WAY UP YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS
Plans for a New Orleans domed stadium have collapsed. Judge Oliver Carriere has ruled that the stadium's lease agreement with the state is "illegal and unconstitutional," a decision that may have been influenced by the staggering cost of the project. When Louisiana voters approved the dome idea in 1966, the estimated cost was $35 million, a wad in itself. By the time things got to the go-ahead stage, the estimate had soared to $93.5 million, with overall costs, including interest and amortization over a 35-year period, totaling $231 million, or an imposing $6.6 million a year.
Theoretically, a new hotel-motel tax and income from stadium events would take care of the $6.6 million, but financial advisors cautioned that projected earnings frequently are not realized. The state, meaning the taxpayers, would have to make up any shortage. Opposition to the dome began to grow.
Judge Carriere's ruling is being appealed to the State Supreme Court. If the ruling is upheld, it is hard to see how plans for the domed stadium can ever be revived.
BIG STEP FORWARD
Prerace testing of horses (SCORECARD, Feb. 10), which has been conducted on an experimental basis in Ohio for the past three years, was made mandatory last week by the Ohio Racing Commission, although for the time being testing will be done only at Scioto Downs and Northfield Park, two harness racing tracks where facilities are available. Blood samples of all entries in each race will be examined and any animal showing a positive reaction will be scratched. While postrace urine tests will continue to be made on winners and certain other starters, the prerace tests should all but eliminate drugging scandals.
One problem remains. Standardbreds—harness horses—have undergone most of the actual prerace testing. Some trainers—and particularly those handling Thoroughbreds—argue that their animals are too high-strung to be subjected to the ordeal of having a blood sample taken before a race. But is the careful, scientific extraction of a small sample of blood from the animal's neck really that upsetting? To put it another way, would it be more disturbing to the horse than the Dancer's Image case has been to American racing?
MUMS THE WORD
If you are a football fan and are from Nebraska and like gardening, here is a three-way parlay that sounds like a natural for you: the 1969 spring catalog of the Rocknoll Nursery in Morrow, Ohio is pushing a selection of chrysanthemums called "football mums" that includes varieties named Cheerleader, Cornhusker, Head Coach, Line Coach, Quarterback, Stadium Queen and Nebraska Centennial. Our favorite is Head Coach, described in the catalog as "early deep authoritative purple."
In recent years the state of Washington's Department of Fisheries has required salmon sports fishermen to carry punch cards on which to record their catches. It is not a licensing procedure but simply an effort to obtain a valid count of the number of salmon taken each year by sportsmen.
The cards on the 1968 catch are all in, and the fisheries biologists have again learned a lot—not so much about salmon as about the fishermen. Some of the lucky anglers sent in copies of well-punched cards with notations like: "Would appreciate it if you would accept this facsimile of my salmon card. I'm having the original framed."
More pungent comments have come from the losers. One unpunched card had written on it a checked-off grocery list with the notation: "This is what we ate instead of the fish we didn't catch." A disgruntled sportsman drew a red arrow to the single punch on his card and wrote, "This little hole cost me $17.50. Who says there is no legalized gambling in Washington?" Another fisherman scribbled, "Total cost of 10 pounds of salmon: $150. The Russians have got all the fish." One asked the Department of Fisheries, plaintively, "Can you recommend where I should fish? I'd really like to punch these holes."
And one wrote, simply, "Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.' "
Don't know where Philadelphia got the reputation for being so quiet. Now there is a contretemps going on in that town over the promotional devices being used at 76er basketball games. Pat Williams, business manager and director of promotion, has come up with things like Blind Date Night, Victor the Rasslin' Bear Night, Wally Jones Valentine Birthday Party Night, Earl the Pearl Night and Think Mink Night.
"It stinks," sneers Eddie Gottlieb, the onetime mahatma of pro basketball in Philadelphia. "The whole thing stinks. This stuff isn't necessary. An occasional promotion is O.K. But a doubleheader plus bears, plus alligators? Who needs it?"
One promotion—Blind Date Night—bombed; 60 single people bought tickets to sit in a special section, but only four were girls. Undaunted, Williams countered with Victor, who was billed as "the kind of rebounder the 76ers need." Victor—6 feet, 500 pounds—wrestled six volunteers and beat five. When Earl Monroe played at the Spectrum, Williams gave every lady in the crowd a pearl necklace. On Think Mink Night, he gave away a mink coat. Richie Allen, the Phillies' slugger, appeared with his swinging group, the Ebonistics. A week's vacation in Florida was given away, a new car, a color TV.
"Look, don't get me wrong," says Williams. "I'm not a booking agent for wrestling bears. But it's like the lady who buys meat at the butcher's, and the butcher tosses in a bone for her dog. She's going to go back to that butcher."
Gottlieb is unimpressed. "You take the history of any sport," he argues. "You'll find winners can draw without this stuff, and losers can't draw with it. He'll tell me it helped Bill Veeck. Well, it didn't help Veeck enough to keep that team in St. Louis. There's no substitute for winning."
Williams, a Pat Boone type who came to the 76ers from Spartanburg, S.C., says, "They told me this stuff was corny, that it would never work in Philadelphia. Well, to me the most beautiful sound in an arena, next to people cheering for the home team, is laughter. This whole thing is designed to make 76er fans happy. When people are rolling in the aisles at the bear and applauding Richie Allen, I get a lump in my throat."
THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING???
The U.S. and the Soviet Union may meet in track and field again this year. Their annual dual meet, which began in 1958, was abruptly terminated in 1966 when the U.S.S.R. pulled out because of "American aggression in Vietnam." That year a hastily prepared competition between the U.S. and the British Commonwealth was thrown together as a substitute, and it has become an annual affair. The Russians have indicated that they would like to take part in this year's U.S.-Commonwealth encounter, which is scheduled for July in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
The Russian bid has created some interesting complexities. The Los Angeles Times, which heretofore has sponsored the meets, took a $200,000 bath in 1966 when the U.S.S.R. reneged. The Russians supposedly promised to give the Times a consoling $100,000, but no payment has been forthcoming. When the Times heard that the fickle Russians wanted in again this year, the paper, snatching its hand away like the once-burned child, announced it was withdrawing as sponsor.
Into the breach leaped a group called the Los Angeles 1976 Olympic Committee, which is trying to obtain the Olympic Games for Southern California. Unworried by the on-again-off-again Russians, the 1976 committee eagerly grabbed the opportunity to run a big international meet in Los Angeles, figuring that it could only help its chances of getting the Olympics.
Not quite so starry-eyed is CBS, which will televise the competition. CBS says it will pay $115,000 for TV rights if the Russians appear. If they don't, the ante drops to $55,000.
All clear? And the State Department thinks it has troubles.
NEW LOOK IN ODDS
According to Jimmy the Greek, the Las Vegas oddsmaker, the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants will play off for the National League pennant next fall, while in the American League the Detroit Tigers will meet—guess who?—the Oakland Athletics!
Odds for all clubs are:
Allen Brenner, captain of Michigan State's football team, was honored at a dinner in Cincinnati for his prowess as athlete and scholar (a 3.7 average in prelaw). In his acceptance speech, Brenner bowled over his audience with the following comments:
"Playing college football is becoming a delusion. It takes too much of your time. There are fall meetings, fall practice, spring meetings, spring practice, weight programs. The plight of the player-student is almost impossible. He doesn't have time enough to study. Football players cannot finish their education in four years. The athlete needs responsible help—not under-the-table help, but something like a five-year academic program. I implore your consideration."
Fighters used to have tough names like Max and Joe and Rocky, but it may be a depressing sign of the times that the last four full-fledged heavyweight champions were called Ingemar, Floyd, Sonny and Cassius. And the disease seems to be spreading. A bout in the Upper Midwest Golden Gloves tournament this winter matched (stand back now) Waldon Crowsbreast with Gregory Madrigal. It is nothing personal, you understand, but it is something of a relief to report that the winner of the Crows-breast-Madrigal affair lost his next bout and that the eventual winner of the championship in their division was a guy named Mike.
MATTER OF PRINCIPAL
Dean Chance of the Minnesota Twins signed for $55,000 this year, a cut of $5,000 from his 1968 salary, only after a wealthy friend, New Jersey millionaire Tom Granatell, promised Dean he would make up the $5,000 difference.
Chance explains, "I made up my mind I'd sit out all year before I signed for $55,000. It wasn't the money, it was the principle of the thing. Then Tom called and said he'd pay me the extra money if I'd report to camp right away. I figured it was a good deal and said all right. There are no strings attached. He's just a good friend."
THEY SAID IT
•Rick Forzano, Navy's new football coach, on buying a home in Annapolis: "When the real estate man heard I was the new Navy coach, he was enthusiastic. He told me the resale value of the house I took will be tremendous."
•Gene Mauch, Montreal Expos manager, on the Canadian sportswriters covering the new club: "The Montreal writers are fine. They are so eager. It's lovely."