Bob Cousy's remarks last week on the Cincinnati basketball situation sounded more like a comment on the times than a defense of his position (he has been derided for trading away the Royals' two biggest stars, Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas, especially since his revamped team has not been winning). Cousy was a prime force behind the establishment of the NBA Players' Association in 1953 and once threatened to strike the All-Star Game, but he is harshly critical of the high-salary, no-cut, no-trade position so many players now have. "The reason we did not get fair value for Robertson and Lucas, as it now appears," Cousy said, "is because they could tell us which teams they were willing to be traded to. Contracts today are ludicrous. The players should get as much as they can, but when it reaches a point where it harms the game it's time to take a stand.
"Give the players all the money they deserve, but don't guarantee it. Don't tell them they don't have to work for it. When you eliminate motivation, you eliminate competition, you eliminate accomplishment. I read where Lucas has lost a lot of weight and is really playing great for San Francisco. What was he doing the last nine years—before he went bankrupt?"
Used to be that the referee assigned to an NFL game carried his own blank pistol with him. Since hijacking became an international sport, carrying guns—even blank pistols—onto airplanes has become very, very unpopular. So the NFL has supplied each team with its own gun, and referees fly to their assignments weaponless.
November 9, 1970
The problems of snowmobiles (SI, March 16) continue to come in for serious discussion. At the Third Annual Snowmobile Congress, held this October in Portland, Me., Polaris of Textron Inc. announced that for the average consumer it would no longer make snow-sleds with engines larger than 488 cc. This means a top speed of no more than 50 mph, though Polaris said it would continue to make faster snowmobiles for racing. Other companies have not imposed such limits—Polaris made its decision some months ago, and it would take other companies too long to retool, even if they wanted to—but they will be watching closely to see whether limited power is the start of a trend. Herbert Graves, president of Polaris, said a new Massachusetts law on permissible decibels of noise "could put snowmobiling in that state out of business." The Massachusetts law sets the noise limit at 72 decibels, about the level of a noisy sewing machine. "They're passing legislation faster than we manufacturers can develop the methods of production needed under such legislation," Graves commented.
Despite such warnings, the snowmobile industry is still booming. (Valcourt, Quebec, for instance, where Ski-Doos are manufactured, has tripled its population in the past five years and is basking in new-found prosperity.) Some economists caution that the pattern may be similar to that of outboard motors, where sales soared and then fell off drastically. Right now, though, despite opposition rising from injuries, noise and damage to the environment, snowmobiles continue to be bullish.
Cotton Fitzsimmons, who left college coaching at Kansas State to take over the Phoenix Suns in the NBA, does not completely agree with critics who say all the action in pro basketball is packed into the final couple of minutes. But he does indicate that there is a difference between college ball and the pros. In the NBA, implies Fitzsimmons, it goes something like this:
First quarter: the veterans warm up—after what may have been a transcontinental flight—and sort of visit with each other.
Second quarter: this is the bench's quarter, so the subs have to warm up and get reacquainted.
Third quarter: dressing rooms are often chilly at halftime, especially in multipurpose arenas with ice rinks. Vets and subs both have to warm up again.
Fourth quarter: all hell breaks loose.
HORSE AND BUGGY GOODBY
The old order is continually passing. Harness racing is as modern as floodlights, tote boards and all-weather tracks, but there is nonetheless a lingering feeling that it is really an old-fashioned sport. Watching a trotter between the polished wooden shafts of a sulky, you can almost see one man challenging a neighbor to a brush down a quiet country lane. Now even that stimulus could be on its way out. Joe King, a 54-year-old aeronautical engineer who has dabbled in harness racing since he was 29, put his scientist's mind to work on the problem of reducing wind resistance during a race. Result: an outer-space sulky with a single shaft that arches up over the horse's tail and along his back to a point behind his neck; the shaft also serves as a wind screen. The driver no longer sits with his legs wide apart but keeps them together with his feet on a steel crossbar that passes through the shaft. An arc of spring steel serves both as axle and seat support.
The sulky was tested this summer and, despite a few minor quibbles, generally impressed even traditionbound drivers. Not only was wind resistance reduced, it was found that the single point of connection between sulky and animal let the horse move more freely, with less influence exerted on its gait than from the traditional twin-shafted sulky.
Very simple, neat, logical, efficient, but a definite departure from the horse-and-buggy age. It is no surprise to learn that Mr. King worked on the Apollo project that landed astronauts on the moon.
REAPING THE REWARDS
Mornings-after can be trying, and the echoes of all that champagne pouring at their World Series victory celebration may leave the Baltimore Orioles with a winter of discontent. The high salaries earned by the stars of this team are going even higher. Certainly Frank Robinson is not going to be cut any part of his $125,000, and Brooks Robinson will probably jump from $80,000 to $100,000 plus. Dave McNally, the perennial 20-game winner, has already indicated he is after $100,000, too—and where does that leave Mike Cuellar, who has won 48 games in two years and the Cy Young Award? Not to mention Jim Palmer, often called the best of Baltimore's three big pitchers, and Boog Powell, on whose hitting the Oriole fortunes seem to rise and fall. Baltimore's meager treasury is going to be hard-pressed to meet all the salary demands; even though the club won its second successive pennant, the season's attendance did not reach one million, and the playoff and World Series games in Baltimore were not even sellouts.
All this may have a bearing on the future of Harry Dalton, the Orioles' young, extremely capable director of player personnel, who has to handle the sticky job of talking contract with his stars. Several major league teams with front-office problems are reportedly after Dalton, and Harry might decide that there could be no better time to make his own move to greener pastures.
NEVER TOO LATE
Football's most frustrating moments are those dying seconds of a game when a team protects a meager lead by running out the clock. So it was in Southfield, Mich. recently, where Pontiac Northern High led Southfield Lathrop 12-8 and had possession of the ball in midfield with only three seconds to play. Quarterback Bob Chism took the final snap from center, but instead of falling down routinely and letting the game end he hurled the ball in the air in victorious jubilation. The trouble is, he beat the clock. Lathrop's Gary Weinberg caught the ball and ran 43 yards unmolested for the game-winning touchdown. Final score: Lathrop 16, Northern 12.
LATEST FROM THE FRONT
Attention, revolutionaries. Women have gained on one front but lost on another. After years of harassment at the Boston Marathon and other for-men-only events, women distance runners have finally been recognized by the AAU. Heretofore, the AAU had decided, paternalistically, that any distance farther than a paltry 2½ miles was too strenuous an undertaking for the tender sex. But three Sundays ago at Atlantic City, N.J. the AAU sanctioned the inclusion of a women's section in the important Atlantic City AAU-Road Runners Club marathon. For the first time in U.S. marathon history, women wore on their bosoms the treasured numbers that are the badge of an official entrant, and their times were duly recorded by race officials. It is expected that next year the race will achieve the status of an official AAU championship for women.
On the other side of the country the women lost one. Two leading feminine outboard motorboat drivers were notified that they would not be allowed to race in the $60,000 outboard world championship late in November at Lake Havasu City, Nev. Race officials decided it was too dangerous because new hulls and power plants are producing speeds in excess of 100 mph, and women, they decided, do not have the stamina and strength to cope. Maybe not. But, then, the AAU didn't think they could run more than 2½ miles.
A few weeks ago baseball noted the death at 54 of Lou Novikoff, the "Mad Russian" of the late '30s and early '40s who was probably the most famous of those minor league sensations who turned out to be busts in the majors. Novikoff led the Three-I League in batting in 1938 with .367, the Texas League in 1939 with .368, the Pacific Coast League in 1940 with .363 and the American Association in 1941 with .370. He was looked upon as the next superstar, but in four years of trying with the Chicago Cubs he was a grievous disappointment, and eventually he slid back into oblivion.
Now Jack Tobin of Los Angeles reminds us of another aspect of Novikoff's career. "Despite his complete failure even to approach the Hall of Fame level in baseball that everyone had predicted for him," Tobin writes, "in one sport Lou Novikoff was the Hall of Fame. Known as Louie Neva, he was a legend in softball long before he made the move into organized baseball. In my kid days in Long Beach, the playgrounders talked about Louie the way baseball fans talked about Babe Ruth. Ask any oldtime soft-ball nut, especially in Southern California, and he'll tell you Louie Neva was the greatest of all softball pitchers, with the most fantastic rise ball ever thrown. As a teen-ager, I took some cuts against him and never saw the ball, let alone hit it. And you will never convince an old soft-ball fan that Babe Ruth was a better hitter than Louie Neva.
"In baseball he was only a character; in softball he was our most brilliant star."
MONDAY NIGHT (CONT.)
Pro football's Monday nights may be controversial (SI, Nov. 2), but they are proving to be such smash hits in the old TV rating game that ABC is thinking of renewing the show through the winter months—with professional basketball instead of football, if ABC and the NBA can agree on a deal. Nobody seems to worry about a Monday jinx. Says one NBA owner, "We'll play any night if the price is right."
THEY SAID IT
•Ed Flanagan, Detroit Lions center, on Dick Butkus: "It's the biggest treat of the year playing against him. At half-time I just take two aspirins and we go at it again."
•Gordon Hanson, spokesman for the Rodeo Cowboys Association: "The rodeo cowboy represents the last frontier of the pure, unpampered athlete. Ask five cowboys if they would like a guaranteed wage and four will tell you no."
•George M. Day, 85, who graduated from high school in 1903 and is now enrolled as a freshman at Lorain Community College in Elyria, Ohio: "I figure there is always time to learn. I don't expect to get a degree, but if I want to play on the school's athletic teams, I'll have to take more than three credit hours to be eligible."