A MATTER OF CONCERN
The football game between the Leones of Detroit and the Aguilas of Philadelphia, scheduled for Mexico City last Sunday, died of an excess of success. When the game was proposed people thought it might draw, at most, 40,000, even though the Dallas Cowboys have been indoctrinating the Mexicans in the joys of pro football via television for a year. In fact, the hero of the young people in Mexico City is now Don Meredith, and on vacant lots soccer balls have given way to footballs. By last Thursday 65,000 tickets had been sold to the exhibition game.
Then Ricardo Medrano, the general manager of the Federal District Football Association, announced that "due to circumstances beyond our control, we feel that it would be inadvisable to stage the game at this time."
The circumstances were these: 1) on July 26 students staged riots in Mexico City protesting police brutality, the demonstrators were put down by the army; 2) the students claimed as many as 86 people were killed, the government said none were; 3) last Friday the students went on strike, demanding that certain police officials be fired and riot police be disbanded; 4) an estimated 20,000 students had bought five-peso (40¢) tickets to the Lions-Eagles game, since most of them are pro-football fans.
August 18, 1968
This concentration of students in one place would have required a large commitment of Mexican police and militia at Aztec Stadium, and it was feared their presence would have irritated the students and probably incited further disorders. At the same time, the rest of Mexico City would have been stripped of police protection, inviting trouble elsewhere. Rioting at the stadium, had it occurred, would have been visible throughout the U.S. on CBS-TV and might have resulted in a sharp decline in sales of tickets for the Olympic Games and cancellation of hotel reservations and ticket sales already made.
Probably Mexican officials were right in calling off the game. But one wonders, if student unrest continues, how they will handle the much larger problem of the Olympics, with its many venues and its heterogeneous personnel. ¬øQuién sabe?
LIKING THE GAME
Take heart, Mrs. Robinson, and shame on you Simon and Garfunkel, Joe DiMaggio hasn't gone away. When Joltin' Joe became a batting coach of the Athletics the move was considered by some people to be a one-season public-relations coup that would have the added advantage of qualifying DiMaggio for a higher pension. But now Joe is apparently enjoying his return to baseball and his coaching success so much that he may remain in uniform. Oakland will be glad to have him. In an era of collapsing batting averages the A's are hitting .241 now compared with .233 last year.
IN THE DRIVER'S SEAT
Rumor has it that when New Orleans' Kevin Hardy was sent to San Francisco to compensate the 49ers for their loss of Dave Parks, Hardy demanded an extra bonus before reporting. (He had picked up $50,000 earlier as the Saints' No. 1 draft choice.) Just how much Hardy received from the 49ers probably never will be known, but he did get considerable mileage out of the switch to San Francisco.
When he arrived in town he was told to get a car, drive it to the Santa Barbara camp about 250 miles away and send the bill to the club. Hardy rented the car all right, but he used it for a week before finding the right road south. Presumably he has an easier time finding his way around a 100-yard field.
There was a time when "Made in Japan" was the mark of a bush-league product, but Sony and Nikon changed all that and now it looks like a new baseball, manufactured by Japan's largest sporting-goods firm, may be big-league equipment. The ball has a wool, rubber and cork interior similar to regulation balls but is covered with artificial horse-hide instead of the real thing.
In official tests conducted by the Japanese Baseball Commissioner's office the ball, called the Hitelac, has satisfied weight, size and bounce regulations. At present it is being used only by minor league clubs, but there is an excellent chance it will be approved for use in Japan's major league games next season, because it is cheaper than the horsehide ball ($1.16 compared to $1.40) and lasts twice as long. Teams use an average of five dozen balls in each game, so the new ball would constitute a considerable saving. The manufacturer says that when the ball is put into mass production it will be even more economical, costing $1 or less.
Apparently there is only one flaw in the Hitelac. Pitchers find its cover a bit too slippery for good control. The manufacturer is now experimenting with rougher surfaces and expects to lick the problem in a month or two. If he doesn't, perhaps the pitchers can.
Television networks have become terribly defensive—with good reason—about their increasing tendency to take over sports and schedule things to suit their cameras, so ABC decided it could only be cute and hope for the best when it formally announced last week that it had yanked the Syracuse-Penn State game out of its comfortable October date and thrust it into snowbound December. "Television can't be blamed for everything," began an ABC release. "The main reason the Syracuse-Penn State game is now scheduled for December 7 instead of October 19 is that Sue Paterno, wife of Joe Paterno, Penn State coach, is going to have a baby some time in October." The release went on to explain that Mrs. Paterno had called Roone Arledge, the president of ABC Sports, and told him to change the game to December 7 because doctors predicted her baby would be born on October 19 and she didn't want to miss the Penn State-Syracuse game. It's her favorite contest each season. Arledge reportedly agreed, and the release quotes Mrs. Paterno as saying: "You see, the sports-writers cannot blame television for this."
The depth of ABC's tongue in cheek was, of course, confirmed by Syracuse sports information man Larry Kimball. "As far as the baby's concerned, that's a lot of nonsense," he said. "ABC had something scheduled for October 19 [four regional games—Northwestern-Ohio State, North Texas State-Tulsa, Alabama-Tennessee and Utah-Wyoming], and they had nothing on December 7. So they switched it."
Sue Paterno laughingly points out that the date of the Penn State-Syracuse game was actually changed by the network before anyone knew she was pregnant. "It's all a joke," she says.
It's a real knee-slapper, all right, and we have one of our own. Here it is, the afternoon of December 7 in University Park, Pa., where Joe Paterno's undefeated Penn State team, ranked No. 1 in the country, need only defeat Syracuse to win its first national championship. The temperature is 20°, thick snow swirls across the field and the vaunted Penn State running attack grinds to a halt as Syracuse wins 6-0 in the upset of the year.
Don't look so worried, Joe. It's all a joke.
Perhaps it was Mao Tse-tung's well-publicized swim, but whatever the incentive a group of men in Canton began practicing daily in a local pool. They progressed from 10 pool lengths nonstop to 20, to 50, and their swimming feats became the talk of the city. Eventually even the police got interested. Why swim so far, they wondered, when the Chinese have no Olympic team? Hmmm. Hmmm. Could it be that the men were training for the great swim out of China to Hong Kong, which is about 90 miles down the Pearl River?
That may seem a hasty conclusion—90 miles is equivalent to 2,899 laps in an Olympic-size pool—but the military is now patrolling swimming pools along the southern coast of China and discouraging marathon trainees. Perhaps jogging will be the next fad.
Broadcasting magazine has published its annual survey of what the industry pays for radio and TV coverage of football games. As usual, the figures are record-breaking—$38.9 million to the 26 professional teams, $15.8 million to 120 major colleges and a total of $54.7 million paid in all. But to put these figures in real perspective they should be compared with those of the past five years.
In 1963 the industry spent a total of $13.9 million, in 1964 $27.3 million, in 1965 $34.4 million, in 1966 $41.1 million and in 1967 $45.5 million. This year's increase to $54.7 million is therefore the largest in four years.
The cost of carrying NFL games has gone from $4.8 million in 1963 to $25.2 million. Similarly the NFL Championship was sold for $926,000 five years ago; this year it went for $2 million. NCAA football has gone from $5.1 million to $10.2 million. The Rose Bowl's value has risen spectacularly—from $125,000 to $1.2 million. And in the same period the AFL, which was in the process of establishing itself, has increased its annual packet from $1.9 million to $9 million.
To compensate for the added cost, the networks have raised the price of advertising—from $85 million in 1963 to $107 million in 1968. However, this is only a 26% increase compared with almost 300% for the broadcasting rights.
Is the spiral going to continue ever upward? Probably not. There is a feeling in television that the advertising dollar has been stretched to the maximum—how many sponsors can stand the $150,000-a-minute charge CBS demanded in the Super Bowl? And the viewer may have reached his saturation point. In one average midseason week in 1963 he could watch two games. This October he can tune in on at least four. In 1969, when new pro football contracts must be negotiated, there could well be a leveling off.
Just how much of an obstacle course can a salmon run to its spawning grounds? With the building of increasing numbers of dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers, the Chinook apparently have lost their lust for the climb. The opening of the John Day Dam in April brought the number of major barriers that the salmon must hurdle to six. They now must climb more than a mile of fish ladders to reach the areas where they reproduce.
Since the completion of the new dam, the Oregon Fish Commission has kept a close watch on the number of Chinook successfully making the climb. Of the 75,000 fish counted passing the first dam on the river, slightly more than half have made it over the John Day, which is located about 65 miles upstream, and only 30% have reached the major spawning grounds in the Snake River. The commission estimates that half the summer run will not be able to reproduce.
The new dam has not created a new problem, but it is severely aggravating the one that already existed. Besides adding a hurdle, it is increasing the nitrogen in the river, causing the death of hundreds offish. The water going over the dam absorbs a large amount of nitrogen under the force of impact with the water below. If the reaction to the nitrogen is acute enough, gas bubbles form in the Chinook's blood and it is subject to something like the bends experienced by deep-sea divers.
Researchers are now talking about transporting the Chinook around dams to avoid the spillways. That seems like an awkward and temporary solution. They might think about digging a river for the fish parallel to the Columbia.
THEY SAID IT
•Leo Durocher, Chicago Cub manager, on his 62nd birthday: "I wish I could go back, but I can't."
•Eddie Stanky, explaining his dismissal as White Sox manager: "I was in ninth place when I left. Very few managers can remain when they're in ninth place unless they can tell a lot of jokes. And I can't tell a lot of jokes."