The YMCA in Reno sponsors a PeeWee basketball program, which in itself is not earthshaking news. What is earthshaking, or at least depressing, to those who insist on looking upon sports as fun, is word that Bill Berrum, the Reno Y's physical director, has had to bar parents and other spectators from PeeWee games because officials had been exposed to intolerable abuse during the games.
"The PeeWee program is beginning to resemble the Little League image in terms of adult interference," Berrum said. He pointed out that since the rules provide that every boy on each team must play at least half of each game, "winning cannot be the primary objective." Barring spectators, he said, was designed to take pressure off the 10-to-12-year-old players, as well as coaches and officials, and put the program "back into perspective."
During one game an overwrought spectator went to midcourt and challenged the referee. In another, a parent who had caused two technical fouls to be called against his son's team because of his interference shoved the referee around after the game.
March 6, 1972
"That was the last straw," Berrum said. "I don't think the coaches and I have to be policemen. I think the parents should police themselves. Are we really doing our kids justice when we teach them, by example, to cry about or make excuses for a 'bad' call? Let's encourage them to try harder instead of crying harder."
WIN, WIN, WIN
This win-at-all-costs philosophy is dear to the hearts of certain coaches and their unquestioning admirers, of whom there seems to be an ever-increasing number. Their faith is built on stern Cromwellian maxims that make sport sound like total war, and their prophets include such as Leo Durocher, who, despite his supposedly desperate insistence on victory, has in his long career as player and manager finished in the second division twice as otten as he has finished first, without losing his killer reputation.
Adolph Rupp, the venerable basketball coach at Kentucky, recently was quoted thus: "To say that winning or losing is not more important than how you play the game is like my surgeon telling me it's not important whether I live or die but how he makes the incision." Such specious reasoning is taken as gospel. It seems silly to pick Rupp up on this, but does he seriously equate surgery with playing basketball? Is the reason for surgery the opportunity it gives a man to wield a knife? Is the reason for basketball, or any sport, victory and nothing else?
Vince Lombardi's line, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing," is the most quoted tenet of this school of thought. Lombardi had a point, if you look at it from his position. For Lombardi, as for any professional or big-time college coach, winning is the only thing, because without it you get fired. But to apply his often ruthless philosophy to all levels of play is a serious mistake.
Competition—the excitement of putting yourself or your team against an opponent as good or even better than you—is the lifeblood of sport, not victory alone. Victory is better than defeat, no question about that. It is much more fun to win than to lose. But when you have done your best, when you have gone to the last second, the last out, the last inch before losing, when you have been a vital part of a tremendously stimulating game, is the failure to win really such a terrible disgrace?
There used to be a tradition in small-town baseball of setting up a keg of beer beyond third base. The losers had to pay for it. But after the game everybody drank from it, sharing again the excitement, the fun, the joy of taking part.
Sir Edmund Hillary, New Zealand's famous mountain climber, reports that so many climbing groups are wandering around the Himalayas nowadays that the supply of experienced Sherpa guides is not sufficient to meet the demand. Inexperienced Sherpas are taking the climbers up the mountains with inevitable results: an increasing incidence of accidents. Hillary suggests the establishment of a training school for Sherpas with, of all things, experienced Western climbers as teachers.
With spring only a few weeks away, it is time in the North to keep an eye out for the first robin. Chances are he will have spent his winter vacation in Clarksdale, Miss., which is one place where you don't want to start bubbling about how much you like good old robin redbreast. A lot of cities and towns around the country are bedeviled by birds like pigeons or starlings, but Clarksdale residents had the distinction this winter of being up to their clavicles in robins.
Traditionally, robins stop off in Clarksdale for a couple of weeks each fall on their annual migratory flight to the sun. This time, for some odd reason, possibly increased nest rates farther south, the birds decided, let's stay right here in old Clarksdale all winter. And they did, an estimated 150,000 of them. Have you ever heard 150,000 robins chirping outside your window at dawn or routing about on the lawn after worms? It would drive you to burn your bird feeder and throw your sunflower seeds in the Disposall. Clarksdale tried firecrackers, sirens, amplified robin distress signals, everything. The robins retreated until the fuss was over and then came flitting right back.
You think you're looking forward eagerly to spring, when the robins come North? You ought to be in Clarksdale.
JUST GET IN THE PENALTY BOX
Graffiti at Cornell University: HOCKEY MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU'RE SORRY.
THE LOOK OF EAGLES
If your income tax is getting you down, maybe you should buy a pro football team. Leonard Tose, key man in the group that bought the Philadelphia Eagles for $16.1 million in 1969, was testifying in a Norristown, Pa. court where his estranged wife was eventually awarded something like $450,000 in support over the next four years. His 1969 and 1970 income-tax forms were introduced in evidence.
"What is the figure on line 19 for tax liability?" asked a lawyer.
"Zero," said Tose, who put up $2.5 million of his own money in the purchase of the Eagles. In other words, he paid no income tax at all. Losses incurred by the Eagles had offset his income from other sources. In fact, he got a $2,774 refund.
An argument by his wife's attorney that the Eagles' owner was worth $8.5 million was dismissed by Tose as "irrelevant."
Bob Kap, who used to hunt soccer-style kickers in Europe for the Dallas Cowboys and now does the same thing for the New Orleans Saints, has just returned from one of his trips abroad with the startling claim that soccer is on the decline in Europe. American football, he says, is creeping up.
Kap, who has a heavy Bulgarian accent, told Sports Editor Blackie Sherrod of The Dallas Times Herald that while soccer is still a major attraction in England and Italy, "In West Germany there has been a big change in the last two, three years. The first-division team is operating red ink. The stadium seat 100,000. Maybe 10,000 or 12,000 show for game." Kap said Austria and France are in a similar state. "In Paris the famous Racing team went busted. Promoters brought Pelé and his Santos team to Paris from South America. They have Brigitte Bardot to lead parade and kick first ball. Only 30,000 people show in stadium that seat 60,000!"
Soccer people said Kap was talking through his hat, but the kicking scout insisted he was right. He predicted that after the 1974 World Cup competition in West Germany, "The game will go down fast. Dead silence all over in soccer. Europe now becoming more Americanized. People make more money, drive cars, drive, drive, drive. Eat fast lunch, drive, parking. Rush, rush, rush, like America. Become more aggressive like Americans. Soccer is too soft game. Pinching is a foul. Women now play soccer. Women! Europeans want more violence. Hockey is very big. Fast game, rough, violence. Basketball is big. Faster game. More action. More scoring. Rush, rush, like America."
And American football? "Big paper in West Germany, the Bild-Zeitung, 4.5 million circulation, wrote large article about American football when I was there. The Paris Herald Tribune carry stories. Big soccer magazine in West Germany ask me to write one article a month on American football. This is all over Europe, everywhere I go. I show film on television, highlight film of New Orleans. The response was enormous."
Hear that, Pete? Rush, rush, rush.
SAME OLD STORY
It sounds like an echo, but strikes, bad weather, squabbles among construction companies and goofs, such as misaligning the aisles, have combined to keep Kansas City up to date in stadium building. The baseball part of the new Harry S Truman sports complex will not be ready for Opening Day on April 11, and there are indications that the separate football stadium won't be on time either, at least not for a scheduled Aug. 12 exhibition game.
Stadiums are the stuff of dreams. When voters authorized a $43 million bond issue in 1967, they were told that the twin stadiums would share a roof that could be rolled back and forth to cover baseball field or football field as needed. Later it developed that not only would $43 million not be enough, to include a roof, it was not even enough for the basic, everyday stadium without optional equipment. More revenue bonds had to be issued, and Lamar Hunt and Ewing Kauffman, the wealthy owners of the football Chiefs and baseball Royals, had to rally round with some of their own money. The total cost, without the beautiful roof, came to about $55 million.
Judge George Lehr, who is more or less supervising stadium finances, said last week, "There is no way we'll have a rolling roof unless Mr. Hunt and Mr. Kauffman want to put up another $18 million." Neither Hunt nor Kauffman leaped for his checkbook.
The delay is particularly galling for Kauffman. His lively young Royals, one of the surprise teams in baseball last year, were counting on the shorter fences and Tartan surface of the new stadium to turn them into prime contenders in the American League's West Division. Now it appears they won't get their advantageous new toy until July at the earliest, and possibly not at all this season.
Kauffman has been one of the most progressive owners in baseball in the three years he has had the Royals, but the stadium delay, coming on top of cash losses of nearly $5 million, has dampened his enthusiasm. If he had to do it all over again, he was asked last week, would he still buy the Royals?
"Absolutely not," came the sad answer. "I'd have to be stupid to do so."
THEY SAID IT
•Chris Evert, 17-year-old tennis champion, after a year of being called things like "teen angel," when asked if she was getting tired of all the emphasis on her youth: "Well, it would be nice if some writer would get around to describing me as sexy."
•Emile Francis, coach and general manager of the New York Rangers, on the condition of the rink in Madison Square Garden: "I've seen better ice on the roads in Saskatchewan."
•Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboy quarterback, preparing to speak at a football dinner: "I keep waiting for Mike Ditka and Bill Truax to bring in the words."
•Pete Newell, Houston Rocket general manager, on the ABA's signing of undergraduates: "It's almost inconceivable to say there are sophomores and juniors who can play an arduous 82-game schedule. You've got to be half buffalo just to carry a suitcase around our league."