THE HANGING JUDGE
The superior job ABC-TV is doing with the Olympic Games—the camera work is particularly impressive—was badly marred by Howard Cosell's treatment of Stan Wright, the track coach whose grievous error forced two U.S. athletes out of the 100-meter dash. The sprinters, Eddie Hart and Rey Robinson, though stunned with disappointment, acted with poise and dignity in their interview with Cosell. They displayed little bitterness or rancor, although in response to a direct question Robinson said, yes, he felt the blame was Coach Wright's. When Cosell then interviewed Wright, he said Robinson had declared the coach "the culprit," a semantic switch that hardly reflected the words or tone the runner had used.
Cosell relentlessly badgered the obviously suffering Wright, even though the coach had already accepted responsibility for the incident. The gratuitous "commentary" that followed the interview was cruel and unnecessary. Cosell seems to think himself a crusading district attorney, and his behavior in the Wright interview brought keenly to mind the gibe of sportswriter Larry Merchant, who once mockingly saluted the pretentious broadcaster for "making the world of fun and games sound like the Nuremberg Trials."
THE SECOND TIME AROUND
September 10, 1972
Occasionally there comes out of college football a small tale which refutes the belief that sport is the tail wagging the dog of education.
This one is about 21-year-old Billy Walker of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, a black football player recruited from Morristown, N.J. UNO is a commuter school, and the free ride there consists solely of tuition and books.
A fullback. Walker was elected co-captain for the 1971 season, but he didn't play. He was ineligible. He had flunked too many courses.
"There is no one to blame but Billy Walker," said Billy Walker. "I did real well my first two years. No honor list, but I was holding my own in a place totally strange to me. Then I started goofing off, skipping classes and the like. I had 24 hours of flunk, no scholarship help and no prospects."
His inclination was to return to New Jersey, feel sorry for himself and take to the streets. But friends, among the most influential of whom was Phil Wise, a former UNO teammate who is now a kick return specialist with the New York Jets, advised him to return to school. So Walker got a part-time job and re-enrolled to repeat those failed 24 hours. Aside from two regular semesters, he took two more terms in summer school.
On a Friday he got his grades: C in both courses. The next Monday he checked out equipment for his final season with the UNO team. He won't be co-captain, but he did learn something.
"Self-discipline," he said. "I want that degree and I know I'll get it."
OF HORSES AND MEN
Racetrack tales of horses being doped to make them run faster have no validity, according to a French study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which has devoted an issue to the Olympics and athletics in general.
Over five years, the French scientists reported, they tried almost all the drugs implicated in horse doping and were unable to find one that could hypo a horse's speed or consistently improve its performance.
The same goes for human athletes, reported Dr. Donald L. Cooper, director of the Oklahoma State University Hospital and Clinic in Stillwater, who declared that in his experience "there is no good scientific evidence in all of the [medical] literature that any of these [drug] substances really helps the athletic performance of anyone." What happens is that such drugs as amphetamines, stimulating the brain's pleasure centers, make the athlete feel good, convincing him that he is doing better than usual, when in fact he may be doing poorly.
Dr. Cooper told of a former professional football player who used "bennies" twice in his career and got thrown out of both games for overaggressive, rough play.
"He thought at the time that he was the greatest defensive linebacker ever," Dr. Cooper said. Game films showed otherwise.
THE DOG HAS HIS DAY
Not too many hotels admit dogs as guests, but Bob Fletcher, operator of Hall Hotel in Thornton-le-Dale, England, says he prefers them to people. For excellent reasons:
1) Dogs do not try to kiss chambermaids.
2) They do not steal ashtrays.
3) They do not get drunk.
4) They do not use face towels to clean shoes.
5) They do not burn sheets while smoking in bed.
6) They do not complain.
TRY THE FOREIGN LEGION, FELLAS
Before the 1972 season, American Legion headquarters in Indianapolis ruled that players in the Legion's baseball program must not wear their hair so long as to interfere with the proper wearing of a baseball cap or a protective batting helmet. It seemed sensible enough, but it turned out that the rulemakers were not so much worried about protective headgear as about a hairstyle they just don't like, a style that would not have been considered at all fitting—out of uniform, in fact—in World War I.
The rule dictates that the players' hair, including sideburns no longer than the bottom of the earlobe, must be well groomed and neatly trimmed about the ears and the back of the neck at all times and that players' faces must be clean-shaven.
When the season began, some officials enforced the rule and thereby lost players. Others looked the other way. But when teams from Quincy, Arlington, Milford and East Springfield met to decide the Eastern Massachusetts championship, the Legion's state baseball chairman announced that he would enforce the rule.
And so he did. Players from Arlington and Quincy were required to pass in review before him. He ruled against so much hair that, in pursuit of an outmoded conformity, the game was delayed for half an hour.
Outlawed players cut each other's hair as best they could. A professional barber came out of the stands to lend a hand. Several players chose to sit out the game rather than suffer the indignity of it all. Two players showed up for the next game with what might be called crew cuts with sideburns rampant.
The Legion would appear to be out of step.
THE HIGH PRICE OF FISH
There is now on the market, or about to be, a high-modulus carbon fiber fishing rod which, as you might expect, is not made of fiber-glass epoxy but of high-modulus carbon fibers. And not, by any means, of split bamboo.
The material is a by-product of the moon shots and associated enterprises, developed for use in structural members and panels on the manned orbiting space laboratory being built for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The rod's distributors, the Garcia Corporation, hold that it is twice as strong as, longer lasting than, and has faster response than any other on the market.
The catch: experimental handmade samples will set you back $1,500. Or you could cut yourself a green alder limb until the price drops.
THE STATE AND THE PLATE
For a mere $9, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as eager to make a buck as any other state, will sell you the right to have your initials or some personal message on your automobile license plates. No profanity or obscenity, please, and no mention of liquor or drugs. One gentleman had his plates recalled a couple of years ago. They read LSD and the Registry of Motor Vehicles thought it was a bit much.
Some officials of the Boston Celtics have been carrying a number—CELTICS 1 and variations thereof—for 10 years, or since they were in their heyday. Baseball official Joe Cronin was granted plates HF when he was elected to the Hall of Fame. When he was named president of the American League, Cronin had his plates changed to PAL.
Eddie Shore, onetime Boston Bruins star and also a Hall-of-Famer, required passage of a legislative act before he could sport plates proclaiming him MR HOCKEY.
Statesmen are indeed busy these days, ever striving to serve the people.
THE PAINTED LILY
Baseball is the latest institution to assist in the debasement of the language by prettifying it. The dressed-up catchword these days is "velocity." Pitchers, catchers and managers are talking less this season about fastballs and a pitcher's speed.
"I had better velocity on the ball than usual," winning pitchers are telling interviewers.
"He's improved because he's throwing with more velocity," coaches are explaining.
"I never saw him with as much velocity," says a happy manager.
Any day now you may hear a pitcher talking about the improvement in his slow parabola.
THE VERY MODEST KAREEM
After signing a four-year contract with the Milwaukee Bucks (a fifth year is optional with the club), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said he had a couple of requests to make. Familiar with the exorbitant and often outlandish demands of other stars, apprehensive club officials, who had just agreed to one of the most financially generous contracts in sports history, sighed and asked what he had in mind.
"I'd like you to send me a weight-training program," Kareem said. "I want to build myself up a little."
Club officials sighed again, this time with relief. And what else would he like?
What Kareem would like is to have his full last name, Abdul-Jabbar, on his No. 33 jersey. Last year, amid confusion over what Kareem's full surname was, the club had printed only "Jab-bar" on the uniform.
He could have that, too, everyone said, and Abdul-Jabbar turned happily back to his graduate studies at Harvard.
HOW TO CHARM A TIGER
Faced with extinction, the tiger rarely is seen these days through the sights of a rifle or any other way. Now Dr. Margaret Kartomi of Monash University (Melbourne, Australia) has come up with a tiger-hunting method that has been the closely guarded secret of West Sumatra natives for centuries.
She has taped the natives singing softly as the opening gambit of the hunt. "The songs are like lullabies that make the tiger sleepy," she explains.
Then the tiger singers use a blend of black and white magic, also calculated to make the tiger less wary.
And finally, just to make sure, the natives bait their traps with tender young lambs.
Dr. Kartomi will graciously lend you her tape recordings. Bring your own tender young lambs.
New York State racetrack rules require that when a ticket seller hits the wrong button and a wrong ticket consequently pops out of the slot, the seller must pay for the ticket. So when a bettor at Finger Lakes Race Track asked for five tickets on Horse No. 4, and instead got five on Horse No. 5, the seller, Mrs. Harrison Reed, assumed she was out $50.
Actually, she was in $1,015. The wrong horse won.
THEY SAID IT
•Pepper Rodgers, UCLA football coach, asked about the progress of his team: "We've been working out in shorts, and I'd have to say we look great in shorts. Unfortunately, we're not going to be playing Nebraska in shorts."
•Woody Hayes, Ohio State football coach, discussing his 22nd squad: "It's a unique team—almost every player was born after I started coaching at Ohio State. That's truly the generation gap."