ONE HAND WASHES
The American Basketball Association asked in a $300 million antitrust suit last week that the rival NBA be prohibited from inducing its players to jump leagues. The ABA, of course, is no less guilty of contract tampering, for the revolving door which let Charlie Scott and Jim McDaniels out also let Joe Caldwell and Zelmo Beaty in.
The NBA's reaction to the suit was a masterful act of one-upmanship. The following day it said it would accept future ABA defectors only if (and after) a final court determination showed their ABA contract to be invalid. If the NBA really means this, it is quite a responsible stand to take. Even ABA Commissioner Jack Dolph praised the NBA's "very progressive attitude." He might also consider proposing a similar resolution to the owners of his own league.
April 3, 1972
Pro football has an interesting promotional game: The Super Bowl Site Award. Instead of a clunky Oscar or Grammy, the lucky winner gets a run at a full stadium, good blocking for its hotel and restaurant business and a chance to tackle some zippy legal problems.
It did not take long for the tremors to set in after Los Angeles was picked as the site for Super Bowl VII, to be played next Jan. 14 in the Memorial Coliseum. There were the usual rumblings about the National Football League's television blackout of the host city, and the usual politician made the usual threats to hold up the game unless the blackout curtain was lifted. A newspaper complained that the city needed another Super Bowl the way it needed another quiver in the San Andreas Fault.
Despite the dissent, L.A. will host Super VII, its first such opportunity since Super I back in 1967. Super I is remembered as the only Super that did not sell out. Various explanations are given for this, along with reassurances that it will never happen again. All Pete Rozelle has to decide is whether to settle for the 80,000 seats normally employed for football or eliminate the temporary bleachers at one end of the field and expand to all 93,000 seats in the huge stadium. Either way, stadium officials promise, it will be a full house.
IN WITH FLYNN
The determined efforts of Massachusetts state legislator Raymond L. Flynn seem to be bringing about something of a revolution in professional football ticket sales. Reflecting the resentment of the small-potatoes fan who is unable to afford season tickets (even if he could get them) but cannot buy tickets to individual games because they are all gone to season-ticket holders, Flynn introduced legislation requiring the New England Patriots to reserve 10,980 of their 61,000 seats for game-by-game sale. The bill passed the state senate by a 20-to-10 vote and went on to the house, but with an amendment asking the courts to rule on its constitutionality. While all this was going on, the Patriots, who had already sold about 50,000 season tickets, announced voluntarily that next fall 5,000 seats would be made available game by game. Whether or not Flynn's bill goes all the way to a score, the little guy seems at last to be getting a bit of recognition.
Kids on neighborhood basketball courts have been wearing striped shoes for several years, but a new status symbol is currently taking over the playground set: sweatbands. The unintentional architect of the new fad is Wilt Chamberlain, whose appearance with a terry-cloth band across his vast forehead apparently fascinates kids. After local youngsters persistently badgered pro and college stars for bands as souvenirs, the Inglewood Forum, where the Los Angeles Lakers play, put headbands ($1) and wristbands ($1.50 the set) on sale in January. In gold, with the Laker logo imprinted in blue, the bands were an instant smash.
Sporting goods stores are experiencing a similar boom. A representative of one firm said, "During the first 10 years we were in business we probably didn't sell more than one sweatband a year. Now 10 a day is slow. Wilt started it all. It's reached the point now where a kid will hardly go to school without one."
MORE BIKE THAN BARK
The Baltimore County Commission on Physical Fitness has issued a hints-to-cyclists booklet that includes suggestions on how to repel dogs.
"Some cyclists," the work notes, "grab their tire pumps as weapons. Some carry one or two large stones in their pockets. Quite a few others have found that lung power is very effective. We have seen a dog literally skid to a stop and slink away as a result of a very loud and angry yell, 'GO HOME!' "
It must be that many dogs around Baltimore are hard to intimidate, because the booklet also suggests: "Keep your pedal speed very high; this will make your feet a poor target."
The best idea of all might be to switch over to a penny-farthing bike. Penny-farthings are those old-fashioned ones with the big wheel in front and the tiny one behind. Two years ago in England a former racing cyclist named Keith Brock built one for his daughter. People saw it, liked it, asked about it, and now Brock has a factory turning out 1,000 bikes a week. Most are for the British market, but several American concerns are interested in distributing them here.
Most of Brock's bikes are for kids and cost $52 each, but he also makes an adult version for $394. This is a little expensive for the average cyclist, but it might be worth it if he has trouble with dogs. Back in the 1880s the original penny-farthings were known for their tendency to frighten horses. Dogs don't scare as easily, but the rider sits so high up on the big front wheel that he might well be above a dog's importuning bite. Or, that failing, the penny-farthing could make a dog laugh so hard he wouldn't be able to chase it.
Pro basketball coaches and scouts at the NAIA tournament bounced around a rumor that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would leave the Milwaukee Bucks after next season. The word was that Jabbar might play out his option and become a free agent. In that event, one coach suggested, the only teams that could afford to meet his price would be the Knicks or the Lakers, which, significantly, represent 1) the city where Jabbar grew up and first played the game and 2) the city where he established his supremacy as a college player. It is no secret that he would prefer either to Milwaukee as a place to be.
BASEBALL STRIKE TALK
If it happens at all, the threatened strike of major league baseball players will probably come on a spot basis, say a Saturday early in the season when Game of the Week television would be affected. But reports persist that the strike could wipe out the entire 1972 season. What are the economic consequences for the owners if there is no season? Frank Cashen, executive vice-president of the American League champion Baltimore Orioles, said the other day that in Baltimore's case the loss of one season would not in itself be as bad as the aftershock. "If we play this year and draw 900,000 and do not get into the playoffs or World Series," Cashen said, "I expect we'd be looking a $600,000 loss in the face. If baseball shuts down, I could cut our staff and our operation to the bone and not lose anything close to $600,000."
Then Cashen went into the more interesting side effects. "You have to consider you don't just lose the year. How many of your season-ticket holders and regular fans are going to discover while you're out that they don't really need baseball that much, that they can do without it? How many advertisers are going to find other places to put their money and maybe decide they get just as good results there? All these things have to be considered in making the decision to lay out a year."
In other words, if there is no settlement everyone strikes out.
BALANCE OF TRADE
The malaise that seems to be afflicting American horse racing (strikes, off-track betting inroads, decline in betting and attendance) may have been reflected a few weeks ago at the first dispersal sale of horses that belonged to George D. Widener, who died last year. Top price at the sale, and a world record for a broodmare, was $450,000 paid for What a Treat, who is in foal to Vaguely Noble. The significance of this enormous bid is that it was made by France's Office du Pur Sang, which had to top the price offered by agents bidding for Japan. Granted, this was only one mare, one horse, but it used to be that top racing stock flowed into the U.S.
What is wrong with Jim Ryun? All us amateur Freuds in the sportswriting trade have analyzed his psyche down to the last twitch of the Id, but now Dr. George Sheehan, the distance runner and cardiologist, suggests it might simply be that Ryun has mononucleosis again. The "kissing disease" that hits the healthiest segment of the population, young adults, is still a mystery to the medical profession, but Sheehan cites a doctor who believes the mononucleosis virus stays in the body forever. And he points out that the disease almost never recurs without the accompaniment of exhaustion. One demanding track coach who subjected his runners to an exceptionally stern training schedule (with his methods, Sheehan says, you were either a national champion or in the infirmary) found his squad shot through with 1) rebellion and 2) mono.
In 1968, after he had mononucleosis, Ryun attempted to make the Olympic team at both 1,500 and 800 meters. He ran disastrously in the 800 trials but made it in the 1,500 and came back to run splendidly that fall in finishing second to Kip Keino in Mexico City. In subsequent years, after strenuous training, he failed under stress in key races, most recently in the Champions Meet a few weeks ago in Los Angeles.
Sheehan writes, "From my vantage point Ryun looks like a typical mono victim, the familiar formula of excess stress plus a susceptible athlete.... He has been caught in the excessive mileage trap and apparently can't handle it." In other words, less stringent training rather than more and more work may be what Ryun needs to return to the top level of international racing.
ATTENTION ALL MALES
In Edwardian times gentlemen were wont to hang around stage doors to recruit from the chorus line. Now they may become Locker Room Johnnies. Dr. Christine Pickard, a consultant on birth control and sex problems in England, has concluded that women athletes are better lovers.
"Athletes are physical creatures," reports Dr. Pickard. "Their bodies are important to them. The physical sensations, touch, the ripple of muscles, play a central role in their lives." In general, she claims, women athletes "are more interested in sex and physically more responsive than their less active sisters." Developed muscles, she maintains, are une charme de plus. Muscles, in her opinion, are "much better than scrawn or flab." We may yet see the time when figure skating supersedes burlesque.
THEY SAID IT
•Lou Burdette, Atlanta Braves pitching coach, on throwing his spitball during batting practice: "I've slowed down so much, they're hitting the dry side."
•Dave Marr, after shooting a 70 in an exhibition match in which Jack Nicklaus shot 60, Julius Boros 62 and Sam Snead 64: "I missed the nine-hole cut."
•Dr. Karl-Heinz Klee, retiring president of the Austrian Ski Federation: "In future Olympic Games we must learn to dissemble much better than in Sapporo. The decision is between industrial sport, college sport or state sport. We should have made Karl Schranz a colonel."
•Lynn Shackelford, former UCLA forward, now a broadcaster for the Los Angeles Lakers, describing the size-22 shoes of Bob Lanier, Detroit Piston center: "He doesn't shine them; he sends them through a car wash."