BLACK DAY IN CARACAS
All day in Caracas the radio played a song whose refrain ran like this:
"Canonero, Canonero, asombro del mundo entero,
"Canonero, Canonero, seguiras siendo el primero."
June 13, 1971
Which is to say, "Canonero, surprise of the entire world, Canonero, you will always be first."
In western Venezuela there was an epidemic of grippe, which, because it caught you so fast, was called Canonero.
A cigarette company, whose product was fortuitously called "Belmont," did a heavy business.
Hours before the race, radio broadcasters asked the public to honk their automobile horns and the churches to peal their bells.
At 5:45 p.m. the city was silent.
A sportscaster, Germàn (Chiquitín) Herrera, summed up his country's disappointment.
"When we least expected it, Canonero won the Derby for us," he said. "When we were afraid to expect it, he won the Preakness. And when we fully expected a victory, he lost."
THE PLAYING FIELDS OF PHILLY
It just might be a political ploy, a threat to force increased taxes on an already overburdened population, but the city of Philadelphia's school system is threatening to eliminate athletics in its 165 schools and to hell with talk of mens sana in corpore sano. The only saving grace at the moment is that school-board approval will be necessary to "finalize" a budget cut of $23 million in appropriations for sport, along with the elimination of 1,000 teachers and 1,000 other employees from the system's 22,000 full-time jobholders.
Those who oppose the cut, which is sponsored by Dr. Mark Shedd, superintendent of schools, are saying things like "damn shame" and "now the kids' interest will turn to drugs and gangs."
While opening the oysters, Shedd shed a tear or two. "All athletic programs," he said, "including baseball, football, basketball and track will go down the drain." As an afterthought, he added swimming. Then he suggested that pressure be put on the state government to recognize "the dire conditions of the city school system," which may have been the point of the dagger.
God help us all if the Philadelphia disease spreads. As Dan Peffle, Philadelphia's school district director of health and physical education, put it: "I don't see how it fits in with logic. We talk about dropouts and a study of dropouts has shown that athletics is one thread that kids hang onto to remain in school. Athletics is the greatest deterrent to dropping out."
The Big Ten agenda and rules committee is studying a recommendation of its athletic directors that the number of scholarships available for minor (non-revenue) sports be reduced from 34 to 22. Only the athletic directors of Indiana and Michigan State opposed the recommendation.
Two Indiana coaches, Dr. James Counsilman in swimming and Sam Bell in track, would be among those most seriously affected and, naturally, they are against the proposal.
"I've got 20 years to go before I retire," said Counsilman, "and I wanted to be competitive all those 20 years. But it makes me wonder if we can stay in it if this happens."
Counsilman has been competitive, indeed. He has won four straight NCAA championships.
Bell, who went, all unsuspecting, to Indiana from the University of California at Berkeley two years ago, has since won two consecutive Big Ten crowns and was aspiring to Counsilman's national success.
"First of all," said Bell, "I don't talk to anyone who calls track a minor sport. Anyone who calls track, which is the No. 1 sport in the Olympic Games, a minor sport just shows lack of education."
U.S. hopes for gold medals in the distance events at the 1972 Olympics have been diminished—to an extent not easily calculated—by a University of Florida rule that forbids distance runners from training on its golf course. Instead, they must train on roads near campus.
Frank Shorter and Jack Bacheler, two of America's outstanding distance men and both graduate students at Florida, say they don't mind so much except for the alligators, which live in sinkholes around the campus and come out in the evening, crossing the roads to get from one hole to another.
"You learn to keep away from them," says Shorter. "The alligators are slow and lazy, but they have that one quick move. That's how they get so many ducks. The ducks think they're slow and go near them; then it's all over."
No distance runner has fallen victim to that one quick move, as yet. But Shorter has promised to stay off the greens and fairways if only the university will let him return to the golf course.
The possibility of snakes in the rough has not come up.
Marty Pushkin, the Virginia Tech track coach, called the Roanoke Times to report that Steeplechaser Merle Valotto had finished second in a big meet in Kentucky. Valotto's time, Pushkin said, was 8:45. Ten minutes later the phone rang once more in the newspaper office. Again it was Coach Pushkin. "Forget the 8:45," he said. "That's the time of his plane flight home."
THE AUTOMATED WORM
Vending machines dispense just about everything nowadays, so why not worms? Many a whimsical fisherman, seized suddenly with the urge at an unlikely hour, has dashed off to his worm merchant's shop only to find that the inconsiderate fellow has decided to call it a day, leaving only an ice-vending machine available to cool his catch and his beer.
Now Roy Cooper, an ingenious Nor-walk, Ohio sheet-metal mechanic, has solved the problem. He has invented a machine that dispenses fresh, lively worms on a 24-hour basis and he is seeking a patent on it. Drop 50¢ in the slot and out comes a plastic container with 15 or 16 worms in it.
The machine is so new that Cooper had trouble finding a name for it. But suggestions came in by the score—like Vend-a-Worm and Worm-o-Matic. He settled for Wormcoop.
Perhaps because he defeated Ingemar Johansson twice in three fights, has lived for short periods in Sweden and because his third wife is Swedish, Floyd Patterson still remains something of a hero in Sweden. It was natural, then, that the Stockholm Aftonbladet, an evening newspaper, should have assigned a reporter to cover Floyd's recent bout with Terry Daniels. The reporter showed the former heavyweight champion a photograph (SI, Oct. 13, 1969) of a happy Ingemar proudly displaying an enormous paunch.
"The picture made Floyd look as if he were about to cry," the Aftonbladet said and quoted Floyd as saying:
"Ingemar hasn't found anything to replace boxing yet. He is only getting fatter and fatter. Give him my regards and tell him he should take off at least 25 kilos [55 pounds]."
Instead of taking off weight Ingemar took umbrage.
"I'm not bothered by my 117 kilos [257 pounds]," he told the Aftonbladet. "I live a great life and would never in the world want to change my life with Floyd Patterson's.
"Floyd was right when he says I have 25 kilos too much around the middle. But my fault sits there—he has his in his head."
They used to be such gentlemen.
HE WHO LAUGHED LAST
Part of the great charm of Joe E. Lewis, who died last week, was that he honestly lived the dissolute character he played in so many nightclubs. It took 69 years for this to catch up with him. Which makes him a winner, though he liked to pretend that he was a loser.
"I bet on a good horse," he said once, "and it took 12 other horses to beat him."
"I read the French racing paper," he observed another time, "but the horses seem to lose in the translation."
"Sinatra played my life in The Joker Is Wild," he remarked a few years ago, when the movie came out. "He had more fun playing my life than I had living it."
No, he didn't.
DRAG RACE OF ALL TIME
The two fastest men on land have agreed to what may turn out to be a supersonic drag race on Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats. A new speed record and a sound-barrier breakthrough are both quite possible.
The challenge was issued by Gary Gabelich, present holder of the world land speed record, to Craig Breedlove, former holder of the record. It called for a head-to-head drag race on the flats, with the winner collecting $500,000.
The sound barrier on the western Utah flats is 720 mph and Gabelich traveled 622.407 in his Blue Flame rocket on Oct. 23, 1970, thereby beating the 600.601 mark set by Breedlove in the Spirit of America in 1965.
Details of the challenge, including where the $500,000 is to come from, have not yet been worked out, but Labor Day 1972 is the target date for the race.
"I don't know whether we will start from a dead stop, travel the six-mile course, turn around and come back over the same course, with the winner determined by the best two-way time," Gabelich says, "or whether it will be just the first man over the finish line at the end of six miles."
Gabelich told Breedlove that the car in front would have the advantage when the sound barrier is broken, Breedlove recalls.
"When he breaks the sound barrier, he said, the concussion will knock me off the track. Well, I'm not worried because I plan to be in front when that happens."
ELSA, GO HOME?
Teams of sharpshooters will undertake to kill 2,000 elephants in Uganda during the next few months. Indeed, Murchison Falls National Park ecologists may increase the kill to as many as 4,000 out of a total of 8,500 in the area. The reason: great elephant herds have reduced a once forested woodland to grass, to the detriment of their own and other species. If the herd is not thinned, there may be no elephants at all in Uganda by the turn of the century.
While Africa may be having a (temporary) surplus of elephants, it seems that the only countries lacking lions are in Africa, so France will begin exporting lions there in September.
"Our lion population is proliferating dangerously," explains Count Paul de la Panouse, owner of a private game preserve at Ch√¢teau de Thoiry. "Seventy lions are born every year in the Paris area alone. European and American zoos are filled with lions and lion cubs."
A dozen French lions will be shipped to Africa in September, with more to come.
THEY SAID IT
•Bud Poile, general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, expressing surprise at the firing of Vic Stasiuk as coach of the Philadelphia Flyers: "You never know in this game. That's why I just bought a boat instead of a house. A boat is easier to move."
•Chipper Johnson, Southern Methodist University field goal kicker, who served as a weekend sportscaster on Dallas television, on being asked his greatest asset as an announcer: "I dress nice and I don't have any pimples."
•John Allyn, Chicago White Sox owner and longtime financier, when asked about George Halas' argument that the suggested $100 million Chicago sports stadium could be supported by a lease from only one or two of the city's five major league sports teams: "All the teams in town won't produce even the interest on $100 million."