Last week's double center jump by 7-foot Jim McDaniels and 6'11" Jim Chones (page 18) is merely the latest skirmish in the long basketball war between the NBA and ABA. The war has thrown the sport on both the college and pro levels into disarray and, sadly, no one seems to be doing anything about it. All the parties involved—coaches, players, owners, judges and politicians—are willing to talk, many of them loudly, but most of the rhetoric has been self-serving.
It is time for less bluster and more serious bargaining by all sides. "I'd like to see everyone—the NCAA, the pros and Senator Ervin's committee, which is holding the hearings on the merger legislation—get together and try to work out something, reach an agreement of some kind," said Houston Rockets General Manager Pete Newell. Newell's suggestion is fine, except he left out two important parties: the college players and the basketball fans. Any decision must take into account the individual rights of college athletes, as well as those already in the pros; and the bargainers must remember that the fans supply the money the owners, college administrators and players so hungrily pursue. Carolina fans, whose Cougars are battling for an ABA playoff spot, certainly have good reason to be angry at a sport that allows a player like McDaniels to switch teams in midseason. And the same goes for Marquette, whose hopes of a national championship were dashed by the pros' untimely signing of Chones.
Sure, give players like Chones and McDaniels the right to control their own destinies. And give the owners the right to drive their hardest bargains. But let it all be restricted to the off season when loyal, cash-paying fans will not be the victims of the haggling.
Having fun with the President's visit to China, newspaper columnist Art Hoppe invoked the reverse-cliché technique and did one of those looks at mysterious America from the point of view of a Chinese. In part he wrote: "Americans are generally docile, easily led, unthinking automatons.... Every morning they breakfast on a bowl of rice or wheat cereal and then trudge off to work in teeming masses.... They share a common dislike of thinking. For instance, their favorite occupation is watching football on television, for after each play the announcer explains to them what happened. Similarly, every time Chairman Nixon makes a speech, three men immediately appear on the screen to explain what he said."
Well, of course, it is all a terrible exaggeration.
Greenville, Texas, the town where Duane Thomas was stopped, searched and then arrested for possession of marijuana, is the county seat of Hunt County. The stationery of the Hunt County district clerk bears the slogan, "The Blackest Land and the Whitest People."
With no formal plot and a two-hour running time, the film American Wilderness, currently playing in theaters across the country, could be called a feature-length travelogue, but those who have seen it say it is much more. In its sweeping display of remote wilderness, it is an adventurer's film. In its stalk of trophy game, including the four wild mountain sheep that are American hunting's most coveted prizes, it is a sportsman's film. Mostly, in its salute to the natural glories still extant in this land, it is apparently a film for everyone.
American Wilderness was written, filmed, edited, scored and distributed by Arthur R. Dubs, a Medford, Ore. contractor, sportsman and amateur photographer, but it is decidedly not an amateur production. Dubs spent seven years and traveled more than 32,000 miles gathering footage. By using 16-mm film, later enlarged to 35 mm for commercial distribution, he kept expenses to a minimum (the film cost $28,000 to make and has already grossed $3 million) and equipment light. He was thus able to hike, climb, pack and crawl into areas inaccessible to conventional camera crews and there capture on film moments seldom seen. The film avoids Disney sentimentality and, except for a somewhat overdramatized pursuit of a polar bear, maintains an admirable level of taste and integrity.
It's baseball odds time again, and the pundits at Harrah's on Lake Tahoe have come up with this estimation of the pennant races.
First, the odds on getting into the World Series:
Kansas City 20-1
New York 30-1
Los Angeles 3-1
San Francisco 5-1
New York 8-1
St. Louis 8-1
San Diego 100-1
Second, the breakdown in the four divisional races:
New York 15-1
Kansas City 10-1
New York 4-1
St. Louis 5-1
Los Angeles 7-5
San Francisco 5-2
San Diego 60-1
As usual, some of the Nevada prices seem strange indeed. The oddsmakers could not believe the 1971 collapse of Minnesota in the American League and Cincinnati in the National. And they have some faith that California, sans Alex Johnson, will snap back, too. They were not overly impressed by the promising showings of Kansas City and Chicago in the American League West, and seem to feel that San Francisco's divisional championship was a snare and a delusion. The prices, particularly on the pennant races as a whole, are heavily on the side of the house. Oh, well.
Faites vos jeux, messieurs.
From hockey-mad Boston comes a report that underneath a bumper sticker reading "Jesus Saves" someone had written "and Espo scores on the rebound!"
THE FISCHER-SPASSKY GO
When Bobby Fischer bombed Tigran Petrosian off the chessboard last fall and earned the right to meet Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union for the world championship, interest in chess soared. In the past, the Fédération Internationale des Echecs (FIDE) would have routinely announced a neutral site where the championship would be played, and the story would have appeared as a one-inch item somewhere near the bottom of page 23 in your local newspaper.
But with B. Fischer around, things are different. This time 15 cities from 12 countries bid for the privilege of staging the 24-game match, and by chess standards the bids were astronomical. For instance, Reykjavik, Iceland, offered $125,000, and Belgrade, Yugoslavia, the highest bidder, came in with $152,000 ($95,000 for the winner, $57,000 for the loser).
But the final selection was not just a matter of money, for chess players, a sensitive lot, have very definite ideas on where they will or will not play. Fischer liked Belgrade; Spassky did not. Spassky liked Reykjavik; Fischer did not. Under FIDE regulations, each side had to submit a list of acceptable places by a date late in January. Total stalemate. The Russians claimed the Americans did not file by deadline; the Americans said the deadline was later than the Russians said it was. In any event, they failed to come up with a mutually acceptable city. The decision was then up to Dr. Max Euwe, president of FIDE. Euwe pondered and announced a compromise: the first 12 games would be in Belgrade, the last 12 in Reykjavik.
A decision worthy of a Solomon, except that neither Fischer nor the Russians accepted it. The Russians protested that Dr. Euwe had violated FIDE rules. Fischer was incommunicado.
There, last week, the matter uneasily rested. Some observers suggested that the Russians, unnerved by Fischer's resounding triumphs, would just as soon Spassky avoided him entirely. Others held that the entire affair was a sort of pre-chess chess game, with moves and countermoves designed to psych the other side.
Non-chess fans could not help but feel that it was all beginning to sound like the publicity buildup for an Ali-Frazier fight.
When Pete Carlston, Utah's track and field coach, asked one of his athletes to remove a dilapidated hat pulled down to his ears so a press photographer could get a picture, the youth squirmed and stuttered. He had a brief private conference with his coach and then ducked into the locker room. "He'll be back in a jiffy," Carlston told the photographer. "What seems to be the problem?" the cameraman asked. "He has his hair up in curlers," Carlston replied.
THE GAME'S THE THING
There has been discussion this season about the philosophy of hockey. Everyone who knows the game accepts its roughness: you get hurt playing hockey, and a man who can neither dish it out nor take it belongs in a less violent environment. But the roughness of the game—body checks, falls, cuts, bruises, occasional flare-ups of temper—degenerated in recent years, according to one school of thought, into a cheap comedy of semistaged mass fights. The swift, piercing grace would suddenly stagnate while players on both teams scattered gloves over the ice and stood pulling on one another's shirts, vainly flailing away with tedious and seldom effective punches. Yet crowds, particularly in some American cities, seemed to love the spectacle, and penurious owners encouraged the brawls.
Finally, hockey officialdom stepped in and instituted stricter rules. Now, if two players square off, a certain patience is exercised. But if third parties join in, they are immediately penalized. The incidence of brawls has declined dramatically. One NHL player says, "A lot of those guys who used to start fights won't get in them now because they know nobody's going to come and help them."
Some critics bemoan all this, saying the new rules have softened the players and the game. The embryonic World Hockey Association (page 20), which is hoping to start play next season, has said it not only will not crack down on fighting, it will encourage it, the implication being that hockey's popularity depends to a considerable degree on such donnybrooks.
Maybe so, but a recent Toronto Star poll indicates the opposite. When the Star asked if NHL players should be automatically thrown out of a game for fighting (the current stringent rules do not go nearly that far), 66% of its readers voted yes. If Canadians know a great deal about their national sport and care deeply for it, such an overwhelming vote against hockey brawls must have significance.
THEY SAID IT
•Jerry Kramer, former Green Bay Packer: "The TV football widow said to her husband, 'You love football more than me.' He said, 'Yes, but I love you more than basketball.' "
•Evel Knievel, motorcycle daredevil, never noted for modesty: "I figure on going for another six years until I'm 40. Then I'll try the pro golf circuit. I'm as good right now as any of them."
•Tony DeSpirito, veteran jockey: "I had a lot of things I wanted to do during my vacation, but instead I just relaxed and got fat. Well, maybe not really fat. I put on a pound."