Sport was a major subject for discussion at the cable-TV convention in Chicago last week. A widespread assumption that it is only a matter of time before major events like the World Series and the Super Bowl are exclusively on cable TV was refuted. Robert Rosencrans of Columbia Cable said, "This may shock you, but we'll never take the Super Bowl away from free TV. Our potential lies in new areas, and in events not being shown on free TV." Part of the reason for this, of course, is the FCC's five-year anti-siphoning rule, which says cable TV cannot telecast a sports event into an area if it has been shown on conventional TV locally at any time during the previous five years. The FCC rule is one reason why Arthur Wirtz of the Chicago Black Hawks has not been televising Hawk home games. "I want to leave the door open for cable TV," he said.
Sports entrepreneurs tend to feel that free televising of home games hurts attendance, but cable TV, possibly because the viewer has to pay to watch it, seems another matter. Jack Dolph, commissioner of the ABA, said, "The New York Nets had a standing-room-only crowd in a playoff game at home, yet it was their 104th game of the year, and all were shown on the cable to half of Manhattan. I can't see where cable TV of home games hurts." C. Charles Jowaiszas of New York's Madison Square Garden echoed that thought: "We've got 125,000 cable-TV subscribers who were able to see 125 sports events last year, mostly home games of the Knicks and Rangers. Cable TV seems to maintain or even increase home attendance."
As for Rosencrans' comment on new events and new areas, Philip Hochberg, a Washington attorney with cable-TV interests, said, "We can create a demand. We can televise events that conventional TV would not find commercially feasible. We can carry a karate championship even if only 20 people in some New Jersey town are interested in seeing it."
HASTA LA VISTA
Canonero II, implausible hero of the 1971 Kentucky Derby who proved himself a genuine champion in winning the Preakness, and who, worn down by injury and illness, failed in the Belmont, came back to the wars last weekend in the $57,000 Carter Handicap at Belmont Park. Bought from his Venezuelan owners for a reported $1.25 million by Robert Kleberg of King Ranch, the horse recuperated for 11 months. In the Carter he got off slowly, ran a distant last for a while in the field of eight and then, turning for home, began a cannonball rush through the slop that enabled him to finish a strong second behind Leematt. Trainer Buddy Hirsch was delighted with the performance and plans to run him back in the big handicap races later, which is good news. After the stunning demise of Riva Ridge in the Preakness (page 36), racing needs Canonero's glamour.
GRIER ON GUNS
Roosevelt Grier, the old Penn State and NFL lineman who turned to acting and politics when his playing days ended, was in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles four years ago when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Last week when he heard about the shooting of George Wallace he could not speak for 15 minutes. "Having been through it once," he said, "it was like another kick in the stomach. Now, Governor Wallace—I was not a fan of his, but he had every right to speak out about what he believed in. In the end, the voters would make the decision. The majority rules. I'll always believe in that.
"I admired Dr. Martin Luther King and his nonviolent stand. I spoke to him the last time during a plane ride. Not long after he was killed, and then a few months later it was Bobby Kennedy. After that a lot of us, Astronaut John Glenn included, battled for gun control. I think anything that makes it more difficult to get a gun should be done. You have to start somewhere.
"The shame of it is, it takes something like this tragedy to publicize it. Every day you have people shooting one another, but the gun laws remain weak and ineffective. Remember that many of the young people in this country have read of nothing but war. The violence growing out of World War II hasn't ended yet, and it helps create a climate of fear and suspicion, an attitude that no one can be trusted. Violence in America won't end until attitudes change."
SMITE THEM HIP AND THIGH
A new Willamette University season record for personal fouls was set this past basketball season by Rich Grady, a junior center, who got the whistle 97 times. Grady did not seem too impressed one way or the other by the honor, but the former record holder, Ted Loder, who picked up 92 personals two decades ago, was moved to impassioned prose. Now minister of the First United Methodist Church in Germantown, Pa., the Rev. Mr. Loder wrote: "All I want to say is that there is a big difference between quantity and quality. Although the quantity of my personal fouls may be surpassed, I suspect the quality may not. Perhaps one way to evaluate the real effectiveness of a personal foul is to determine how many of the subsequent free throws were made by the opponents. If they could still stand without shaking and could still see without blurred vision, then I would question whether the quality of the foul was sufficient to merit real notice."
Willamette Athletic Director John Lewis, who was basketball coach back then, conceded that Loder's fouls "were generally of high quality." He also said he was pleased his charge had gotten the violence out of his system before entering the ministry.
Speaking of reverent competitors, the major league baseball club with the largest and most active number of members in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is the Chicago Cubs, managed by that model of deportment, Leo Durocher.
NOT NICE, GUYS
Nor does this sound Durocheresque. From an article on soccer in Colony Information Notes, published in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, comes the following: "Firstly, it is a foul to tackle a player when he does not have the ball. This may surprise some of you, but it is so. Secondly, a knee in your opponent's chest, back, face or privates is also a foul, and in bad taste as well."
SPORT AND ART
For decades writers have dreamed of turning baseball into art, of using the so-called National Pastime as raw material for a superb novel or play. One or two came close but, by and large, baseball has failed as the stuff that art is made on. Football, too, has had its vogue but most fiction or drama derived from it echoes the melodrama and sentimentality of old boxing movies.
But basketball—aah. This basically American sport is suddenly and perhaps not surprisingly the crucible from which genuine art is bubbling. John Updike, for instance, has made his Rabbit Angstrom a familiar name in the literary scene. A young writer named Dow Moss-man has used an ABA player, Bob Netolicky of the champion Indiana Pacers, as a major figure, named Dunker Nadlacek, in his highly praised new novel, The Stones of Summer, which is about growing up in Iowa. Netolicky was a boyhood friend of Mossman's and, the author says, "During college we used to come home weekends and talk all night about the things we did in high school. Neto was amazing. He remembered things I had long forgotten, and I'd take notes as we talked. He was an awful lot of help."
Derived, too, from basketball is the current New York stage hit, That Championship Season, an adroit production built around the reunion of a high school basketball team and its coach. The banal Rockne-like exhortations of the bigoted old coach as he sees his players, now middle-aged, being defeated by life take on a curious and moving validity. Apparently, basketball is a touchstone of the American experience. At any rate, where the older sports have failed, it has come through.
Possibly because his Texas Rangers had a team batting average under .200, Ted Williams last week was moved to comment glumly, "We may be in a period when there isn't going to be much hitting. Hitting has been going down for quite a few years." Williams said the reason for this may be that the modern youth has other interests that prevent him from concentrating sufficiently on perfecting his hitting, which Ted says is the most difficult thing to do in sport. Turning to sociology, he noted that the National League had better hitting than the American mostly because of its black players. He suggested that black players might have fewer distractions while they are maturing as athletes and trying to push their way up in society. Thus, they work harder at their hitting, which would explain why so many of the good hitters are black.
The old philosopher also implied that modern ball parks are too big and that baseball could help the offense by bringing in the fences to more reachable distances. "Form a committee of oldtime players to consult on the dimension of the fields," he said. "Let's go back some years. What cities were traditionally good baseball cities? Brooklyn, New York, Boston, Detroit, Cincinnati, St. Louis. What did they have in common? They all had small parks."
St. Louis, like many other cities, has been having the financial shorts, so much so that it appeared a mite obsessed with the problem during the St. Louis District Public Links golf tournament. Two players finished in a tie for first place and had to go three extra holes of sudden death to determine the champion. The playoff did not have quite the festive air such things have in, say, the U.S. Open. Because it was held the day after the tournament proper ended, the city asked the two finalists to pay an extra $5 greens fee.
It's official. Martin Liquori will not run in the Olympics. What had been variously diagnosed—gout was one thing mentioned—turned out to be a spur on the left heel. The runner will undergo surgery and will be out of action until next indoor season.
"I can't get it in my head that I won't be at Munich," Liquori said, "but since last October I've been running in pain. I haven't been able to achieve anything."
Later this year, when he is able to compete again, he plans to train in California. On reports he would be a TV commentator at the Olympics, he said, "I'm interested in broadcasting, but I won't accept any job, whatever the offer, if it meant I couldn't run again. No amount of money could get me to give up my amateur standing now. I'll be back."
THEY SAID IT
•Earl Weaver, Baltimore Oriole manager, on the team's hitting slump: "We're so bad right now that for us back-to-back home runs means one today and another one tomorrow."
•Mrs. Gordon Johncock, on being married to a race driver before the Indy 500: "Every wife wants her husband to succeed, and we help in the struggle to reach the top. But once a husband is on top, the strain of maintaining the No. 1 position is too much. I don't want my husband to win; second, yes, or on back. I've seen too often what winning can do to a man and his marriage."
•Susannah Shooter, 81, who has been sewing baseballs for Spalding for 50 years but who can't stand to watch a baseball game: "I hate to see all those balls batted into the stands after all that work."
•Red Auerbach, outspoken general manager of the Boston Celtics, at a luncheon of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce: "Let me start by saying this is not quite the honor, my being here, that you think it is. I haven't had too much regard for the Chamber of Commerce during my years in Boston."