SHAM AND AM
The question of amateurism is a continuing one, with every Tom, Dick and Avery offering profound comments on what should or should not be done about it. Double standards abound, and cheating, if that is the operative word, is rife. It is interesting, then, to learn that Great Britain's Football Association, which rules soccer, has decided to excise the word "amateur" from its rules. Beginning in 1974 all FA athletes will be classified simply as "players." This was done, presumably, to allow the true amateur and the hitherto sham amateur to live together, which is what they have been doing for years, without sin. The so-called amateurs who receive bonuses for joining a team and for winning, who are paid weekly "salaries" and who are guaranteed employment off the field, can now be reimbursed openly.
Denis Follows, secretary of the FA, said, "My headache is gone. It's been passed on to the tax man. I have no objection to people receiving money for playing football. What I object to is people being paid and not paying taxes. I don't like cheats and I don't like deception."
Bill Wickson, secretary of one of the most tradition-minded FA clubs, said, "The concept of a true amateur can no longer exist, but it can be retained in the spirit and manner in which the game is played. It will be a much happier world now that this hypocrisy has been swept away."
Events at Southern Methodist University underscore the precarious nature of coaching football. SMU fired Hayden Fry as head coach and athletic director after receiving a recommendation from the school's board of governors that he be dismissed. Recommend, in this instance, meant do it, and it was done.
So Fry is gone after an 11-year term, and with two years remaining on his contract. His overall record was 49-66-1, but he won as many games in his first season as his predecessor had in his last two. Only four years later, in 1966, SMU won its first Southwest Conference title in 18 years. And since then only Texas and Arkansas have better league records. Fry's 1972 Mustang team won its last three games to finish 7-4 and tie for second in the conference. "He got a raw deal," said Quarterback Keith Bobo. "I don't like it."
Fry at first blamed a Dallas Cowboy evaluation of his coaching performance as a reason for his dismissal but later recanted. "I was just repeating what I heard," he said. "My relations with the Cowboys were excellent."
Nonetheless, SMU's inability to compete at the gate with the Cowboys was a prime factor. The people who support SMU's football program wanted a new image and a new coach, and Fry had to go.
TO RUN AND WIN
The famous old gambling man and thoroughbred horse owner, Colonel E. R. Bradley, is supposed to have said that he would lay 5-to-1 odds against any yearling thoroughbred ever winning a race and 2-to-1 odds against one even getting as far as the starting gate. If the colonel had lived to make that bet with Nathan L. Cohen, vice-president of Pimlico and a horse owner himself, he would have taken a very wet bath. Cohen had eight yearlings in his stable last year. This year, as 2-year-olds, all eight made it to the races and all eight finished first at least once. A track mathematician figured out that accepting a $2 parlay on the eight to race and to win would have cost the colonel slightly more than $22 billion.
SUPERSPEEDWAY THAT DIED
An auto-racing superspeedway is bigger than a racetrack and just slightly smaller than, say, Rhode Island, and when a huge, $25.5 million version of one opened barely two years ago at Ontario, Calif. the motor-sports world regarded it with pride as the daddy of them all. Ontario Motor Speedway had everything: a 2.5-mile oval for Indy-type racing, a sinuous inner circuit for sports cars, a drag strip, facilities for 140,506 spectators, even a rather fancy restaurant called the Victory Circle Club. The U.S. Auto Club quickly installed a yearly 500-mile event as one leg of auto racing's triple crown (the others being Indianapolis and Pocono), an army of fans turned out and everything roared right along. Until last week. That's when Ontario ran out of gas.
The finances are complicated but the basic problem seems clear enough: Ontario has to pay $535,000 annually in taxes and more than $1 million in interest on bonds—backers had provided splendid amounts of money to make sure things were done right—and there simply is not enough money coming in to pay the bills. Auto racing is a traveling show, like the circus, and, as Ontario found out, there are not enough major races to go around.
A nonprofit corporation that has taken over temporary management of the property is meeting this week in an attempt to come up with something that might keep the raceway going. The only solution appears to be multipurpose use: keep the track and the races, but throw in some conventions, auto and trade shows, an exhibition or two and, say, how about a nice big shopping center right there?
The last idea may be the ultimate answer to the monster created by the overreachers. Only in America would anyone dream of such a solution. Be careful as you leave the checkout counter for your car, lady. There's a big race going on out there in the parking lot.
According to Harrah's Tahoe Racebook, the biggest upset in this year's college bowl games would be an Ohio State win over Southern California in the Rose Bowl. Next biggest would be Notre Dame beating Nebraska in the Orange and Penn State beating Oklahoma in the Sugar.
STRAIGHT PLAYER DEAL
A week or so ago Charlie Finley made a curious trade. He gave Dick Redmond, a solid defenseman on Finley's California Golden Seals, to the Chicago Black Hawks for Darryl Maggs, an undistinguished second-year player. It seemed a one-sided deal, and hockey fans wondered why Charlie, the supposedly shrewd horse trader, had made it.
Now it appears it was a financial move by Finley. When the World Hockey Association was raiding the NHL, the Golden Seals lost half a dozen top players. General Manager Garry Young kept Redmond by signing him to a two-year contract for a reported $180,000. When Finley got back to paying attention to the Seals after his Athletics had won the World Series, he and Young had a falling-out and the general manager left the club. Meanwhile, Redmond had complained to Alan Eagleson, who runs the NHL players' association and acts as financial adviser for various players, that he had not received an advance he had been promised and that his regular paychecks were scaled to a $30,000 salary. Eagleson got in touch with the club and eventually met with Finley, who produced an affidavit signed by Young saying he had acted outside his authority in signing Redmond. Eagleson turned to other NHL owners. "Someone better straighten Finley out," he said. "I'm not wasting time with him."
This threat of a lawsuit brought quick action. Finley got rid of Redmond's onerous contract and picked up at least a usable player in return; the Black Hawks strengthened their back line; and Redmond began to receive the pay he had contracted for.
PRELUDE TO ACT II
Despite the Sybaritic atmosphere of his training camp at the Playboy Club in McAfee, N.J., heavyweight champion Joe Frazier was hard at work last week preparing for his title fight with George Foreman in Jamaica on Jan. 22. Spreading a surprisingly delicate hand over the mouth of a bowl-size goblet, Frazier waved off a white-tailed wine server. "Miss Bunny, none of that grape for Joe," Frazier said. "Joe's working."
Frazier has a strenuous schedule plotted for himself during the next several months: first, the undefeated Foreman, the 1968 Olympic heavyweight champion, and then the rematch with Muhammad Ali. "I reached out for the toughest opponent I could find," said Frazier, "and I got Foreman. I need that kind of fight because then I'm going to take on Clay. And I'm going to whip him, knock him out."
Farther south in New Jersey, in Cherry Hill, Muhammad Ali also had rematch on his mind, although he was supposed to leave shortly for Las Vegas to sign for a Feb. 14 fight with British heavyweight Joe Bugner. He was sitting in front of the massive fireplace in his Spanish-style home, chatting with singer Billy Eckstine, when he suddenly bolted up from the couch and ran over to a white concert-grand piano. Poking out a boogie-woogie rhythm, Ali sang, "Joe FRA-ZAH, Joe FRA-ZAH, I got something FOR YA."
Back on the couch, Ali said, "I sense this match is about to happen. It's built up to be a dream fight, two years a-steaming, and now Frazier can't escape me no longer. I see Frazier on TV, announced as the heavyweight champ, and I say, how can that be? Then I think, this is the man that beat me, made me second best. And that doesn't seem right."
The long wait is nearly over. Frazier wants the fight to take place in June, although for personal reasons not in California, which is a problem. Jack Kent Cooke holds the rematch contract and he wants the fight in his Los Angeles Forum. His lawyer told Frazier, "Jack Kent Cooke has his pride."
"I got my pride, too," said Frazier, "and I don't want to fight in California." Frazier feels that economics and logic will prevail. In a long-distance call he told Cooke, "We better get the fight on soon, because something awful could happen to old man Clay, and all that money will get away. And that would be terrible, now, wouldn't it?"
A coyote, sly devil, had himself a fine, easy time catching big trout from the shallow waters of holding ponds in a Minnesota trout hatchery. The man who runs the hatchery has long been critical of poison or other wipe-them-out theories of predator control, but he nonetheless recognized that he could not afford to keep losing his carefully raised fish. So he set out a trap and snared the coyote. Instead of shooting it, he put a large washtub over the animal and removed the trap from its leg. And then he banged hell out of the washtub with a stick. When the tub was lifted the coyote slunk off, shaking its head, and has not been seen since.
THEY SAID IT
•Mike Riordan of the Baltimore Bullets asked if second-year star Phil Chenier could be compared to the flamboyant Earl (The Pearl) Monroe: "No, he's more unnoticeable than Earl."
•Ralph Neely, Dallas Cowboy tackle, after gaining 10 yards on a lateral pass: "It was the fourth time in my life I've run with the ball, and I do not look forward to the fifth."
•Don Drysdale, ex-Los Angeles Dodger pitcher, now a California Angel broadcaster, on the transition from mound to microphone: "Interviews were the hardest thing for me at first. I felt so damn funny asking players questions when I already knew the answers."
•Don Knodel, Rice basketball coach, on one of his slow players: "He has difficulty getting to where he knows he ought to be."