This is an article from the June 17, 1968 issue
The murder of Senator Kennedy is leading to an intense reexamination of our society, of which sport is an important segment; it gives form and substance, generally for the better, to much in American life, and there is no reason why it should escape scrutiny.
Young people are the most vocal in their dissatisfaction with the times. If sport should provide youth with ideals—and the late Senator believed that it certainly should—flagrant materialism must not be allowed to dominate it. Last week the British soccer star, Danny Blanch-flower, called sport "a wonderfully democratic thing, one of the few honorable battlefields left" (SI, June 10), but he also said commercialism was distorting the world's most popular game.
Elsewhere, is there reason to believe that some of the ills plaguing urban America have come from destruction of the natural environment? Have countless Americans become alienated from the real, living world by misdirected technological "progress"? These are questions that have been, and will continue to be, of deep concern to this magazine.
But grimmest and most urgent of the issues is the racial crisis that racks the nation and is believed by many to be at the root of the violence that is causing so much grief and shame. Sport was one of the very first areas of society to offer the American Negro recognition, respect and economic advantage. But are Negroes treated with more fairness in sport than in society at large? Have the achievements of Negro athletes been beneficial to Negroes as a whole? Have sports drawn the races together, or have they made Negroes feel exploited? These and related questions will be answered next month in this magazine in a thorough—and startling—survey.
The Kentucky State Racing Commission was supposed to start open hearings this week on the Derby drugging of Dancer's Image. Now the Franklin Circuit Court has ordered a delay, and the hearings may not start until mid-July. Without wishing to interfere with the legal rights of any party to this case, we feel impelled to reiterate that the state of Kentucky is under an overwhelming obligation to the racing public to determine promptly just what did happen. If hearings are to be delayed and delayed the impression will grow that this Derby scandal is being swept under the rug. As one member of the able Kentucky State Racing Commission says, "the situation, as it stands now, is intolerable. The longer this goes on the worse it is for racing."
THE THREE-YEAR ITCH
If all goes as Wilt Chamberlain hopes, it is likely that he will play next year for a West Coast team—possibly the Lakers or, if not Los Angeles, then perhaps the Seattle SuperSonics. Chamberlain wants to leave Philadelphia, and as early as March 1967 he used an intermediary to inform Owner Jack Kent Cooke that he was interested in coming to Los Angeles. Wilt's family lives there, and it is a close-knit group, made even closer, perhaps, because Wilt's father has been recuperating from a serious illness. Chamberlain wants to play on the Coast so badly that he might threaten to open negotiations with the L.A. Stars of the ABA if the 76ers cannot make a good deal for him. He has long claimed his contract has no reserve clause in it.
A close contact of Wilt's maintains that the $200,000-plus superstar has been personally in touch with Cooke. The owner emphatically denies this, but he does say he sees no reason why Wilt, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West could not all work together on the same team. In any case, Cooke is "unequivocal" in declaring that neither West nor Baylor will ever be traded from the Lakers. Therefore, if either the Lakers or Seattle gets Wilt, the 76ers must settle for lesser players and draft choices in return.
The 76ers may not care. For the first time team officials have shown some dissatisfaction with their sensitive star. Owner Irv Kosloff, a shy and unobtrusive man, acknowledged that he was hurt when Wilt charged he extended negotiations "because it puts his name in the paper." General Manager Jack Ramsay, admitting overtures have been made toward Wilt, says the team just cannot afford to pay him any more money.
It is an old truth that Chamberlain is always worth more to everyone, himself included, if he does not stay too long in the same place. Three years per team has been his history—three years at Kansas, three years with the Philadelphia Warriors, the San Francisco Warriors, the 76ers. Three years is up again, and Wilt appears on the move.
Taking his work home has made life on the farm easier for Joe Prieve of Wellborn, Texas. Prieve is the groundskeeper of the student golf course at Texas A & M, and the old, worn-out balls he picks up there are put to work on his farm keeping snakes from eating up chicken eggs. Snakes love eggs. They gulp them whole and crush them internally. Prieve sets out clutches of old golf balls around the farm, and the snake that mistakes them for eggs dies of indigestion. "One ball will usually get them," Prieve says, "but we opened a six-foot chicken snake and found four golf balls in him."
A recent report had it that Prieve planted balls on the A & M course to which rattlesnakes fell victim. He denies this, saying, "In the first place, rattlers are pretty rare in this part of the state. In the second place, if we laid out golf balls, A & M students would steal them before the rattlers did."
The finest American gymnast of all time, Makoto Sakamoto of Southern Cal, has decided to skip the Olympics in Mexico City this October. Sakamoto, who was born in Japan and came to the U.S. when he was 8, says his decision is not, "absolutely not," political. Instead, he says his reasons for passing up the 1968 Olympics are twofold. For one, he does not believe he is good enough to win. "I don't have a chance," he says. "Maybe if I was 100% perfect and had all the luck, maybe at best I could win a bronze medal. Probably sixth would be more like it." For another, Sakamoto is scheduled to go to Waseda University in Japan this September as an exchange student, and he figures—rightly so—that a year of competing against the Japanese, the best gymnasts anywhere, will help him reach genuine world ranking. "I don't want to be just another American gymnast," he says. "I want to be world class. I had to make a choice—go to the Olympics and remain a mediocre gymnast or go to Japan to become a superior one."
Now 21, Sakamoto figures he will reach his peak at 25, which would make the 1972 Olympics in Munich just right. Sakamoto is no spoiled athlete with a cushy job. This summer he is clerking in a hardware store from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and afterward he works out in the gym until 10. He will have to pay his own expenses, including travel and tuition, to attend Waseda, but he thinks the year there will be worth it. Yet Sakamoto is a somewhat angry young man. He says that several American Olympic and AAU officials have told him that if he goes to Waseda instead of Mexico City, he can forget about competing when he returns. "I want my individual freedom," Sakamoto says. "I will fight for my ideal of becoming a truly great gymnast."
A FIX FOR STICKS
Lacrosse enthusiasts like to boast that theirs is the fastest-growing sport around. But last week the lacrosse boom came to a sizzling stop—the factory that makes 97% of the lacrosse sticks in the world burned down. Until the fire, the Chisholm Lacrosse Manufacturing Company near Cornwall, Ont. had been doing a rush business, with production this year slated for a record 72,000 sticks, 22,000 more than last year.
Not everyone can make lacrosse sticks, which retail at from $5 to $17.50. The Chisholm company's 75 employees are all Mohawk Indians, mostly descendants of stickmakers. The sticks are made from select hickory, so select indeed that Colin Chisholm, the company founder, traveled 15,000 miles a year looking over wood. Back at the factory, the Mohawks set to with electric drills and Sanders, but even with such modern gadgets it still took a year to cure and bend the sticks in proper fashion.
There was a stick shortage before the fire. In Canada an estimated 25,000 youngsters took up lacrosse this spring, and many had been playing without sticks of their own. Unless the plant can get back into production soon—a highly unlikely event since it was uninsured—there will be a shortage of 3,000 to 4,000 sticks just in Ontario alone. Earlier this year a Canadian sent a stick to Japan with the hope that manufacturers there would come up with a plastic or fiber-glass substitute. So far nothing has come of this but, after all, the enterprising Japanese are famous for their sticktoitiveness. Rots of ruck, racrosse.
THERE GOES THE JUDGE
Dallas and Fort Worth residents are raising hell about Judge Roy Hofheinz, owner of the Houston Astros. They accuse the judge of having blocked the award of a National League franchise to Dallas-Fort Worth because he doesn't want any competition in Texas.
Phone calls and letters to the newspapers have been fierce. Wrote one reader to The Dallas Times Herald: "A louse that will turn down his home state for a foreign country is not deserving of the people of north Texas. I hope he gets a lot of compassion from the people of Montreal." Another reader promised Hofheinz: "Two million Texans won't soon forget your actions." When a Fort Worth TV station carried a Houston-St. Louis game instead of a scheduled Boston-Detroit game, which was delayed by rain, 60 viewers called to complain within the first few minutes.
At Turnpike Stadium, the public-address announcer for the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs in the Texas League gives all scores, except Houston's. Toppo the Clown, a Dallas entertainer, is circulating petitions calling for a boycott of the Hofheinz entertainment empire, including the $16 million Astroworld. The Dallas Times Herald ran a dart-board caricature of Hofheinz, and a note to the side read, "Coming soon, a Judge Roy effigy doll."
Trying to beat the horses can be a heart-pounding game, and so, perhaps fittingly, cardiovascular fitness specialist Eric Banister, a professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, thinks he has the system. He is checking the heartbeats of a couple of Thoroughbreds and a rodeo horse while they walk, trot and gallop in a test paddock.
According to the professor the physiology of man and horse is similar. If it is possible to determine when a human runner is at a peak by checking his heartbeat, well, the same thing should apply to a horse. In an effort to produce winners, Professor Banister reasons, horse trainers may have relied too much on bloodlines and not concentrated enough on rigorous training. "I question whether we have really explored the full potential of the horse," he says. "I want to find out what happens when you take a racehorse and train it hard as we do today's leading athletes." Thus the professor is toying with the idea of getting a horse to run 100 miles a week in training, as top human runners do, instead of the average 12 miles. In short, he would like to train superhorses, which should, in theory at least, "make existing track records abysmally high."
Ideally, Professor Banister would like to experiment with twin foals, one to be raced after conventional training, the other after the Banister method. "All I need is some millionaire to decide to spend a little on scientific research," he says. "People say, what do I know about it? And they're right. I'm just a neophyte, an outsider, but all I'm trying to do is take a fresh look."
THEY SAID IT
•Steve Stonebreaker, New Orleans Saints' linebacker, on how the Houston Oilers can defeat the Dallas Cowboys in their preseason game in the Astrodome: "Simply turn up the air conditioning to 13° below."