked to finance the New Orleans complex. If it agrees to back the necessary bond issue and pays what seems reasonable—5½% over 30 years—the bond payment due annually would be almost $7 million. This would mean that over 30 years the cost of the stadium to the state would be approximately $200 million.
A similar, but less extreme, situation exists in Kansas City, Mo. Last June voters were asked to approve a $43-million bond issue to finance the building of twin football and baseball stadiums. They were shown a scale model of a complex that had a rollaway roof right out of science fiction. The bond issue passed, but now it seems there will be no roof. The two stadiums—plus land, parking facilities and access roads—will cost more than $43 million. Putting on the roof would add an additional $8 to $10 million. Skeptics—or perhaps realists—are saying the city may find itself with only enough money for one stadium.
Because the feasibility studies on income were so grossly optimistic, the public in Anaheim, Calif. is having to shell out an additional half-million dollars a year to meet the debts falling due on the ball park.
The Washington stadium has lost $6 million in its seven years, forcing the District of Columbia government to appeal annually for advances from the Federal Government to meet the stadium's debts. The real rub will come in 1970 when the first of the $19.8 million worth of bonds must be retired. If losses continue, which seems inevitable, there will not be a cent available to meet the payments, and the stadium board probably will have to appeal to Congress for an outright grant of taxpayers' money.
None of which is doing sport any good. New venues, new stadiums, new leagues are all wonderful things—but not when they leave the citizens of a community feeling gulled.
There is a tradition in baseball that servicemen in uniform are allowed into most games free or at reduced rates. But the Athletics' Charlie Finley says this is not his policy. He has notified the many military installations in the Bay Area that servicemen must pay the full price if they wish to attend Oakland games. Since just 4,062 people paid to watch the A's the day following Catfish Hunter's perfect game, it would seem Mr. Finley had room.
Midpeninsula Free University near San Francisco was founded to add a new dimension to the education of students at colleges like Stanford and San Jose State. At the Free University anyone can be a teacher—you just advertise a course and get yourself a class. There is a seminar, for instance, in The Art of Giving Away Bread. There are courses to get rid of hang-ups, i.e., the People Heat seminar and Advanced Group Loving. And finally the school offers mystical courses, one of which is Zen Basketball. It is played like the regular game. The difference is all mental. While the game is in progress the participants must have a consciousness of spiritual discipline. "You do not play to win," Robb Crist, executive director of the school explains. "You play to get calm, to keep track of yourself, to keep your consciousness. It's like taking acid." So far the school has played only intramural games.
A BLOT ON THE RECORD
Study the inkblot. Of the following, which is the best description: a bat, a storm cloud, an X ray, fire and smoke, a butterfly, a vertebra, a dirty mess, a coat of arms, a moth, a stomach?
This inkblot is typical of those that have been shown to sports car drivers by Dr. Rita Wetzel, a Kansas City psychologist, who has been studying the personality traits of race drivers. "An individual can often respond to direct questions with some idea of the right answer," Dr. Wetzel explains, "but it is hard to manipulate an inkblot test."
More than 100 drivers, half of whom have competed at Sebring, were presented with three groups of 10 descriptive designations. In each group they were asked to check the designation that seemed to offer the best description of the inkblot. If a driver said it reminded him of an X ray, a vertebra or the stomach, this indicates, according to Dr. Wetzel, a high degree of anxiety. If he said it appeared to be a storm cloud, this indicates the man is daring. Choosing a coat of arms as the best description would suggest the driver was self-assured. If he saw fire and smoke, this would suggest a lack of emotional control. If he saw the blot as a dirty mess, this might mean he has a death urge. Choosing descriptions such as a bat or a butterfly indicate conventionality. The man who saw nothing at all in the blot is supposedly socially insecure.
Drivers as a group, when compared with the general public, show a high degree of control over their emotions, a low degree of anxiety and a high tolerance of frustration. "The publicly held stereotype of the racing driver as an individual frequently unshaven and apt to be unconventional and defiant of society is wrong," Dr. Wetzel declares. "We have learned that he is more apt to be a rather dapper person who respects the rules of society and channels his aggressive tendencies into competition."
Or else he is a person who can second-guess an inkblot test.
ON THE MARK
A new kind of starting device has been developed that is giving runners as much as a two-tenths of a second advantage in the first 15 feet of a race and may have an effect on world records in short events. The new blocks—designed by Lloyd Kolker, a graduate student and assistant track coach at South Dakota State—are made of heavy steel and have a hand grip attached to them. They enable a sprinter to begin a race with his feet just behind the starting line and his head and part of his body over the line. "What makes the blocks so great," one member of the SD State team says, "is that you are already leaning forward and are nearly upright when you come out of the blocks. You avoid choppy steps at the start of a race. The first step is full length."
The blocks were barred by officials at the Kansas Relays, but later, at the Drake Relays, the SD State team was permitted to use them. The referee at the Drake meet said he could find nothing in the rules forbidding them.
HAVING HIS HEAD EXAMINED
A court in Britain suggested recently that a man have a brain operation to cure him of compulsive gambling. Eric Edward Wills, a 21-year-old ice cream salesman, was found guilty of stealing $64 from a gas meter and obtaining another $96 on false pretenses in order to satisfy his betting urge. A psychiatrist testified that Mr. Wills had a psychopathic disorder that could be remedied by surgery. Wills had not responded to shock treatments, the doctor said, and a leucotomy was the last hope.
Wills and his parents consented to the operation, and, instead of sending Wills to prison, the judge committed him to Winwick Hospital in Warrington, Lancashire. However, neurosurgeons now appear reluctant to operate. "Most psychiatrists know very little about the state of mind of the compulsive gambler," one doctor explained. "Leucotomy tends to make the patient uninhibited. If he has an antisocial tendency like extreme gambling, it might possibly even be increased."
How much would it be worth to change Dan Gurney's tires in an actual race? A job as pitman for Gurney at the U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen will be sold at a charity auction on May 21 at New York's Cheetah discoth√®que. The buyer is also promised an honorary membership in Dan's Eagle Club, a dark blue nylon racing jacket, a pair of Gurney's Grand Prix gloves and the loan of a Mercury for a week. The race is to be held early next October. If all that doesn't make him feel one of the crew, maybe the grease will.
The Syracuse Nationals never had great talent, and their style of play was something born out of the school yards, the give-and-take Eastern style. But the club, which only managed to win one NBA title in 14 years, played smart, interesting ball and now, it seems, has produced more coaches than any other basketball team in history. Nine Nats have coached in the NBA—Al Cervi (San Francisco), Fuzzy Levane (St. Louis, New York), Red Rocha (Detroit), Fred Scolari (Baltimore), Dolph Schayes (Philadelphia), Johnny Kerr (Chicago, Phoenix), Larry Costello (Milwaukee), Al Bianchi (Seattle) and Alex Hannum (San Francisco, St. Louis, Philadelphia). And at least three others—Ed Conlin, Bob Harrison and George King—are coaching college teams.
The man responsible for the extraordinary success of Nats as coaches is Danny Biasone, who owned the club and served as a self-appointed assistant coach. "We would sit for hours," Hannum reminisced last week, "discussing why a certain play or a certain shot didn't work, and Danny would come up with percentage figures that he kept in some recess of his mind. We often rode trains in those days, and Danny would ask the guys to come into the dining car for a cup of coffee. He liked it because the tables were for four and he could get three players around him. We destroyed a lot of railroad tablecloths and kept a lot of dining-car stewards overtime."
Biasone is still living in Syracuse. He has had eye trouble recently, but he keeps track of his old players. "I'm tickled to see so many of my boys get jobs," he says. "I can sit back and say, 'O.K., boys, now you're on your own.' "
To that list of sporting maladies—tennis elbow, surfer's knobs, football knees—you now can add baseball feet. The senior team physician for the Houston Astros, Dr. Joe King, told a recent meeting of the Texas Orthopedic Association that a study he had made of the feet of 50 players in the Houston organization showed that 47 of them had some kind of bone abnormality. In only one case did these abnormalities cause pain, Dr. King said. There was no evidence that the abnormalities—37 men had them in both feet—interfered with performance. Most often, Dr. King said, the ballplayers had developed bony bumps on the ankle joint. A number of players also had small spurs or loose bits of bone in their feet.
The abnormalities increase as the baseball player grows older. Dr. King says, "This could be why he slows down and cannot perform at 35 the same way he did at 22."
Well, that may be one reason why.
THEY SAID IT
•Jack Nicklaus on why he has turned down an invitation to this week's Colonial National tournament: "Colonial is not my kind of course. I have to lay up too often."
•Jim Finks, Minnesota general manager, on the self-confidence of Mike Freeman, the Vikings' 169-pound rookie defensive back: "Before he signed he insisted on extra pay in case he made All-Pro his first year."