RACING FOR RICHES
Too much of the skiing news this season has involved that interminable ruckus over amateurism, so it comes as a refreshing twist to hear of a ski story that does not concern Olympic stains. This one deals with the out-and-out professionals, the International Ski Racers Association, whose members have been schussing along in near-anonymity on limited funds. They have just landed a new contract that will make then circuit more attractive next winter.
The Philip Morris people, who produce such products as Marlboros, Benson & Hedges, Miller beer, Personna razor blades and Clark chewing gum, announced that they have agreed to sponsor pro ski racing since "it seems like a good, logical sport to be involved in," as one executive puts it. Starting next season, Benson & Hedges will back a traveling 12-race "cup" series all its own, the pro counterpart of amateur skiing's World Cup, a promotion they say will pay $350,000. Top pro racers will win, in addition to individual meet money, a grand prize of $25,000, and a new women's professional racing division will be introduced, guaranteeing $10,000 to the top girl. This fund, added to prizes put up by other sponsors, should serve to put the pros on their—forgive the term—feel, and the prospect of making big money at last might even bring some new racers out of the amateur woods. One thing that has been holding the professionals back is the obvious fact that a pro circuit doesn't mean much unless it matches all the best racers like, say, the Killys and Schranzes, both of whom have found the business pretty small potatoes so far.
Lest the image of such a vigorous outdoor sport as skiing seem incompatible with smoking, those connected with the new series assert that the tie-in will be soft-sell and tasteful. And as pro racer Billy Kidd, onetime Olympian, puts it: "It's the greatest thing that has happened so far in pro racing and I'm sure nobody is going to start smoking because of it who didn't intend to anyway."
A University of Nebraska press release reports that the national football champions have 14 of last season's starters returning to the team this fall, six on offense and seven on defense.
The new math?
One of these days the Supreme Court of the U.S. will decide the fate of Muhammad Ali, draft resister and onetime heavy weight champion of the world. The court's decision will determine whether Ali will have a return shot at Joe Frazier next year. He won't be able to light in jail.
Harold J. Spaeth, professor of Political Science at Michigan State University, has put the problem to a computer.
"Computer analysis," he reports, "shows that since 1958 the Supreme Court has decided 38 cases involving military personnel—persons on active duty, veterans and those subject to the draft. The armed forces have lost 24 of these cases (63%). Twenty of the 38 cases have pertained to persons subject to the draft. Of these, the government has lost 11 (55%)....
"The court could go either way in the Ali case. A couple of recent decisions, however, point to Ali's victory.
"In agreeing to decide All's case, the court limited its concern to the question of whether Ali had been denied conscientious-objector status because the Justice Department viewed his objections to military service as political and racial, rather than religious.
"If this is the sole basis for decision, Ali will win. Ali is a Black Muslim. Black Muslimism is a religion. Ali bases his request for c.o. status upon his religious beliefs. Congress has authorized c.o. exemptions if the basis is religious. Therefore, the Justice Department's only hope is that it can show that Ali is religiously insincere—which is highly unlikely....
"Ali will only lose if the court finds that he is a selective conscientious objector [opposed solely to the Vietnam war]. He will win if they find that his religious beliefs cause him to oppose all secular wars. He will also win if the issue is whether his objections to war are religious rather than political."
When that most charming of unchronicled sports events, the faster egg hunt, took place last Sunday, Louis Richardson of Brooks, Ky. had something unique to offer. His eggs were colored, all right, but not with dyes. That is the way they came out of his hens olive green, light blue, dark blue.
A collector of exotic poultry, Richardson owns Araucan chickens, Sicilian buttercups (so called because their combs look like buttercups) and other strange chickens from Belgium, England, France, Poland, India and Indonesia.
He plans to retire soon to a farm he owns in Lee County. Then, who knows? Maybe he'll find a brown cow that gives chocolate milk.
REASON TO WHISTLE
In Maryland, where duck hunting once was big business and the canvasback was king of feasts, there has been a substantial population increase in another species of wildfowl—the whistling swan.
Last season 50,000 wild swans wintered on Chesapeake Bay, their presence tempting to gunners but their status completely protected. There is a state fine of up to $100 for shooting one. The swans, beautiful as they are to behold, never have been favorites among duck hunters because they rip out by the roots the celery grass and other feed that sustain the Chesapeake's ever-diminishing duck population. So it was not surprising when hunting interests proposed a solution to Maryland authorities: that a shooting season lie opened on swan.
The Maryland Wildlife Administration has now formally refused to entertain the suggestion, even though the opportunity to placate frustrated hunters must have been tempting. Joseph H. Manning, director of the administration, considered the arguments about the destructive feeding habits of the swan and said: "The negative factors must be weighed against the positive, and the esthetic value of Maryland's wintering swan population is overriding."
So the Chesapeake is still swan lake. And esthetics has become a factor in hunting law considerations. Thank goodness.
CORN ON THE HILL
To give a financial lift to the Washington Senators, who could use one, Congressman Silvio O. Conte of Massachusetts proposed that they be given a subsidy not to grow corn in Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.
The Conte stance was that his idea was quite as good as another House suggestion that 300 depressed sugar beet farmers, who never had grown corn, be made eligible for subsidies for not growing corn. This bill had, in fact, passed in the Senate. Conte killed it.
Professional auto racing appears to be driving down a road full of chuckholes.
At the recent Phoenix 150, won by Al Unser, only 16 of the 34 cars entered in the USAC championship race were sponsored. On the front of Bobby Unser's new car was the message: "The Available Eagle." Johnny Rutherford posed for a picture of his car with a "For Rent" sign on it.
"It's tight," said one car owner. "I've never seen anything like it. My sponsor wanted to come back this time-for half what he paid last year. I finally said the hell with it. For that kind of peanuts I'll go it myself."
"In a tight money situation such as we have today," a public-relations man explained, "the promotion budget is the first thing that gets slashed."
Al Unser, whose Johnny Lightning team has been cleaning up the past two seasons, agreed.
"We were romancing a sponsor for Joe Leonard's car," he said. "To get him, I had to agree to put his decal on my car, too. Now they want two for one—and we're happy to oblige."
HORSES' ARS MATHEMATICA
Although most schemes to beat the races are dubious, some are downright ingenious. One of the latter has been discovered by Gerry Kramer, a tax lawyer from Ossining, N.Y., which is the home of Sing Sing prison. Thus far it has worked out well enough so that Kramer, though not rich, is at least not a loser.
When nearby Roosevelt Raceway instituted what it called the Big Triple, an exacta form of betting in which the player must pick the precise order of finish of the first three horses, Kramer reasoned that in any given race of an eight-horse field there were 336 possible combinations of winners. To cover all bets, and thereby assure a winner, would require a daily investment of $672, which is quite a sum. But also there was a chance of hitting big once in a while. In the first two weeks of racing, for example, there were several days when the payoff was $1,000 or more. Kramer missed out on these because he didn't start betting until after the first two weeks.
Also, he felt he could not afford to bet $672 every day but he could manage $6.72. A friend agreed to act as bookie on this basis. If the exacta paid, say, $800—$8 on the Kramer scale—his friend would give him $1.28, the difference between $8 and $6.72.
After 18 days of betting, the lowest payoff was $0.76 and the most Kramer lost on a given day was $5.96. His biggest hit was for $31. He is winning an average of $0.70 a week.
A TICKET FOR ALL SEASONS
The Sports Fans of America, a dedicated band that seeks better sport at lower prices, is up in arms again, this time in a charge spearheaded by Angelo F. Coniglio, a Buffalo member. Coniglio has filed suit against Highwood Services, Inc., owners of the Buffalo Bills, accusing them of violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act because the Bills, along with other teams, require that in order to get season tickets fans must also buy tickets to preseason games. Also charged are the National Football League and Pete Rozelle, NFL commissioner.
The Bills are not specifically named but, Coniglio says, "The suit asks that all NFL teams be enjoined from 'tying in' preseason games with regular season tickets." It also asks for triple reparations to all fans in all cities that have teams "with such coercive policies."
Coniglio estimates that he represents half a million season ticket holders. Repayment of the indemnity sought in the suit, he figures, would be in the neighborhood of $30,000,000.
Though he snubbed the Masters for a second straight year because "it's just not my kind of course," last week was not a total loss for Lee Trevino. He entered the New Mexico PGA spring tournament at El Paso Country Club and put together two 69s to win. His four-shot victory was worth $205—somewhat shy of the $25,000 he might have won at Augusta.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
As proud as if his father had just won the Masters, Jack Nicklaus' son recently arrived home and presented his scorecard to his mother Barbara. Attested by his playing partners, the card revealed that Jack Jr. had shot a 50 for nine holes. "All those years of practice finally paid off," 9-year-old Jack told his mother.
THEY SAID IT
•Jim McDaniels of Western Kentucky, who signed for an estimated $2.8 million with the Carolina Cougars, on his rapid rate of growth as a teen-ager—four inches in three months: "I cried at night in bed. It was hurting me to grow."
•Tom Seaver, New York Mets star pitcher, describing the wine cellar he has just built in his basement and stocked with 300 bottles: "It's not complete."
•Casey Ortez, SMU sophomore quarterback candidate, asked the dullest word he ever heard: "Redshirt."
•Bill Bonham, Chicago Cubs rookie pitcher, after walking three, giving up a single and failing to retire any of four St. Louis Cardinals he faced in his first major league game: "I guess I was due for a bad outing."