WHATEVER LEWIE WANTS
Pro basketball is about to make the same mistake with Lew Alcindor that it made a decade ago with Wilt Chamberlain. George Mikan, commissioner of the ABA, says fawningly of Alcindor, "We will bend in any direction and make every effort to sign him in our league. He would be a great asset and a great leader in any community he chooses to live in." In other words, anything Lewie wants, Lewie gets.
Walter Kennedy of the NBA claims his league will not engage in a bidding war with the ABA over Alcindor. He says it won't, but the NBA's executive committee meets this coming Monday before the All-Star Game in Baltimore to discuss the Alcindor question—and more than a few NBA people feel, like Mikan, that Alcindor is worth any price or any arrangement.
Nonsense. When Chamberlain came along, the NBA owners were so atwitter with anticipation that they made it clear to Wilt and the public that he was more important than the game itself. Wilt took them at their word and has been a problem ever since, even though he is a superb athlete and a good basketball mind who should be a stupendous asset to a team. Today, a few months after joining his third NBA club, he is again embroiled in disputes with his coach and creating confusion in the team's style of play. Wilt would have been far more valuable over the years if, in the beginning, he had been offered an appropriate salary and had been treated like any other first-rate athlete. A player like Wilt—or Robertson or Bradley or Alcindor—may bring in extra fans the first time around the circuit because of his appeal as a novelty, but after that he is unimportant compared to the solid competition you must have to build a strong, continuing sports attraction.
January 13, 1969
The NBA should follow established drafting procedure, and the team that picks Alcindor should offer him a bonus and salary appropriate to his unquestioned talent—in other words, a decent, dignified proposition befitting the operation of a major sport. The ABA should do the same. If it does not, if it decides to make some insane offer and Alcindor decides to take it, well, that's just too bad—too bad for the ABA and too bad for Lew.
CAN'T BLAME HEIDI
An irritated New Yorker, a Jet fan, complained bitterly because professional football refused to waive its policy of no local televising of home games when the Jets met the Oakland Raiders in Shea Stadium for the AFL championship. "I can see the logic of blacking out regular-season home games," he said, "but this was the championship, for pete's sakes. Did they think the Jets and the Raiders wouldn't draw capacity if the game was televised? Good lord, poor old baseball televises every game of the World Series, and to huge audiences, and it still gets capacity crowds. And think of the promotional impact—imagine millions of New Yorkers watching that terrific game, actually seeing Joe Namath lead the Jets into the Super Bowl. You can't buy that kind of exposure. But no—pro football says this is the way we do it because this is the way we do it. I think the game needs a checkup. It's showing signs of hardening of the arteries."
Neither New York nor Baltimore will be blacked out for the Super Bowl, since the game will be played in Miami (which will be in the dark), and Jet and Colt fans can all sit comfortably at home watching the classic. Yet, literally thousands of them will make the trek to Miami to see their heroes live and not on TV. For example, National Airlines reported that it would be flying about 650 Jet fans from the New York area to Miami and another 400 Colt fans from Baltimore, going down Friday night and coming back Sunday night or Monday morning. Quite a tribute to pro football's appeal.
Not surprisingly, a few apprehensive followers of the game decided to go down a few days earlier in order to have time enough to get back from Havana before the kickoff.
If you're a boatman and need a sinking fund or want to float a loan (though watering stock is out), then Chesapeake Bay would appear to be the place for you. The Chesapeake National Bank of Kilmarnock, Va. has converted a 33-foot fiber-glass houseboat into a nautical bank for marine people who don't have the time or inclination to use land-bound financial institutions. The boatbank, which operates at two locations near the mouth of the Rappahannock River, provides full banking services and is designed primarily to dredge up business among watermen like oyster tongers and commercial fishermen who get paid in cash but who are at sea during normal banking hours. Deposits during the first few months of operation totaled more than a quarter of a million dollars, which may inspire a revival of the old Chesapeake Bay sport of piracy. Can't you see some freebooter throwing a line on the boatbank and towing the entire operation, deposit slips and all, to a desert island long since abandoned by Edward Teach?
The long moribund sport of tennis received a lifesaving shot in the arm last year when open competition between amateurs and professionals was finally voted in. Wimbledon's first open tournament was a stimulating affair, and the first U.S. Open at Forest Hills was a smashing success. But now tennis is in trouble again. The Town Club in Milwaukee canceled its $40,000 national open clay-court championship scheduled for next July, and the West Side Tennis Club of Forest Hills, N.Y. is talking seriously and sadly about dropping the $100,000 U.S. Open.
Despite the arguments about "registered players," the core of the U.S. Open problem is simply the distribution of the money earned from gate receipts and television. The professionals, who provide most of the glamour, lost money playing in open tournaments in 1968. They would have done better financially if they had used the time for regular stops on the pro tours. Now, the professionals want to be guaranteed a lump sum to appear.
The West Side club feels that the pros do deserve a guarantee ("If we're going to hold an open tournament, we've got to have the pros," says Charles Tucker, West Side's president). But the United States Lawn Tennis Association, which must sanction the tournaments before any amateurs or "registered" players can appear in them, currently takes a generous share of the gate. If West Side gives the pros their guarantee and at the same time pays the USLTA its traditional take, the club ends up with all the headaches of a major tournament and an impossibly short end of the stick so far as money is concerned.
The next move appears up to the USLTA. It made a significant concession a year ago when it endorsed open play. Now it may have to strengthen tennis again by accepting a lesser share of the tournament income.
This is definitely not a good age for dogs. First, the deadly Bufo marinus toad infiltrated Florida, killing or grievously sickening those dogs rash enough to bite into its poison-laden neck. Now, there is a report from Jerseyville, Ill. of a "Devil Rabbit" that is playing havoc with the town's dog population. Supposedly, the rabbit has lured at least half a dozen dogs to their death by leading them on a zigzag course through busy traffic, where the heavier, slower, less agile canines are hit and killed by speeding automobiles. The rabbit has its burrow in a small wooded area of town and is seen—by people and unfortunate dogs—most often in winter, when it has less cover to hide in.
A campaign flyer arrived in the mail proclaiming: BASEBALL NEEDS JIM RHODES FOR COMMISSIONER. It was signed, "Rhodes for Baseball Committee, John W. Brown, Chairman." Jim Rhodes is the energetic governor of Ohio who was the focus of much interest at the Republican convention in Miami last August. Obviously, he is now gunning for the job of baseball commissioner.
Or is he? Turns out the campaign is a hoax rising from a tongue-in-cheek column by Ben Hayes in the Columbus Citizen-Journal, who suggested that Lieutenant Governor John W. Brown, an avid baseball fan, was keenly interested in getting Rhodes the commissioner's job—since that would leave the governor's chair open for Brown.
So it was all a joke. Except that, joke or no joke, a lot of people think it's a sound idea and that Rhodes may be precisely the man baseball is looking for.
THE OLD ONE-TWO-THREE
Coaches always complain, or boast, about tough schedules, whether they are really tough or not, but Lou Carnesecca, basketball coach at St. John's in New York, had a streak of games at the turn of the year that justified any complaint, or boast. In the semifinals of Madison Square Garden's Holiday Festival tournament, Carnesecca's Redmen played North Carolina, ranked No. 2 in the nation. They beat the Tar Heels, which gave them the privilege of going against UCLA, No. 1 in the nation, in the finals. They were whomped by the Uclans. Still groggy, they resumed their regular schedule a few days later against Davidson, No. 3 in the nation. They won, by a single point in overtime. "All David had to do," said Carnesecca, proudly, "was meet one Goliath."
The Western Hockey League, which has teams in both the U.S. and Canada, may become a three-nation affair if a proposal to add Mexico City is approved at a league meeting later on this month. Bob Whitlow, onetime athletic director for the Chicago Cubs and now president of the WHL's Phoenix Roadrunners, has investigated Mexico City and reports keen interest there. A couple of facilities seating 20,000-plus are reportedly available—one a building left over from the Olympics and the other a privately owned bullring, which is to be roofed and equipped with a portable floor for hockey.
"The Mexicans' love of contact sport should make hockey a natural," Whitlow argues. Which contact sport? Except for boxing, which, admittedly, is professional hockey without sticks and puck, and soccer, which isn't supposed to be, only one Mexican contact sport comes to mind, and it is hard to envisage the WHL putting ice skates on bulls.
MOTHER OF COACHES
The abundance of football coaches coming out of Miami (Ohio) University has long been a source of wonder. The latest to crack the big time is Glenn (Bo) Schembechler, who took over as head coach at Michigan when Bump Elliott moved up to become associate athletic director. Schembechler's predecessor at Miami was John Pont, who moved to Yale and is now at Indiana. Pont's predecessor was Ara Parseghian, who went to Northwestern and then to Notre Dame. Before Parseghian, Miami had Woody Hayes, who shifted to Ohio State. Earlier, Miami had Sid Gillman, who went to the University of Cincinnati, the Los Angeles Rams and, now, the San Diego Chargers. Other Miami alumni include Paul Brown, Weeb Ewbank and Paul Dietzel and—to switch to another sport—Walter Alston. Miami will be naming its new head coach in the near future. We suggest you keep an eye on him.
THEY SAID IT
•Don Maynard, New York Jets flanker, on his physical condition after the Jets had defeated the Oakland Raiders to win the AFL championship and the right to play in the Super Bowl: "I've been hurting for three weeks. I hurt all over. I hurt so bad, the average man would be in traction."
•Paul Christman, TV announcer who once played for Green Bay: "Every player ought to play one season in Green Bay and learn what it is to be appreciated. A player can do no wrong. There isn't a boo in the house. Every other city in America will hang you in two weeks if you're losing."