BRUNDAGE ON MT. OLYMPUS
Just as the Olympic Games always open with the torch ceremonies, so do the full-dress meetings of the International Olympic Committee begin with a colorful note of tradition: a thundering, Olympian warning from IOC President Avery Brundage that the amateur sports world had better shape up before it is too late. Last week the IOC met in Amsterdam and, right on schedule, Brundage issued his ceremonial call to arms.
The old man aimed his stern warnings at the entire Olympic movement, but he concentrated his fiercest blasts on the Winter Games in general and Alpine skiing in particular. Commercialism has grown so blatant, Brundage said, recalling Grenoble, that "when I declared to a national director of skiing that half of the contestants were being paid in one way or another, he replied: 'Sorry, Mr. Brundage, you are wrong. All are being paid.' " Brundage went on to cite proof—there is plenty to cite—and concluded, "This poison cancer must be eliminated without waiting. Alpine skiing has nothing to do with the Olympic Games."
One cannot help but admire—or at least respect—the 82-year-old Brundage, the last granite symbol of cantankerous integrity, for saying what he did, but kill Alpine racing? Strip the Winter Games of most of the glamour? In effect, destroy the Winter Games? It is hard to believe that the full IOC will perform such drastic surgery.
Brundage is correct in recognizing the spreading commercial influence in sport. But the Olympic movement over the years has gone along with much of the commercialism (huge stadiums, high ticket prices, rich TV contracts), and Brundage is wrong in thinking that excising a few events now (he also wants to eliminate ice hockey and—in the Summer Games—soccer and basketball) will bring the Olympics back to the golden days of pure amateurism. The IOC can no longer impose one rigid concept of athletic morality upon nations whose ideas differ basically on what is and what is not moral. The IOC has known this for years and has chosen to look the other way, as long as no one rocked the boat too obviously.
If the Winter Olympics are to continue and stay in tune with the times open competition in Alpine skiing will have to be the answer, with no distinction made between amateurs and professionals. If nothing else, it may bring back honesty, and in the end the results will be the same: the best skier will have won.
Jai alai, the Basque sport so popular in Florida and Latin America, may be coming to Ohio. Legislation has been pushed to legalize the sport, complete with professional competitors and pari-mutuel betting. So far the only proposed sites are Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati-Dayton and Toledo. That last has the old Spanish ring, but State Senator Max H. Dennis thinks his district is a far more likely area, including as it does the towns of Monterey, Vera Cruz, Buena Vista and Cuba.
Nitpickers have discovered a lovely flaw in the playoff system designed for the expanded National Football League. Under the new setup, four teams would advance to the playoffs: the winners of each of the three divisions and the second-place team with the best won-lost record. Seems perfectly reasonable. The league has also said that if any of the divisions ends in a tie with co-champions, both those teams would go into the playoffs, regardless of how good a record a second-place team in one of the other divisions has. But, say the theorists, suppose, for example, that going into the final weekend of the season Oakland is 10-3 in the Western Division with Kansas City second at 8-5; Cleveland is 12-1 in the Central Division with Cincinnati 10-3; and Boston leads the Eastern Division at 8-5 with New York and Baltimore tied for second at 7-6. New York plays Baltimore that final weekend, and Boston faces Cincinnati. Unless they tie, either New York or Baltimore will end up 8-6. So will Boston if it loses. Cincinnati has the best second-place record—and apparently a lock on a playoff berth—but if it beats Boston the Patriots go into a tie for the Eastern title and Cincy is eliminated from consideration. However, if the Bengals lose to Boston the Patriots would win the Eastern championship outright and Cincinnati would be in the playoffs.
In brief, Cincinnati would have to lose to get into the playoffs. The situation is farfetched, of course, but so were the Mets, so were the Jets, so were the Chiefs.
Texas Tech has a tradition of having a masked rider, resplendent in black hat and flowing red and black cape, gallop around the stadium after each touchdown on Charcoal Cody, the school's black gelding mascot. However, because more and more of Tech's opponents are using artificial turf in their stadiums, Charcoal Cody and the masked rider were stymied several times last year. Not only was the horse unable to graze on the plastic grass, he wasn't even allowed to gallop on it, for fear that his hooves might damage the expensive surface.
This year Texas Tech itself is installing AstroTurf and some loyal Raider fans felt that the old tradition was about to become one more victim of relentless progress. Ah, not so, not so. True, the AstroTurf covering the football field is not built to withstand galloping hooves, but a special 14-foot-wide strip of heavy-duty Tartan Turf, painted Red Raider red, will be installed around the field, thus giving old Charcoal a range to ride on. The strip costs $45,000, which seems a lot for a bridle path, but the official explanation is that the Tartan Turf will provide a jogging path for students and faculty. What fitness-minded person could object to that? And if a horse wants to jog, too, especially after a touchdown, why that'll be just fine.
AGE CANNOT WITHER THEM
Yuri Kiryakov, a Soviet sports expert, has suggested that middle-aged athletes (those 45 and up) compete internationally. He suggests sports like cycling, track and field, swimming, rowing and speed skating, where endurance (which the middle-aged seem to have in abundance, if little else) is so helpful. He would skip sports like boxing, wrestling, diving, gymnastics and ski jumping, in which intense exertion and a high degree of coordination are required. To get his idea off the ground Kiryakov suggests that the U.S.-U.S.S.R. track meet this summer (to be held in Leningrad in July) include distance runs of 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 meters for the gray and the bald.
None of this will be of much news to bridge players, but it might be of value to those of you who are thinking of taking up that insidious game. Dr. Marvin Reznikoff, bridge fan and psychologist, says in Psychology Today that bridge is an opportunity for women "to get even" with their mates. He observes, "When her helpmate is guilty of a lapse that costs them their contract she can pounce, pointing out his stupidity with pungent candor." He adds that many bridge terms commonly used have obvious sexual connotations, citing such expressions as "squeeze," "vulnerability" and "going to bed with my king," as well as double entendres: "lay down, let's see what you've got" and "I'm trying to cover my honors."
Reznikoff declares, "Bridge is notorious for bringing out deep marital rivalries and hostilities, and it is not unusual for married couples to stop speaking to each other after a heated bridge game." He tells of a couple who were shouting at each other in a hotel elevator after such a game. A bemused fellow passenger on the elevator asked if they were married, and the woman snapped, "Of course we're married. Do you think I'd live in sin with an idiot like that?"
AND NO ASTERISK
Add another superb item to baseball's rich compendium of statistics. Don Zimmer, manager of the Indianapolis Indians in 1968, took his ball club into Portland and was rained out four straight days. Zimmer never got back to Portland again until a week or so ago, when he led his new club, the Salt Lake City Padres, into the Oregon city. This time it rained for three days before it cleared, leading Zimmer to declare "a new record: most consecutive rainouts, manager of two clubs, one city."
SHADES OF OSCAR AND LEW
Alderman Clarence M. Miller recently asked the Milwaukee Common Council to approve an ordinance that would provide a $500 fine or 90 days in jail for anyone caught shooting baskets at an outdoor hoop on a garage, an outlandish proposal in a city that has obtained Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson in successive years. Reaction was loud and adverse, and Miller hastily explained that an outright ban was not really what he had in mind. He said that people had complained to the police about garage-hoop basketball going on at all hours of the night and had been given conflicting opinions of what the law was—play had to end at 10 p.m. or midnight or could go on till dawn. He was only trying to raise a storm in order to get a clear-cut ruling, he said, and added, "I've got thousands of basketball hoops in my ward, and I'm sure the other aldermen have, too. My intent was only to resolve this once and for all."
Washington Senator fans are complaining, with some justification, about the cost of tickets to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium (most expensive in the American League, with a $6 top for mezzanine boxes, $3.50 for reserved seats and $2.25 for general admission), but the Senators' ticket gouge is still mild compared to a practice that is becoming popular in college football. Florida State, for specific instance, has a $7 top on tickets to home games at Campbell Stadium, but if you hope to get a seat between the 45-yard lines, you first have to make a $40 contribution to the athletic scholarship fund—on top of the season-ticket price. Seats between the 35 and 45 require a $20 "contribution," but the minimum accepted order is two seats—or $40 for the fund. Of course, you do get more than just the seats. You also are granted membership in Seminole Boosters Inc., which in turn gives you a desirable parking space hard by the stadium. If you are lucky enough to get the tickets in the first place.
Florida State's president, Dr. Stanley Marshall, explains, "Today's competition and rising costs demand greater financial support for athletics than is currently generated through gate receipts." The school's athletic budget has almost tripled in a decade, from $625,000 in 1960 to $1.8 million in 1970. And the Seminoles don't even have Ted Williams, let alone Frank Howard.
THEY SAID IT
•A. N. Jergens, business manager of the Church of the Redeemer in Cincinnati, when the Sunday collection the morning after the Kentucky Derby yielded three winning pari-mutuel tickets on Dust Commander: "That was one of the best Sunday offerings we've had in some time."
•Lance Rentzel, Dallas Cowboys flanker, on problems confronting the country: "Too many politicians stay in office. Instead of doing what is right, they want to do what will keep them in office. Naturally I believe in athletics in college, but I believe the basic purpose of universities is education. There doesn't seem to be much of that being dispensed these days."
•Bob Hackett, Columbia University football player, on why members of the football team drafted and signed a petition to support a students' war-protest strike: "It's an attempt to dispel President Nixon's image that athletes are all part of his famous 'silent majority.' I'm a moderate, I believe in the system, and I'm putting my faith in Congress, but I wouldn't mind helping a peace candidate this summer. I've never done anything like that before, but I think it's time for people to stop sitting on their rears."