BREAD, GAMES AND THE "TIMES"
The farther one gets from the sports pages the less sense some newspapers have been making about The Fight and even about boxing in general. A couple of days after Joe Frazier became undisputed heavyweight champion The New York Times demanded on its editorial page that prizefighting be outlawed, with this particular bout shrilly characterized as a "bloody divertissement reminiscent in terms of extravagance, irrelevance and false glamor of the declining days of past civilizations." On the opposite page was a protest by James Reston—vastly more renowned as a political pundit than as a sports expert—against the $30 price charged in some theaters for a closed-circuit television ticket. Lowering the price, Reston urged, would have permitted more poor people to see the fight. The Times' two points of view do not seem to jibe.
Reston's argument on behalf of the poor fascinates us more than the ban-boxing editorial, since the latter has become a familiar and boring stance in the Times. He suggests that because crowds of blacks clustered around Madison Square Garden and some closed-circuit venues, unable to get in because of high prices, there may be "a question of public safety involved in this monopoly." In other words, the blacks may someday riot. Blacks have in fact rioted at times but for reasons other than the high cost of fight tickets. Reston has presented an unfair and far-fetched intimation, especially since blacks, as a group, have been among the best behaved of fight fans. Let Reston someday observe what can happen in Los Angeles when a Mexican loses a close decision or, for that matter, when a Puerto Rican loses in New York.
From a business standpoint, the high cost of fight tickets, taking inflation into account, may well have been economically necessary, and not alone because championship matches always have commanded high prices. The Wall Street Journal, five days before the fight, published a long analysis of the promoters' financial prospects and cast doubt on the rosier pre-fight profit estimates by listing an extensive series of items (closed-circuit commercials between rounds, for one) that just did not pan out as revenue producers. The promoters in this case took a big and courageous gamble.
The Times naively falls for the line that network TV is "free." Beyond that, it is of course a fact not unique to our era that the poor are being priced out of luxuries. Not many indigents are to be seen buying tickets to Broadway hits or picking up the tab at restaurants like Washington's Rive Gauche or New York's Colony.
Two years ago Jack Kent Cooke, the owner of the Los Angeles Kings, fired his coach, Red Kelly, regarded by some as the best in the sport. Last year, when Charlie Finley took over the Oakland Seals, he fired Frank Selke Jr. and Bill Torrey, two of the most knowing front-office men in hockey.
Now comes Clarence Campbell, president of the National Hockey League, talking about hockey's "have-nots" (obviously meaning the Kings and the Seals) and saying he will call for a meeting of a special committee of general managers in June in which the "haves"—Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago and New York—would seek ways to help the have-nots. The idea would be to have the haves sell players to the have-nots, thus strengthening the have-nots and weakening the haves.
The history of the situation is that Los Angeles finished second in the first year of expansion, barely losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in the West. Oakland finished in second place in the second year of expansion and made the playoffs again last year. Then came the firings. Now Oakland has the worst record in the NHL and Los Angeles is in sixth place, ahead of only Oakland, in the West Division.
In the words of Wren Blair, general manager of the Minnesota North Stars, who came into the NHL with the Seals and Kings, Campbell's plan "would be condoning mismanagement."
ONE FOR CHILDREN'S LIB
Sign on the entrance to the International Toy Fair, presented at the New York Hilton:
NO CHILDREN ADMITTED.
OONTZ OF PREVENTION
In the throes of a reform movement, with grand juries probing gambling and vice, the city of Louisville has discovered that a game called "oontz" is illegal in Kentucky. What, Mayor Frank Burke asked, is oontz? He has received a lot of answers, all different: a form of gamecock fighting; betting on how many leaves are under a cup (a variation on the old shell game); betting on unhatched eggs (how many hens, how many roosters will result); a Japanese bean game in which a jar of beans is spilled on a table and guesses are made as to how many there are; pitching pennies.
Some dictionaries describe oontz as a crap game. The Dictionary of American Slang says oontz means craps when used as a noun but the verb means "to crowd, push or force."
Mayor Burke tends to favor oontz as an Americanized term for a French card game called "Onze et demie," meaning 11½. The game is similar to the American blackjack or "21."
Whatever the final decision, it is fair to say that oontz is a word that one encounters only oontz in a while.
HORSE OF A DIFFERENT COLOR
Fans of the Johnstown (Ohio) Monroe High School basketball team were ecstatic as they listened to a broadcast of the game with Marion Ridgedale High. At halftime Announcer Robert Pricer reported Johnstown leading 34-16 and, with four minutes left to play, he had it 67-27, Johnstown leading.
At this point an embarrassed Pricer informed his audience that a colleague had given him incorrect information as to the colors the teams were wearing. The score was 67-27, all right, but Johnstown was losing.
Chances are it wouldn't make a TV Western but Arizona lawmen are busy these days chasing saguaro slammers and cactus rustlers.
For the colorful plants of the desert, life is precarious enough without galoots uprooting or shooting them. The tall (sometimes 50-foot) saguaro cactus is beset by gnawing rodents and hungry cattle, occasional frosts, air pollution and sometimes drought. The natural environment is so harsh that one saguaro may produce 12 million seeds in a century of maturity and yet fail to replace itself. Now come human enemies—yahoos who slam their off-trail vehicles into saguaros to see them topple. Or shooters who pepper the tall arms with birdshot.
The cactus rustlers are encouraged by the high prices suburban gardeners are willing to pay for ornamental desert plants. Digging up a wild cactus is illegal in Arizona but the crime continues.
Fortunately, law-abiding citizens are concerned and their children, especially, are acting as a kind of CIA (Cactus Intelligence Agency). When the kids see a cactus rustler or vandal they call the state entomologist's office, which has a radio-dispatch car. With the aid of other law agencies, the White Hats are catching plenty of the varmints spiky-handed.
Statistics are so terribly significant to sport that we feel obligated to report on some important trivia turned up by Mike Bradley, 16, of Winter Park, Fla. during the second round of the Florida Citrus Invitational golf tournament at Orlando, won by Arnold Palmer.
Bradley reports that he watched Arnie "every single second from the time he went to the first tee until he sank his last putt." During this period, says Mike, he counted 345 tugs at Palmer's pants, all by Palmer.
It was not easy, either, says Bradley, what with "dodging people and climbing over ropes. But I did it," he insists. "Never once did he leave my sight."
Arnie "went wild" on the first hole, according to Bradley, hitching his pants 50 times. He birdied the hole. Then he slacked off and his low total was seven on the 18th, which he paired.
"There seemed to be a connection between the number of times he hitched and the kind of situation he was in," Bradley reports. "The more the pressure, the more he hitched. He's got several kinds of moves, really. Sort of a half hitch, which is when he just pulls up one side, a full hitch when he grabs both the left and right side at the same time, and then what I call a triple hitch. That's when he pulls up both sides and then tugs once at the front."
Now that the mountain lion has been killed off in New Mexico until only about 350 remain, Governor Bruce King finally has signed a bill making it illegal to kill them indiscriminately.
That accomplished, legislative debate has turned to another endangered species. The question is whether to void the state's law requiring a three-day waiting period before marriage. Senator Aubrey Dunn of Alamogordo protested.
"We have passed legislation protecting cougars, hawks, vultures and owls," he said, "and I think it's about time we protected bachelors."
One of Satchel Paige's little secrets has been revealed by Bill Veeck, the man who was responsible for raising him to big-league stature and is now most proud of Satch's elevation to the Hall of Fame, albeit on a special basis.
Satch, it seems, had a system of cataloging batters by the way they stood at the plate and what they did thereafter.
"Leroy seldom bothered with unimportant things like the names of his opponents," Veeck recalled, "but he identified those worthy of recollection with a special mental filing system of his own. He remembered how they stood at the plate.
"We once had photographs taken from the hips down of 25 American League athletes standing in the batting box. We painted out all possible marks of identification—socks, and so on—and showed the photographs to our pitching staff. Paige correctly identified 18 from stance alone. The next closest was six."
It paid off. According to Veeck, Joe DiMaggio got two scratch hits off Paige in 56 times at bat. Ted Williams got one in 41.
When the Big Ten decided to use three officials, instead of the normal two, three seasons ago, fears were expressed that the result would be a constant march to the foul lines.
Not so, according to recent statistics. There have been 2.3 fewer fouls per game than a year ago.
"More coaches are against the system than in favor of it," observes Purdue's George King, a strong advocate of the three-official game, "but ask them why and they can't give any good reason for it. These are the same coaches who say one official is too many. The game is so fast it is impossible for two officials to stay in front of the play. It is impossible to ask them to keep up with the pressing defense kids play today."
THEY SAID IT
•Fred Taylor, Ohio State basketball coach, on players whose rebellious actions have led to a number of coaching resignations: "You could put the brains of three of those guys in a hummingbird and it would still fly backwards."
•Bill Hartack on use of Butazolidin for horses: "Butazolidin was once legal in several states. Then they decided not to allow it for racing, but it's still permissible to train a horse on Butazolidin. It's almost like saying you can rob the bank if you do it before 9 a.m., but if you do it after 9 a.m. they will put you in jail."
•J.C. Snead, winner of the Doral Open, on his days as a professional baseball player: "I hit a long ball in baseball, just like in golf, but I didn't hit it often enough."