The voters of Colorado go to the polls on Election Day to choose between Nixon and McGovern and also to decide whether they really want Denver to put on the 1976 Winter Olympics. If the voters approve a proposed amendment to the state constitution, further state spending on the Games would be prohibited. This would deprive the organizing committee of about $4.7 million in funds. In addition, a pending $15.5 million from the Federal Government would also go down the drain, since it depends on Colorado putting up state money. This would wipe out 60% of the funds needed for the Olympics. "It would be ill-advised to proceed in the face of such an obstacle," says Carl De-Temple, president of the Denver Organizing Committee.
So, what Denver and Colorado have is a lively election campaign. The anti-Olympic forces are many and loud; the pro-Olympic forces are close-knit, organized and heavily financed by a nervous business community. Fear of runaway growth, massive hidden costs and environmental damage has united the diverse opposition to the Olympics, and polls indicate that a vote taken now would send the Winter Games packing. But the Olympic boosters are spending $150,000 in the election campaign, 10 times what their opponents are, and pressure is being applied where it counts most. "A lot of old debts are being collected," says one observer. "You can't believe the arm twisting taking place on this one."
COACHING THE NEWS
George Allen, forceful coach of the Washington Redskins, has been having trouble with the press. Sportswriters have discussed in print experiments Allen has made in practice, and the coach bitterly resented the articles. "Personnel changes are strategy," he told the press, "and I refuse to have anyone writing about strategies at my practice. You're helping the enemy." He implied that reporters should be fans of the Redskins, supporters of coach and team.
He barred them from certain practice sessions because they would not agree to restrictions he set. Hell sort of broke loose. Finally Allen retreated and reopened the practices. But he said he hoped the press would understand it could not write about unannounced strategic changes, which would occur rarely, until Sunday, game day. The reporters were not sure they could agree to that, but they were mollified by Allen's uncharacteristic gesture of compromise, and an uneasy truce ensued.
RAPID ROBERT, BULLET BORIS
Mad scientists, chess nuts and other students of impossible possibilities have dreamed of creating a computer that can play chess perfectly. Prototypes have already been introduced, and while their games have been faulty, a whole school of not-so-mad scientists like Mikhail Botvinnik, who was once world chess champion, says it is only a matter of time before Superfischer Robot makes his debut.
Others say it is a matter of time, and there's the rub. They claim it is impossible to build a computer that can calculate all possible moves in a chess game. If you figure the average number of possible moves in a given position is 30 and then look ahead a few moves, the variations soar into the billions. In a 25-move game, well below the 40 to 45 good players average, the total number is staggering, even for a computer.
"Calculating 25 moves ahead," says Edward Lasker, international chess master and a mechanical and electrical engineer, "means a machine would have to generate a total number of moves in the order of 1075 [which means 1 followed by 75 zeros]. Even if a computer could operate at a million moves a second, which is 500 times faster than the most optimistic designer would consider feasible, it would take 1069 seconds to complete the calculation before each move. We could not wait that long, not even in chess. Since our planetary system came into being some 4.5 billion years ago, no more than 1018 seconds have elapsed."
What all this means is that chess geniuses such as Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky do not play like computers; they do not make moves after exploring all variations in all given situations and only then select what they think are the best ones. Instead, like so many of us do in everyday life, they draw instinctively on their experience (immediately eliminating several billion possibilities) and make many of their decisions intuitively. You could say that, far from being exasperatingly deliberate, they are actually rather impulsive.
"Chess masters are not sure how a move occurs to them," says Lasker. "I must ask these people who think a chess computer can work if they have ever seen a subtle thought translated into a numeric program."
PRIDE OF WESTBROOK
Poor Westbrook High. Despite such sophisticated coaching aids as video tapes and detailed scouting reports of opponents, the Minnesota high school's football team had not won in 24 games. Joe Garagiola talked about Westbrook on the Today show, and The Wall Street Journal ran a story on its front page. Worse, girls' teams at Westbrook in touch football, baseball and volleyball had not lost a game in three years, which led humorists to suggest that the school hurry up and get the girls out for varsity football. Ho, ho. But male pride survived. Ralph Merchant of the Westbrook Sentinel said, "Some of the kids got a little mad, and it didn't hurt."
Resurgent Westbrook blocked a punt, forced a fumble, turned in a 72-yard touchdown run and knocked off Comfrey High 22-8. Way to go, men.
Male diehards were further cheered by an article in Health, a monthly magazine published by the Soviet Union's Ministry of Health. There has been a bit of controversy in the U.S.S.R. about girls playing soccer, with reactionary male elements complaining it was too rough and would render women incapable of motherhood, or at least wreck romance and marriage. In the October issue of Health, Dr. Natalya Grayevskaya, president of the Soviet Federation of Sports Medicine, endorsed that view. She said soccer would give women varicose veins, and that a hard-kicked ball could injure organs protected by the pelvic ring and "damage the functioning of the sexual organs." She also pointed out that one of the ways to stop a ball in soccer, where hands can be used only by the goalie, is to block it with the chest. "A ball striking the breast is unhealthy," the doctor said.
The football team at Gallaudet College, an institution for the deaf in Washington, D.C., runs its plays to the beat of a drummer on the sidelines. Joe McLauglin, a student who is referred to as an assistant coach by Head Coach Pat Baker, whacks a five-foot bass drum mounted on wheels which is moved with the line of scrimmage when Gallaudet has the ball. The deaf players would have difficulty understanding a quarterback barking signals in the normal way, but they can feel the rhythmic vibrations from the drum. In the huddle, the quarterback indicates in sign language what count the snap will be on. As the team comes out of the huddle and lines up, the drummer starts a steady beat. The players count to themselves and on the proper number the ball is snapped and they charge into action. The drummer, who does not know the key number, continues the rhythmic beat after the ball is snapped.
"Screen passes are a special problem," says Coach Baker. "Most teams yell 'go' when the ball is in the air. Our players can't hear and we don't want the blockers turning to watch the play. Instead, when the ball is released the drummer switches the rhythm to rapid cadence." A special beat after the referee's whistle sounds lets the team know a play has ended.
Baker says he has experimented with checkoffs, too. A direct signal is given to the drummer, who does not start the beat, which indicates to the team that an "audible" will be called. The audible is in sign language, of course.
"We've tried that twice and it's worked once," says Baker.
The "free school" at the University of Maryland has a course in hitchhiking. The class is taught by 28-year-old Bob Berrio, who claims he has thumbed his way in almost every part of the U.S. and "been busted only once in the past 12 years." Berrio says of police he has come in contact with, "By and large, they're decent people." He advises students, "Be polite to police, don't carry drugs and stay off major highways."
Professional tennis is blasting off in all directions. The women seem on the verge of splitting into two major warring factions (page 86), one under the aegis of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association and the other a well-financed independent group called the Women's International Tennis Federation, a Gladys Heldman production starring Billie Jean King.
Meanwhile, things are stirring, too, on the supposedly calm male side of the court. A group of Pittsburghers has announced the formation of the National Tennis League, a professional circuit of tennis teams that they say will begin play next May. The group is incorporated in Delaware for $1 million and has put the price of a franchise at $250,000. No franchises have been awarded, but Pittsburgh, Miami, Houston and Los Angeles are supposed to be all set. The NTL says it will stress colorful uniforms and equipment (white is out) and a 21-point game, as in table tennis, but it did not mention the names of the players it hopes to corral.
And then there is Bill Riordan, head of the U.S. Indoor Tennis Circuit, who is organizing a troupe of professionals to rival Lamar Hunt's World Championship Tennis group. WCT reached an agreement last spring with the International Lawn Tennis Federation that seemed to presage peace for the sport. But Riordan says no. He says WCT and the ILTF have tried to monopolize the pro game. "They tried to make the world think there was peace," he says, "but this thing is a long way from being over." He said he had 40 top international stars on his side, including Ilie Nastase, the volatile Rumanian.
And to think it used to be such a quiet, gentle game.
A LITTLE LESS LITTER
Pull-top cans became illegal in Oregon on Oct. 1, although a challenge to the constitutionality of the new law has been carried to the state court of appeals. An earlier challenge was denied in a county circuit court. Conservationists, who hope the ban will be echoed in other states, were elated. They have long argued that pull-top rings are a major and dangerous element in litter (fish, for instance, strike at and swallow the sharp-edged tabs). Now the conservationists have their sights on the plastic-ring unit that holds six-packs together, which has become a practically indestructible part of the American scene.
THEY SAID IT
•Scotty Bowman, former coach of the St. Louis Blues now coaching the Montreal Canadiens: "In St. Louis, the players realized their limitations. They felt you were doing them a favor if you let them play. Here, with the established players, it's just the opposite. Some of them figure they're doing you a favor by playing."
•Nestor Chylak, American League umpire, on why he did not eject Detroit Tiger Manager Billy Martin for his violent argument over the Bert Campaneris bat-throwing incident in the pennant playoffs: "I didn't see him do anything. After all, I've only got two pairs of eyes."
•Chet Forte, producer of ABC's Monday night pro football telecasts: "We have a show-business show. We're competing against Lucy and Carol Burnett and a movie. If Don Meredith ever comes to a game knowing all the players' numbers and becomes wrapped up in X's and O's like the other jock analysts, we're in trouble."