DAWN OF THE AGE OF
This is our first issue of the new year and of the new decade, and we enter both with a keen sense of anticipation. What Joe Namaths lie before us? What Mets? What Lew Alcindors, Jim Ryuns, Jack Nicklauses? One of the supreme pleasures in following sport is expectation. Let's go, '70s!
RED-WHITE-AND-BLUE BALL GAME
After the American Basketball Association and George Mikan came to a parting of the ways last July—Mikan resigned as commissioner, reportedly at the urging of ABA owners who were disappointed in how little had been achieved under his leadership—the league hired Jack Dolph, whose main qualification for the job was his 10 years at CBS as director of sports under Bill MacPhail. Dolph took over on Oct. 29 and in less than two months scored a signal triumph for the struggling ABA: he got the league on national TV. CBS, Dolph's alma mater, has agreed to televise the ABA's All-Star Game on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 24.
That's all for the moment, and it doesn't seem like much, but Dolph says, "Our arrangement is a good deal more than a trial situation CBS has committed some money and air time beyond the All-Star Game." Apparently, if the All-Star Game telecast is a success, CBS will do some ABA playoff games and possibly do a game of the week next season.
January 5, 1970
The money involved is relatively minor, with guesses ranging from an average of $5,000 to $15,000 a team, but the ABA owners don't seem to mind.
"One dollar would have made me happy," said Mike Storen, general manager of the Indiana Pacers. "It's a big breakthrough for us in terms of national recognition and acceptance. The contract is a great prestige item." Buddy Jeannette of the Pittsburgh Pipers added, "It gives us an aura of stability."
Maurice Stern of the New Orleans Buccaneers argued, "This will have a psychological effect on our fans. They realize that when you get on TV it means somebody has enough faith in the league to sponsor it. This could help us get local TV and radio coverage of our out-of-town games."
Charlie Mastin of the Kentucky Colonels summed up the ABA's optimism. "I've always felt our game was more exciting than the NBA's," he said. "Now we can let the whole nation see our game, our red-white-and-blue ball and our three-point play."
In Jackson, Miss. a few weeks ago, an excited high school football star phoned Augie File, sports director of television station WJTV, and with considerable pride reported that he had been offered and was accepting an athletic scholarship from the University of Mississippi. File put a few questions to the youngster, and the boy talked about his background and gave his vital statistics. Finally File inquired how many points the boy had scored this past season. There was a pause. "How much is nine times six?" the boy asked.
Bud Goode, a Los Angeles sports analyst, has been feeding masses of football statistics to a Univac computer and has come up with some fresh ideas about the game. For one thing, Goode says that according to computer analysis the pass interception is football's most important play and the thing that causes most upsets. A team that makes one interception more than the other team will win 80% of the time. "Each interception can make a difference of 14 points," Goode says.
Other computer-derived observations include:
•Running is more important than passing in college football but—during the 1969 season, anyway—is relatively unimportant in the professional game. Standings this year had little to do with a team's average yards per rush; some of the weakest teams had strong running games.
•The single most significant statistic in pro football is the number of points scored by an opponent per pass attempt. "Lack of pass defense was the reason why Baltimore fell from the top in 1969," Goode claims.
•Although the balance between offensive and defensive effectiveness is obviously the real measure of a team, in the 1969 professional season offense proved to be about 5% more important than defense.
•The most important statistic to check when you set out to evaluate a quarterback's ability is the average yards gained per pass thrown.
Reports have come in from India about a special problem confronting golfers in Bombay. The Chembur golf course there is of reasonable length, lush and green and not too severely trapped, and if it, weren't for the crows a man golfing on it would find little to complain about.
The crows hang around the residential areas that border the course and pick up a good living from the residue that human beings inevitably leave about. When the sharp-eyed birds see a group of their, benefactors swinging sticks on the green fairways of Chembur, their ears perk up and their tails wag because, to a crow, human beings on golf courses mean eggs. Round eggs, with sort of dimpled shells, possibly bearing the inscription Dunlop or Dot. The crows spot the eggs in the green grass far ahead (maybe 240 yards, with roll) of the human beings, and they swoop down, grab the white objects in their bills and fly off.
What they actually do with the things is a matter of speculation, although it is moot whether the golfers care much one way or the other. They are concerned about loss of ball and lack of tangible evidence of their fine, ringing shots.
Happily, human beings can outthink crows, sometimes. Now, in Bombay, the customary practice is to hire an agaie wallah, or forecaddie. The agaie wallah gets far out on the edge of the fairway. When a ball lands he runs over and, fast as you can say "Caw!," covers it with a red cloth. The crows—not too bright when confronted with this maneuver—mutter a bit, wondering where their funny round eggs have gone, and the golfers carry on, serene and contented once again.
Poor Phil Bengtson. First he had to step into Vince Lombardi's cleats as coach of the Green Bay Packers. Then the Packers' age began to show and Bengtson had the unenviable job of trying to rebuild a dynasty that was washing away like a sand castle. This year the Packers limped home third in the NFL's Central Division, and Bengtson resigned himself to watching the playoffs on television. But even that didn't work out too well. On Christmas Eve, Bengtson was lifting a TV set—a Christmas gift for his wife—into the trunk of his car when he slipped on the snowy street and fell. The heavy set landed on top of him, and Bengtson was taken to the hospital with a broken hip.
HEAD ON HIS SHOULDERS
Last fall Ted Green, the bad-boy defenseman of the Boston Bruins, suffered a fractured skull when he was hit with a stick in a preseason game. The Bruins' chairman of the board, Weston Adams Sr., who was concerned for years with hockey injuries, ordered Bruin defensemen to wear helmets in practice and all players on Boston's Oklahoma City farm team to wear them in both practice and games. He also asked the NHL rules committee to consider making helmets obligatory for all players.
Oklahoma City complied with Adams' order, but the Bruins did not and the rules committee has done nothing about his proposal. The committee's inaction probably stems from the Bruins' refusal. Listen to Derek Sanderson, Boston center: "When they tried to force all defensemen to wear helmets, the guys walked out on them. They weren't going to take anything like that. If they pass a rule about it, I'd have to balk, too. I'm not going to wear a helmet." Why not? "They're uncomfortable, they'd probably provoke more stick fights than there are now and they can shatter when they're hit."
Whereas skulls can't?
An East Side Manhattan pub that features weekend football television brunches presented the Nebraska-Georgia Sun Bowl game to some 30 or 40 of its parishioners the Saturday before Christmas. After the half, with the score 18-0 Nebraska, the brunchers turned off the sound—but not the color—and listened to Mary Hopkin and Engelbert Humperdinck on the jukebox.
NO PLACE FOR A LADY
Shirley Englehorn, a 29-year-old lady professional golfer who has won $118,000 in her 10 years as a pro, tried last fall to enter the 1970 Los Angeles Open, the first tournament on the men's tour. But Joe Dey, head of the PGA's Tournament Players Division, rejected Shirley's bid, and that seemed to be that.
However, just before Christmas Miss Englehorn got a chance to display her golfing talents in a head-to-head match with Billy Casper, who has twice won the U.S. Open and who won almost as much money in 1969 as Miss Englehorn has in her career. The two played before a gallery of 3,500 at Los Coyotes Country Club in Orange County, south of Los Angeles. Four hours later the contest—though it was hardly that—was over. Casper had shot a 70, Miss Englehorn a 79.
"It's too big," said Shirley later, referring to the course. The match had been played from the men's tees, and the distance was 6,427 yards. "It's too, too big. I played well, but I wanted to jump the ball all the time, power it out there with Billy. You can't do it. I don't think any woman can. I hit with any of the girls on our tour, but today I was 30, 40, 45 yards back all the time. I had to go to a three-wood to reach the greens, while Billy was up there with a six-iron. And this was short for a men's course. If it was a tournament, they would have stretched it out to 7,100 or 7,200 yards."
Asked if women golfers could ever compete with men, Miss Englehorn said, "I could compete, but whether I'd ever win any money is a question. If I was in top shape and at the peak of my game, maybe the best I could play here would be 72 or 73."
Nonetheless, Miss Englehorn still would like to see women in men's tournaments. "It would be great," she beamed. "Maybe there could be a women's section and a men's section. Or mixed, perhaps, with a foursome of women, then three foursomes of men and then another foursome of women. We'd play for our purses and they'd play for theirs."
Casper seemed to like the idea. "Anything that stimulates golf, I'm for," he said, "and I think women in our tournaments would stimulate the game." But he also agreed with Shirley's lament that men's courses were too long for women. "On a big course, the kind we play week after week, the driver is 50% of your success, and a woman can't handle that club the way a man can."
What would have happened, Casper was asked, if Miss Englehorn somehow had defeated him. Billy smiled. "We'd have both set golf back 50 years," he said.
BOYCOTT BY BOBBY
Twelve high-ranking chess players who in December met in New York to determine the American chess championship played without Bobby Fischer, who had previously beaten them all. Fischer won the championship for the first time in 1957, when he was a 14-year-old high school sophomore, and thereafter won it seven times—every tournament he entered—including one unprecedented performance when he won every game. He boycotted the tournament on the grounds that it was too short: an 11-round round robin does not give adequate time for recovery to a strong player who happens to get off to a bad start. The U.S. championship is the shortest of any major country; the standard in Russia—"and in all countries where chess is taken seriously," Fischer says—is 22 rounds.
Fischer scarcely needed another U.S. championship to demonstrate that he is still one of the world's strongest chess players. Unfortunately, the U.S. championship was also the zonal tournament that determined which American players would go on to the interzonal tournaments in the first step toward the world championship. By giving up his chance to win the U.S. championship again (the veteran Sammy Reshevsky won the somewhat empty title in Bobby's absence), Fischer also gave up his chance to meet Boris Spassky for the world title. His next opportunity to try for it will not come until 1975.
Bill Fitch of the University of Minnesota is a basketball coach without a home, and in this case it does not mean he has no home arena for his team to play in. In fact, Fitch is living in his office in Williams Arena, where the Gophers play. The trouble is the Fitch family. The coach came home from an unhappy road trip in mid-December (two losses in overtime in three days) to find that one of his daughters had come down with chicken pox. Fitch had never had the disease, could not afford a two-week quarantine absence from his team and fled to his office, where he sat out the two weeks. "About the only company I had at night was a rat that came out of the wall and said hello," grumbled Fitch.
The quarantine was lifted at last, and Fitch was allowed home for a happy reunion on Christmas Eve. Christmas afternoon the coach left with his team for a tournament at Detroit. There, he got a phone call from his wife with the news that a second daughter had caught the chicken pox. So Fitch faced two more weeks with his cheerful rat.
He is not too sure of getting home even then. Seems there is a third Fitch daughter....
THEY SAID IT
•John Jardine, new football coach at Wisconsin, on long-haired football players: "I believe the helmet protects the head and ought to be as close to the head as possible."
•Joe Kapp, Minnesota Viking quarter-back, refusing to accept a trophy as the Vikings' Most Valuable Player: "There is no most valuable Viking. There are 40 valuable Vikings."