CONGRESS STRIKES OUT
As a predictable aftermath of the Frazier-Ali fight, shown in high-priced closed-circuit theaters instead of on "free" home television, politicians have moved into the act, weeping for the poor fan who could not afford a ticket. In the space of nine days Congress was presented with five bills whose intent was either to ban the showing of big sports events on closed-circuit TV or make them equally available to the networks for home showing. And on top of that, Representative Morris K. Udall of Arizona proposed that sports seasons be reduced in length so that baseball, football, basketball and hockey would not be constantly running into each other.
As to the proposals that television exclusivity of championship sports events be denied closed-circuit TV, Representative Torbert H. MacDonald of Massachusetts interjected a note of common sense.
"I think," he said, "that they [the Congressmen making the proposal] know more about sports than they do about the Communications Act."
April 12, 1971
A 1940 Harvard football captain himself, MacDonald noted that the Federal Communications Commission has little power to regulate programming of closed-circuit TV, which uses cables, not the licensed airwaves. The principal bill in this area would ban closed-circuit telecasts of sports events to paying audiences except when the FCC determines that the broadcasting of an event on home television is not commercially feasible. It seldom would be feasible. Closed circuit can easily outbid the networks on really big fights.
As to the Udall measure, shortening the seasons is not too bad an idea, except that it should be done by the fans, not by government edict. And the fans have not yet indicated that they are turning off their sets as the seasons run beyond what was once considered to be their normal limits. The various bowl games and pro playoffs draw fevered watchers by the millions. Udall fears that overexposure on television will eventually kill some sports, as it helped to erase boxing from the tube. But one other factor—a plethora of dismally bad fights—was what really knocked out boxing. The talent supply ran out. Good matches still draw, as the Ali-Frazier fight established, and they even draw customers willing to pay high prices for their tickets.
Just back from an expedition to the Florida Keys, Jack Rudloe, president of Gulf Specimen Company, which collects marine specimens for scientists, museums, universities and the like, reports from his home in Panacea, Fla. that "destruction from dredge and fill operations are evident everywhere you look.
"Marine life populations have been drastically reduced from draglines and bulldozers pouring lime rock over once-beautiful mangrove swamps," he says. From Homestead to Key West entire habitats are being smothered and polluted. The nursery grounds of bonefish, tarpon and snook are being turned into channel spoil banks, trailer parks, golf courses and motels.
"The Florida State Department of Transportation is dredging through big stretches of mangroves to make new roads. The sea bottoms are covered with silt, and coral has been reported killed as far as 20 miles from shore. Sea grass beds are dying, and in many areas we were unable to find young lobsters, starfish, sea urchins, anemones or sessile jellyfish. Old collecting areas once productive are now lifeless dead bottoms. Gobies, beaugregories and blennies are not reproducing in the dying coral. The water is milky white every time there is a storm.
"Other collectors report the Keys have never been so desolate and barren of life."
It's always nice to get a cheery note from a friend.
THE ART OF WAGERING
The exacta is beginning to be to horse racing what "dish night" was to the movies years ago. At tracks around the country which offer the exacta, attendance and wagering have increased from 4.3% to as much as 7.4%.
In the exacta a bet is made on two horses to finish first and second in precise order. Payoffs have been big. At Golden Gate Fields on March 31 the fifth race exacta paid $8,066.50 on a $5 bet, largest since this type of betting was introduced in California two years ago. Eight tickets were sold on the two long shots wearing Nos. 9 and 4.
One lucky holder, who refused to give his name because he was supposed to be at work, explained his strategy:
"I'm a 49er football fan. I always bet $5 on the 4 and the 9 and then I reverse the numbers for $5 on 9 and 4."
THE ULTIMATE TEST
As a rally driver, Chris Rothwell has quite an enviable record. He won the East African Safari classic in 1966 and 1967. He won the Tanzania 1,000-mile endurance run four straight years. And he was in charge of the Tanzanian army driving school. He also ran the police driving school for two years.
Recently Rothwell returned to Britain. His old British license had expired during his years in Africa, so he had to take a driving test.
DOWN BUT NOT OUT
What must have been the first standing ovation ever for a fifth-place club at the end of a tie game was accorded the Buffalo Sabres the other night when they finished the home portion of their first National Hockey League season. The capacity crowd of 10,429 arose and started applauding 17 seconds before the end of the Sabres' 3-3 tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The fans continued to applaud for several minutes.
Punch Imlach and his Sabres have very much caught on in Buffalo and the city's nearby Canadian environs—and to an extent beyond all expectations. There were 23 sellouts in 39 home games. Consequently, immediately after the home finale, workers began to add a balcony to Memorial Auditorium to enlarge the seating capacity to 15,172.
"After all," said Punch, "we're the best team out of the playoffs."
BE OUR GUEST
People who own homes adjacent to golf courses often become terrible grumps. Players who have used the Pasadena Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Fla. in recent weeks, however, have noticed a welcome departure from the common attitude. Since early in March, Pasadena has served as host to both the Major League Baseball Players' Tournament and the $20,000 Orange Blossom Classic for women pros, and many of the golfers were delighted to read a handsomely painted sign, brown and white, behind the home of a fine golf fan, Ted Peters, who lives beside the 3rd hole. Planted into the ground just off the fairway and at eye level to approaching players is Mr. Peters' help to strays: "We feel that it is a privilege to live beside your golf course. Contrary to our best intentions, that darned ball has a tendency to stray once in a while. Please feel free to remove that elusive object from these premises at all times. Take time and smell the flowers."
LET THEM EAT PANCAKES
There was a time when any trainer of athletes would tell you that for stamina there's nothing like a good steak a few hours before a game, a fight or a race. But in recent years the dietetic swing has been to meals high in carbohydrates, like spaghetti, even without meatballs. Now Dr. Donald L. Cooper, team physician at Oklahoma State University, makes a case for pancakes.
Since steak is mostly protein, he explains, it needs 5% more oxygen for digestion than do pancakes, which break down into carbon dioxide and water in the body and can be eliminated more easily than protein through the skin and lungs.
"In the last quarter," Dr. Cooper says, "when you're looking for marginal things, you've already lost 5% of your potential oxygen utilization by eating steak. It may be coincidental, but last year the guys on our football team who played were the pancake eaters, while the steak men were bench warmers."
One remembers that in 1966 Jim Palmer, the Baltimore Orioles' pitcher, took to eating pancakes before games. Pitching in the second game of the World Series, he had four pancakes for breakfast, then shut out Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
HONK FOR A HOMER
Many communities have drive-in movies, restaurants, liquor stores and banks. A few have drive-in churches whose slogan is, "Come as you are and pray in your car." In fact, it seems as if there's ample room for cars everywhere except in traffic.
Now comes a new drive-in facility at the Albuquerque Sports Stadium, the city baseball park built for the Dixie Association farm team of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The city has installed a special terrace around the outfield and 20 feet above the grass, with spaces for 102 spectator cars.
The drive-in terrace was built mainly for parents who want to bring young children to the games. So now Dodger ads stress that baseball is "rated very, very G for family entertainment."
SEE NO EVIL
As the season went into its final weeks, the Italian National Soccer Federation took a radical step to protect referees from embarrassment. The federation in its wisdom asked the state-operated TV network to cease showing slow-motion replays of crucial decisions. It felt that slow-motion displays of referees' errors weakened respect for them and even endangered them physically. Riots and referee beatings were known to Italian soccer long before TV, but the federation felt that TV exposure could only further inflame aggression by the fans.
The fans became a bit aggressive about the federation's request, however, so it was withdrawn. The decline and fall of the Roman umpire may not be far off.
CULTURAL NOTE FROM JAPAN
The reason Japanese baseball players, as a class, are not yet as good as American major-leaguers is that they spend too much time on the floor, according to Masaichi Kaneda, Tokyo Giants pitcher who won 400 games in his 20-year career.
"We eat on the floor, sleep on the floor, sit on the floor," Kaneda explained during spring training in Florida. "That's bad for somebody who wants to play baseball.
"The Americans are faster and have bigger and stronger legs. All the living on the floor we do stops the circulation of the blood in the legs and makes them stiff and weak."
Perhaps the Japanese should listen to Kaneda and take to sitting in chairs. He says he once struck out Mickey Mantle four times in one game.
A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES
In the English village of Glanford Brigg, Lincolnshire, not a single baby was born last month. During the same period last year there were 17 births.
Research discloses that nine months previously, soccer's World Cup was being shown live on television from Mexico, and while the village wives went to bed early, the men stayed up until 3 a.m. to watch the telecast.
"A World Cup every year might be the answer to the population explosion," mused Councillor Gordon Hughes.
THEY SAID IT
•Frank Robinson of the Orioles, on fraternizing with the enemy in baseball: "There's too much of it, particularly in the American League. There's absolutely no way you can go barreling into second base and dump a guy on a double play, like you should do, when you've been fraternizing with him before a game."
•Doug Rader, Houston Astros third baseman: "I think smoking is the thing I do good and most consistently. I just hardly ever have an off day smoking. I smoke good and I smoke consistent. I can't think of anything else I am as consistently good at."