The current tendency of columnists and editorialists, some of them astray from their political habitats, to emphasize American disillusionment with a once-favorite sport is both exaggerated and fatiguing.
The baseball strike is supposed to have dramatically opened the fans' eyes to the fact that baseball is "business after all" or "just commerce." This observation seems to give the pundit intense satisfaction, evidently because he feels sport has been dragged down to the level of the other daily activities with which the pundit is normally concerned.
In fact, only a fan of singular obtuseness could ever have thought that business was not a strong element in any professional sport. It is true that pro sport is sport as well as business, in what exact proportions it would be delicate to define; but in some proportion it must be. The owner or player who forgets or overlooks that will be digging his own grave, and we shall be happy to tell him so.
April 24, 1972
On the other hand, sport is still probably better organized and more cleanly run than a good many aspects of life around us. Those who insist that sport is merely part of the Great American Dream-Bubble belong to the vociferous group that would have us believe there is little or nothing in American society worth preserving.
Computers not only project election returns, they also predict Supreme Court decisions. At least they do in Michigan State's department of political science. Dr. Harold J. Spaeth says the computer is almost 100% correct in anticipating the court's decisions. How then will it act on Curt Flood vs. baseball? The crystal ball—er, computer—says Flood will win. The vote should be unanimous in his favor, although Justice Rehnquist may dissent. The decision will not be a total defeat for baseball, however. It will lose its immunity from antitrust laws, which it has had since the court's 1922 decision that the game did not constitute interstate commerce, but a "reasonable" form of the reserve clause will be retained. And there still will be several years of litigation about that in the lower courts.
O.K.? Now, about the election....
WISDOM OF BILLY
If the International Lawn Tennis Federation and World Championship Tennis, which is Lamar Hunt's stable of contract pros, do not reach agreement in their continuing negotiations to end the tennis civil war, Billy Talbert, the old doubles star who is tournament director at Forest Hills, thinks he has a solution that might save his tournament's prestige as America's No. 1 tennis show. If ILTF and WCT players are not allowed in the same tournament, suggests Talbert, why not put on separate but simultaneous tournaments—at the same place? The spectator coming out to Forest Hills to see his favorites would see all of them, with a WCT match here and an ILTF match there. On Saturday he would see the finals of both tournaments. And then, on Sunday—super-tennis!—with the champions of the separate groups meeting mano a mano in a grand finale.
Problems involving things like an equitable distribution of prize money seem insurmountable at the moment ("I'll work them out!" insists Talbert), but the idea is kind of appealing.
That slippery Poly-Turf in Miami's Orange Bowl (SI, Oct. 18, 1971) is being replaced. American Biltrite is taking up the $205,000 polypropylene material and replacing it with a nylon surface. The troublesome turf had the longest "grass" of the various mod sods, but in time it lost its color and became matted and slick. The new turf will be of nylon and will have shorter, thicker fibers and a deeper underpad. When the first rug was laid down in Miami two years ago a company official said, "The Orange Bowl is our showcase. If we have to replace the surface every year, we'll do it." Obviously, they did not really expect they would have to. "We have Poly-Turf on 11 other fields around the country," says American Biltrite's Art Spinney, "and this is the only one that has given us all this trouble."
A heart research team from the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse found, to no one's surprise, that competition makes the heart beat faster in some individuals, but it also discovered that there-lease of pressure is what triggers an accelerated heartbeat in others. The guinea pigs in the experiment were four members of the professional bowlers' tour, Wayne Zahn, Norm Meyers, Dick Ritger and Nelson Burton Jr. The research team taped electrodes and radio transmitters to the chests of the four bowlers and took electrocardiograms by remote control during the $80,000 Miller Open in Milwaukee. Burton, who won, bowled a perfect 300 game while wired for research. Ritger, who finished third in the tournament, during one two-game stretch ran off 17 straight strikes.
"Burton's normal heartbeat of 75-80 picks up to about 110 when he starts competing," said Dr. Philip Wilson of the research team. "When he got into that 300 game, his heart rate went up to 160. On the last ball he was at 180. In the final game Saturday, the one for first place, he was pumping at between 175 and 184. As he does well, he gets more and more emotional, but when he has a bad frame the beat drops right down, almost as if it's a relief it's over."
Ritger, said Wilson, was just the opposite. During his run of 17 strikes his heartbeat stayed at a low and steady 120. "When he missed, however, it jumped up to 150," said Wilson. "He's really cool out there."
The UW-La Crosse experiment was part of a National Bowling Council program to develop standards to present to the President's Council on Physical Fitness. The idea is to give league bowlers a few precautions, such as avoiding 300 games unless a cardiac specialist happens to be in the next lane.
We'll try to remember that.
Springfield College in Massachusetts, which is noted for its physical education courses, is yielding to the feminine invasion of things hitherto considered masculine. Next fall it will introduce a course in football for women. There are some consolations for male conservatives. The football will be modified two-hand touch, instead of tackle. And because "we didn't have anyone qualified to teach the game," as Margaret Thorsen, director of the women's physical education division at Springfield, admitted, they had to turn to men for help. Football coaches Vic Mancini and Graham Foster wrote the course outline and will assist in teaching it during the first year. In time, of course, demonstrators will demand that pro teams take on women as assistant coaches.
GOUT AND GOLD
Marty Liquori, the miler everyone thought had succeeded Jim Ryun as our prime candidate for a gold medal in the Olympic 1,500, stopped training a couple of months back because of a persistent injury in his left heel. Two weeks ago he tried jogging but "I hurt worse than ever." He decided to give up running altogether and forget about the Olympics.
But he paid one last visit to a doctor, and now hope is burgeoning again. "He said little crystals showed up in the X rays," Liquori explains. "He said it's probably the gout. The muscle could be completely healed and all the pain could be coming from the gout. He's treating me for it. I'm dieting. If that's what it is, it should be cleared soon and I can start serious training again."
Liquori with gout, traditionally a disease of middle-aged swingers? It won't come as a surprise to Jim (Jumbo) Elliott, Liquori's coach at Villanova. "Jumbo told me last fall it could be that," Liquori says. "I kept telling him he was crazy. We all tend to think of Jumbo as being a little wild sometimes. When he finds out about this I'm going to hear the loudest I told you so' in history."
Even if it is gout and it is cleared up, the question remains whether Liquori has time to get in shape for the Olympic Trials. He was able to run eight miles last Friday and 13 miles Saturday but, as he says, "It will mean track 24 hours a day for the next 10 weeks. It will be murder, but I'll make it. Mentally, I'm already angry. All the work that went into track, the great year I had last year, the confidence that I could improve, and now this. The way I feel, I want to beat somebody."
WAGES OF SIN
A glittering bit of sportsmanship came to light in the early weeks of spring. Yes, indeed. In the Eastern Basketball League a schedule conflict and some bad traveling weather combined to leave the Wilkes-Barre Barons two games short when the regular season ended. Both were home games. If Wilkes-Barre had played and won both those games it would have moved into a tie for fourth place. If it then had won the team-to-team showdown for fourth it would have qualified for the league playoffs. A continuation of this theoretical hot streak in the playoffs could conceivably have won Wilkes-Barre the league championship. A miracle finish, of course, but who can forget the Braves of 1914 and the Giants of 1951?
It was not to be. The league decided that if Wilkes-Barre played and won those two missing games the playoffs would be unduly put off, thus "causing financial loss to the other teams and probably delaying the end of the playoffs until May"; consequently, the Barons were told to forfeit the games, disappear from the scene and let the other clubs get on with it. The vote to cancel was unanimous, meaning that Wilkes-Barre went along with the idea.
William Montzman, league commissioner, pointed out that poor attendance was a factor in the Barons' decision to quit without further ado. Asked if forfeiting might not have an adverse effect on the fans' future attitude toward the team, Montzman said, "I've been wondering about that." Amen.
Young Ben Crenshaw's 19th-place finish in the Masters Tournament deeply impressed the world of golf. Nineteenth place may not seem like much, but at the Masters it meant $2,500 that the 20-year-old Crenshaw would have won if he had not been an amateur. Last year he played in three pro events and tied for seventh, 24th and, in the U.S. Open, 27th. He would have earned $6,000 in just those three, and there are more than 40 tournaments. "Each year he stays off the tour," Jimmy Demaret commented some time ago, "it's going to cost him $100,000."
Crenshaw, son of an Austin, Texas attorney, is a sophomore at the University of Texas. Last year, as a freshman, he won the NCAA individual championship and led Texas to the team title (SI, July 5, 1971). He hints he might turn pro after this year, and if he does it will be fun to watch. Labron Harris, golf coach at Oklahoma State, whose son Labron Jr. led the U.S. Open after the first round last June, says, "Crenshaw is head and shoulders above any other amateur. He's another Jack Nicklaus or Bobby Jones. He's in that class."
THEY SAID IT
•Gene Shue, Baltimore Bullet coach, on the NBA draft during the playoffs: "We have everything at once in the NBA. I think we should have the draft after the playoffs. The ABA! They have their draft before the school year starts."
•Bill Sharman, Los Angeles Laker coach, who strained a muscle in his throat, reducing his voice to a whisper: "At least it saves me money on possible technical fouls. Now when I yell at the officials they can't hear me."
•Collie Nicholson, Grambling sports information director, on how to get to the Louisiana school: "You take an airplane to a point 100 miles away. You go 50 miles by bus. Then you hitchhike as far as you can go. And you take the rest by covered wagon."
•Fraser Scott, middleweight boxer, who has had a checkered career, asked if he has ever been threatened with harm: "Not yet, but I'd like to say right now that if I met an accidental death, it wouldn't be accidental."