TV AND YOU
A drastic rate increase on leased telephone lines requested by American Telephone and Telegraph could result in severe curtailment of sports events broadcast by local television stations. Network telecasts would not be threatened; indeed, AT&T has asked the Federal Communications Commission that network line fees, which are big-volume stuff, be substantially reduced.
Games affected would be primarily those played away from home by local teams, college and professional. Such telecasts are usually quite popular within the geographically limited area they reach. But line costs run about 30% of the budget for bringing back out-of-town games. Doubling the fee, which is approximately what the new rates call for, would make the practice economically unfeasible in most cases. Then, instead of tuning in on Local State's football game with distant Yoohoo U. or the local major league baseball, basketball or hockey teams in their games away from home, you would have to be content with whatever sporting contests NBC, CBS and ABC decide are best for you.
It seems another instance of gigantism in sport, and not a happy one.
November 13, 1972
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Women students at the College of William and Mary are wearing sweatshirts that read "Mary and William."
LAW AND SPORT
Two recent interpositions by courts of law between athletes and sports administrators could have long-range significance on the future of sports. In England a soccer player named Ernie Machin was put out of a game by a referee for "deliberately kicking" an opponent. Machin appealed to the Football Association's disciplinary committee and brought along a television clip that indicated the referee had been wrong. The committee refused to listen to the appeal or look at the clip. It backed the referee's decision and fined and suspended Machin. He went to court, and after two years was vindicated, the judge ruling that because he did not receive a fair hearing, the fine and suspension were void.
Although it seemed likely that Machin was right and the referee wrong, the Football Association defended its position on the grounds that it was acting on the longstanding principle that "the referee shall be the sole arbiter of all matters of fact." This procedure may be unfair to individuals at times, the FA said, but it is generally recognized that in the long run it is in the best interest of the discipline required in the game itself. But now every decision by a referee can be subject to litigation, and the authority of the administrative body is seriously undermined.
In the U.S., a somewhat similar legal hassle occurred in the National Football League. In an effort to control free-for-alls and near-riots, the NFL established an automatic $200 fine against any player who leaves the bench to take part in a fight on the field. A total of 106 players were fined $21,200 for breaking the rule. The Players Association went to the National Labor Relations Board, where it argued that the fines were owner-imposed and that agreement on such a rule should have come under collective bargaining at contract time. The NFL argued that the rule had been instituted by the commissioner and the fines imposed by him, and that the owners had merely approved it.
The NLRB agreed with the players, and said the fines should be rescinded, with interest. Again, administrative control of a sport by its ruling body had been controverted by outside authority.
WINNING AND LOSING
American International of Springfield, Mass. has had an oddly distinctive year in football. Although its season record is only 3-4, the Yellow Jackets have made contributions to both the longest winning and longest losing streaks in college football.
•It snapped the longest losing streak in the country when it was defeated 17-14 by Bates, which had dropped 26 in a row.
•It opened the year by losing 28-19 to Bridgeport, to help extend that school's winning streak, which is now the longest in the country (18 straight).
American International feels it has a proprietary interest in both streaks because:
•In 1969 it beat Bates 30-9 to start that school on its losing slide.
•In 1971 it beat Bridgeport 6-3, which was Bridgeport's last defeat before starting its winning run.
The winner of the Olympic decathlon is usually dubbed "the world's greatest athlete," and it seems a just appellation. But there is a biennial competition in Boston—its third renewal takes place this Saturday—whose winner deserves recognition as the greatest something or other. The Boston Decathlon, for such is its name, is not to be confused with that other, easier event called the Boston Marathon. The decathlon, as described by Dick Mount, its driving force, is a "one-day, 10-event test of all-round athletic ability." It begins at 6:30 in the morning with nine holes of golf. After that comes a basketball-shooting contest in which each entrant has 30 free throws. Shotputting is next, with a modest 12-pound shot used instead of the more formidable 16-pound cannonball. Then a mile run (contestants may walk if the need arises), followed by a baseball throw for distance. Back to the track for sprinting—the 100-yard dash—and long-jumping. A 100-yard swim—event No. 8—ends the more strenuous part of the day, as things ease off to the gentler pastimes of bowling (three games) and pool (how many shots it takes to clear all 15 balls from the table).
Trophies go to the winner of each of the 10 individual events and to the top three point winners overall. Points are based on a special scoring table in which 100 is the maximum that can be earned in each event. If you shoot 47, say, for the nine holes of golf you earn 86 points. Sinking 15 of 30 free throws in basketball is worth 82. Running the mile in exactly seven minutes is 80, and so is long-jumping 13'10". See? It isn't too difficult. If you survive. And Mount advises that ice-cold beer will be available throughout the day.
TURF MADE OF GRASS?
Arguments still rage about artificial turf. The new rug in Miami's Orange Bowl has been under criticism (Larry Csonka said, "They should bring in a jackhammer and rip this whole thing up"), and there has been flak about the carpet in New Orleans' Sugar Bowl. Meantime, Dr. William H. Daniel, a turf specialist in the department of agronomy at Purdue, feels he may have solved the problem with a grass system for sports he calls PAT, for Prescription Athletic Turf. PAT, which is based on underground drains and pumps, has already been installed at Grand Valley State College in Michigan and at Goshen High School in Indiana.
PAT uses regular grass on the surface, but the turf rests on a foot of sand. Beneath the sand is a maze of plastic piping, and under that a solid sheet of poly-ethylene. Richard Kercher, a landscape contractor who put in the PAT field at Goshen, says, "What we've got is a tank filled with sand, with grass on top." The suction pump controls the level of the water. "If it rains during a game," says Dr. Daniel, "just turn on the pump."
"What it amounts to," Kercher says, "is control. Moisture is the key to a good football field. If there is too much, it's slippery. If there is not enough, the field gets hard." With proper moisture, the turf seems to hold up better under use. "We had an average of only one divot per thousand square feet," said Dr. Daniel after the first football game played on the Goshen PAT. "And we can even control soil temperatures by putting in a heating coil."
Daniel estimates it would cost between $50,000 and $70,000 to install PAT in a large stadium, as opposed to perhaps $500,000 for artificial turf. Thus far no one has jumped at the idea, but Purdue and Notre Dame have expressed interest. Notre Dame's Ara Parseghian said earlier this fall, "Our grass people have been watching it. We have an artificial surface going in on one of our practice fields, but I still feel it is not perfected as yet. I'm concerned about heat and abrasiveness and firmness problems. In the meantime, we're watching the Goshen field very closely. It looks like a doggone good idea. It may be we might go that way."
WATCH OUT FOR WOFFORD
It takes all sorts of teams to make a football season. At the moment a favorite in this year's kaleidoscope is Wofford College of Spartanburg, S.C. Wofford can be called the big-play team of small-college football, even though it is not having a big season. Wofford averages fewer than three touchdowns a game, and its won-lost record is only 4-4. But what it does have is an admirable talent for the spectacular moment. It has had scoring pass plays of 76, 75 and 53 yards. It has had touchdown runs of 72, 61 and 57 yards. It has run back blocked punts 50 and 45 yards for touchdowns. It has had five interceptions in one game, one of which was run back 103 yards for a score. It has also had a 61-yard run for a touchdown on an interception.
Even Wofford's punting is something special. It is done by a little fellow named Scooter White, who is only 5'7" and 165 pounds. Scooter averages better than 40 yards per punt and the average run-back is barely five yards. Usually all he does is punt, but against Davidson a few weeks ago he switched gears and completed a fourth-down pass for 59 yards and a touchdown. Unhappily, there was a flag on the play and it was called back. Later in the game, again on fourth down, White made up for the lost score by running 57 yards down the sideline for the game-winning touchdown.
When you go to a Wofford game, never duck outside for a minute to grab a hot dog. There's no telling what you'll miss.
Steve Carlton, who won 27 games for the last-place Philadelphia Phillies, was unanimously voted the Cy Young Award as best pitcher in the National League this season. A dedicated student of esoteric baseball statistics argues that Carlton may have enjoyed a better year in 1972 than any other pitcher ever has during a single season. G. J. Wyllie Jr. of San Francisco goes beyond the obvious (Carlton's 27 wins matched the modern National League record for lefthanders set by Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax in 1966 when his team, the Dodgers, won the pennant) to point out that, despite the obviously woeful support he received from the Phils, Carlton led the league in innings pitched, strikeouts, earned-run average and complete games, as well as in games won. Few pitchers ever achieve such a sweep, and never before has one from a last-place team done it. In fact, Carlton is the only pitcher from a last-place team ever to lead his league in games won.
Carlton won 45.8% of his team's victories, the highest such percentage in modern baseball history. Since the Phils finished 11 games behind the fifth-place Montreal Expos with Carlton, it makes you wonder where in the world they would have been without him.
THEY SAID IT
•Ed Shubert, Drexel University linebacker: "When I get a chance, I like to knock a guy's head off. Then I look into his eyes to see how he feels."
•Jane Morrall, wife of the Miami Dolphins' 38-year-old quarterback, on why she is staying home in Michigan this football season: "I'm not sure I can take another championship drive. I'm too old and too pregnant."
•Jack Kent Cooke, on the disappointing crowds at games of his National Hockey League Los Angeles Kings: "There are 800,000 Canadians living in the Los Angeles area, and I've just discovered why they left Canada. They hate hockey."
•Spider Lockhart, New York Giant defensive back, on the best way to stop Washington star Larry Brown: "Same way we stopped Jim Brown. Get him a movie contract."