At the moment—to the best of our knowledge, anyway—we do not have a Leo Tolstoy on the staff of this magazine. No magazine of our acquaintance does. But the range of writing talent and reportorial skill represented in the masthead on the right of this page may be wider than that of any single novelist, and the variety of human endeavor, frustration, satisfaction and plain perversity to which that talent is directed in any one week may be as broad, if not as subtle, as that of any novel ever written.
This is an article from the May 11, 1970 issue
I am prompted to these reflections right now by the fact that two major stories in this week's issue are focused on the two poles of the human condition that Tolstoy chose as the title of his greatest work. Peace is the gentle obsession of David Smith, the longhaired Super Hippie pictured on our cover whose idea for a pacifist pentathlon is explored by Robert Jones beginning on page 50. War, on the other hand, is part of the livelihood of Sam Cummings, the gun-merchant hero, or antihero, of Edwin Shrake's story The Merchant of Menace beginning on page 80.
A peace freak and a warmonger? What in creation are two such disparate characters doing in the pages of a sports magazine? Well, each is a human being fascinating in his complexities and contradictions, and each has a legitimate place in the wide spectrum of sport.
During the week or so that he spent with Cummings, Shrake was continually astonished by this unassuming merchant who looks on war as man's ultimate lunacy and who takes an almost lunatic delight in the part he plays. Whether men use his guns to shoot at targets, at game or at each other seems not to matter at all to Cummings, since he firmly believes we are all bound to blow ourselves to perdition sooner or later and we might as well make a good sport of it till we do. A frightening philosophy perhaps, yet "at a time when the politicians are all telling you one thing while the facts are telling you another" Shrake says he could not help but find Cummings' clear view of man's folly somehow "eminently sane."
Bob Jones became aware of Super Hippie Smith in the course of a continuing preoccupation with the young that began when he wrote a definitive cover story on the Now generation for TIME magazine in 1967. Last summer, on a visit to some of the long hairs' communes in the New Mexico mountains, Jones was struck by an unexpected hippie interest in sports—everything from rock-climbing ("a good way to get high without dope") to "nondirectional horse racing." "The kids," explains Jones, "would just leap on a horse's back and let it carry them wherever it felt like going."
From that start it was hardly surprising that Jones sooner or later ran across a hippie who believed that peace could be achieved by getting people to wear themselves out in the pursuit of noncompetitive sport. He was not prepared for the fact that this particular philosopher, who is as opposed to firearms as Sam Cummings is dependent on them, was an expert shot at 14 and twice won Northern California skeet shooting championships.
We believe that phenomena on the sporting scene such as David Smith and Sam Cummings are as illuminating in their peculiar way as the track records of the 17 entries in the Kentucky Derby (page 22) or the personalities involved in the NBA playoffs (page 30). Smith and Cummings—with the help of writers Shrake and Jones—help to remind us that in the world we cover each week can be found reflections of most of mankind's conflicts.