In asking for the return of all Alpine skiing medals won at the 1968 Winter Olympics, Avery Brundage seems to be working himself into a Samson-like position, with the walls of the Olympic structure threatening to fall around his ears. Granted, Alpine skiing is shot through with commercialism and, granted, the Olympics are supposed to be limited to simon-pure amateurs. But, as Ben Fuller, president of the Canadian Amateur Ski Association, commented, "You don't ask for the medals back. If there was any question about them, they shouldn't have been awarded. It's an exercise in absurdity."
Yet Brundage is neither absurd nor naive. What the belligerent, 81-year-old president of the International Olympic Committee is doing is declaring open war on the Fédération Internationale de Ski. Brundage said, "It is obvious that Alpine skiing has not been properly controlled, and therefore I wrote to the FIS and asked when the medals would be returned." His formal statement continued: "Despite the annual Alpine circus operated by the FIS each winter, which requires the exclusive services of the participants for half the year and more, it seems that sliding down mountains is not the most important sport in the world and it is doubtful if it should be on the Olympic program."
How Sapporo, Japan, the site of the 1972 Winter Games, will react to this was not clear. Brundage, who has had a long love affair with the Far East, must have felt a great deal of personal satisfaction when the Games were awarded to Japan. But if Alpine skiing goes, will Sapporo still want the Games? Will anybody? And if the Winter Games go, can the Summer Games be far behind? Watch out for those walls, Samson.
SKI A LA BOEUF
Some really amateur Alpine skiers held a brisk competition at Sugarloaf in Maine late in April, where the world heavyweight ski championship for racers over 200 pounds was won by 19-year-old John Truden, who weighed in at 401 in his ski boots. It took John 57.6 seconds to slither down the 30-gate slalom course, and his 20-second handicap (one second for every 10 pounds over 200) reduced, if that's the right word, his net time to 37.6. Second was Tiny Stacy, 407 pounds, and third was Duffy Dodge, practically a skeleton at 235. Dodge's time was an impressive 42.4 but he had only a three-second handicap. Heaviest man in the field was William Roberts at 426. The entry fee, 3¢ a pound, cost Roberts $12.78. There were 57 entries in all, and the fees, which went to the Pine Tree Society for Crippled Children, fatted up to more than $450.
Apr√®s ski, the victorious Truden headed for the hospital, where doctors hope to slim him down to a svelte 300. Before leaving, the champion celebrated his last day of freedom by knocking off 12 hot dogs, four milk shakes and a slab of apple pie with ice cream topping. Ski heil!
The Golf Journal, official publication of the U.S. Golf Association, recently reported on a couple of items that should be of interest—and serve as a warning—to golfers and golf clubs.
First, it is tradition—in comic strips, anyway—for a frustrated golfer to wrap an offending wood or iron around a tree after a disastrous shot. This, The Golf Journal says, can backfire. A man in Indiana hit a vicious hook off the tee and angrily smashed his driver against a ball washer that sat on a tripod base. The club shattered when it hit two legs of the tripod simultaneously, and the head end, which had about 10 inches of shaft, snapped back and stabbed the golfer in the chest, deep enough to puncture a lung.
Second, the Internal Revenue Service has cracked down on a social club that sold liquor to its members for off-premises use. The IRS held that a club formed for social, recreational and sporting purposes can legitimately sell food and beverages for consumption in the club as part of its function, and in so doing it is tax exempt. But, if the club sells liquor to members to be consumed elsewhere, it is exceeding its legitimate function and is no longer entitled to its tax-exempt status.
Better be careful about asking Charley the Bartender to put a fifth of Scotch in a brown paper bag. And watch out for those ball washers.
UP THE FLAGPOLE
The first big collegiate football telecast next fall will present Southern Methodist vs. Air Force Academy, the Mustangs against the Falcons.
Chevrolet is one of the sponsors.
ANYTHING YOU CAN DO
Peggy Fleming, who will be starring in the Shipstads & Johnson Ice Follies at Madison Square Garden from May 22 through June 1, ought to be enough of a drawing card to satisfy even such eager-beaver entrepreneurs as S&J, but Peggy is liable to get some competition from another star being introduced this year—an electronic robot named Commander, who walks, talks and skates. Commander is a complex combination of parts that include a 14-channel receiver, seven motors, 50 pounds of batteries, clusters of servo switches, a tape recorder and amplifier, assorted light bulbs and large, soulful eyes. Miss Fleming's co-star can skate forward, backward, stand on tiptoe, go into spins and bend at the ankles and hips.
In addition, Commander has one thing the Olympic gold medal winner happily lacks, a see-through body, "because," explains Inventor David Colman, "people sometimes think there's a human inside."
O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!
Word reaches us from the beleaguered campus of Columbia University that sports are carrying on. The martial spirit, however, has infiltrated the world of fun and games, for the Columbia crew is captained by Bob Kidd and the golf team by Bob Bly. Rumor has it that the administration is thinking of enlisting Captain Kidd and Captain Bly in the continuing struggle with campus mutineers, and it is reported that Columbia bird dogs are even now trying to recruit guys named Queeg and Hook.
IT'S ANYBODY'S RACE
A Japanese named Yoshiaki Unetani ran the 26-mile, 385-yard Boston Marathon last week in 2:13:49, a record. Alfred Ventrillo, a 62-year-old retired millworker, took two hours and 15 minutes longer. Ventrillo is blind. After a reunion at the finish line with his seeing-eye dog, he explained: "I knew they wouldn't let me run if I applied and sent in a medical report so I came on my own. I did this to inspire blind people, to show what they can do." Despite an official ban on female entrants, three husband-and-wife teams completed the race, one pair crossing the finish line hand in hand. And among the early finishers was a small runner with long, curly hair. It seemed a remarkable performance, especially for a girl.
"Well, I started at Wellesley," the youngster explained. "I ran only 17 miles."
"Don't you know girls aren't supposed to be in the race?" asked a marathon official.
"But I'm a boy," protested Gideon Ansell of Wayland, Mass.
It could only happen at the Boston Marathon, but nothing like it may ever happen again. This year's starting field of 1,152 was a record, and the jam was so great at the beginning, in suburban Hopkinton, that a full minute of the race had passed before the rear guard was able to cross the starting line.
"If they don't cut down the field, they can do without me," grumbled Jock Semple, the uneven-tempered majordomo of the marathon (SI, April 22, 1968), who must process all entries, check medical certificates and wait until the last man has finished. "Some of these jokers have 50- or 60-inch waistlines and they waltz in around 6 or 7 o'clock. I walked the course in 4:45. I don't know how some of them take seven hours."
Semple, of course, has a point in arguing that the field be limited, but should the character of the marathon be changed it would be a sad day. The race is one of the last bastions of pure amateurism; part of its glamour is that anyone can run in the same field with the world's best. Most of the competitors would like to see it remain open. "This is a civic legend," said Young John Kelley, 38 and a past winner. "Everyone who competes is a worthy competitor." Old John Kelley (no kin), who is 61, ran in the marathon this year for the 38th time. No onlooker left his spot along the course until Old John had passed. Kelley treasures "all the applause and the people shouting my name and cheering in all those towns. It brings tears to my eyes all during the race."
"No other marathon is like this one," said Erich Segal, a Yale classics professor and Hollywood writer who has run, and finished quite respectably, 12 times. "There's a friend who waves to me from the same spot every year, and every year I notice he's a little fatter."
But, while it may be assumed that the race usually goes to the fit (as well as the swift), it does not necessarily produce fitness in the running. Some competitors seem to finish the race on will alone, collapsing at the end, nauseous and trembling, their feet blistered and bleeding. A Boston podiatrist said, "After the race I see feet that look as though they've been through a meat grinder."
And it doesn't necessarily take a marathon to beat up your feet. Letters appearing in The Journal of the American Medical Association have warned that plain old jogging, while certainly beneficial to cardiovascular health, can wreak havoc with your pedal extremities if you're not careful. If you jog flat-footed (that is, rocking from heel to toe, which is standard procedure for most joggers, especially new, overweight ones) you run the risk of getting "jogger's heel," or painful discomfort in the heel pad. If you try to avoid this damage to your heel by getting up on your toes and really running, you are even more apt to suffer "sprinter's foot," which is a breakdown or "march" fracture in the metatarsal area.
The solution? Don't jog too much too soon. It takes time for the foot to adjust itself to the unaccustomed strain of jogging.
SOMETHING NICE IN A STRIPE
Dr. Eugenie Clark, the ichthyologist (SI, Oct. 4, 1965) who wrote the book Lady with a Spear, had a few words to say about sharks the other day. Experiments in which sharks were taught to obtain food by "reading" various symbols indicated that a shark can tell a square from a diamond but cannot tell a square from a circle. It is not immediately obvious how much help that intelligence would be to a swimmer suddenly come upon a shark, but Dr. Clark went on to report that the easiest thing for a shark to spot was stripes. The obvious conclusion, she said, was not to wear a striped bathing suit if you expect to meet a shark.
Dr. Clark complained mildly that everywhere she goes people ask her about sharks. "I'd rather talk about the belted sandfish," she said. And no wonder, for the belted sandfish is a fascinating type who is not belted and does not live in sand but does have the singular ability to change its sex from male to female in seconds. "When it is male, it has stripes," Dr. Clark observed. "When it is female, the stripes disappear. When two sandfish meet, they fight over who will be female first."
You masculine-oriented people may raise eyebrows at this, but with all those stripe-happy sharks around who can blame the sandfish?
THEY SAID IT
•Roy Hofheinz, owner of the Houston Astros, noting a crowd of 6,000 at a dawn jogging exhibition in his Astrodome: "Maybe we ought to schedule our baseball games at 6 a.m."
•Dick Trachok, asked if he was going into politics after retiring as the University of Nevada's football coach: "When you're a coach, you're already in politics."