South Africa, whose apartheid policy has made it anathema in most areas of world sport, opened its own Olympic-style games last week and in a gesture of amity announced that the games would be interracial as well as international. But while many of the strict apartheid laws were relaxed or suspended for the occasion, the government made it clear that the South African races (black, white, colored, Asian) would not be competing together as a national team but separately as distinct groups.
This put racial liberals in other countries in a quandary. Would taking part in the South African games help the cause of unrestricted competition (an opening of the door to racial equality) or hurt it (by giving intransigent South Africa an aura of respectability)? Hundreds of foreign competitors were on hand as the games began, but many others had been deterred by adamant anti-South African pressure at home.
It was an agonizing paradox. Right-wing elements in South Africa (where right wing means way over there) came out against the games, saying they would lead South Africa down the road to integration and chaos, but the government said not so, that they were merely an extension of the country's long-standing policy of separate racial development.
Cry, the beloved country.
Harvard, the richest university in the world, is playing poormouth with the post of basketball coach. Well, not really, but it is watching the pennies. Harvard fired Bob Harrison, who still had a year to go on his contract, because it was dissatisfied with his performance. But instead of immediately hiring a replacement, the school indicated it would take on a part-time coach for a year while it searched high and low until it found the right man for the job. However, those close to Cambridge say it is not quality that is causing the delay so much as it is quantity—of money. Budget-conscious Harvard still has to pay Harrison, and the athletic department has to settle for the part-time economy-size until Harrison's contract expires and there again is enough money on hand to hire a full-time coach.
SPIKES AND DOLLARS
Professional track in the U.S. is having growing pains (page 24), but its future may be bright. Some cause for optimism comes in an article in Runner's World by Australian distance runner Bill Emerton. Emerton, who was good enough to compete in the British Empire Games a couple of decades ago, says professional track is a thriving sport in Australia although it is strictly a runner's pastime, since there are no field events. The season extends from November to April, with the best organized meet at Easter in a country town called Stawell, 185 miles north of Melbourne. Emerton says as many as 5,000 pro runners converge on Stawell for a two-day meet, with events at distances from 75 yards to two miles. Crowds of 40,000 and more jam the stadium, and betting is very heavy. The featured event is a 130-yard sprint, with a prize of about $3,000 going to the winner, plus what he makes from his own bets.
Sounds like a carnival sport. Emerton admits he has no idea if pro track will become popular in the U.S. but argues, "If betting were to become legal, it would certainly enhance the sport's drawing power."
Poor television. It can't win even when it does things right. NBC-TV took over the National Hockey League's Sunday afternoon telecasts this season, and has done a generally superior job. Ratings are down slightly, but the falloff is traceable to two things: the mild winter, which had many TV viewers out driving their families around instead of sitting snugly in front of the box; and the rigid schedule of games the NHL imposed on the network (Buffalo has not been on at all; Detroit has been on five times).
The telecasts themselves are of a high order. NBC uses four cameras, sometimes five, with slow-motion shots that often catch a significant away-from-the-puck incident for replay. The exquisite complexity of perfectly fashioned goals is sometimes reshown from two, three, even four, angles. The play-by-play is professional, the commentary superior. Color man Ted Lindsay is blunt and direct. A former NHL star, he is a knowledgeable critic of hockey, and his habit of speaking his mind adds a salty complement to Brian MacFarlane's lively between-period interviews. Lindsay told Derek Sanderson that by jumping back and forth between leagues he had done a disservice to hockey and criticized the Boston Bruins for their handling of the situation. When Dennis Hull was on, MacFarlane freely talked about Hull's brother, the great Bobby, who defected to the rival World Hockey Association.
But NHL owners are upset by such interviews. They seem terrified of implied criticism of the NHL and object to any mention of the WHA. This is shortsighted. Skilled, honest reporting educates the fan as it entertains him; sport thrives on discussion, controversy, outspoken disagreement. You don't make fans by force-feeding them with self-serving promotional pap.
SMALL MEN, BIG MONEY
All the talk about highly paid athletes (in the $100,000-and-up class are 50 pro basketball players, 45 hockey players, 30 baseball players, 16 golfers, 10 football players, and so on) has not included much discussion of the little men who ride horses. Race riders get 10% of the purses they win. Last year 26 jockeys won more than $1 million in purses. Ergo, more than two dozen jockeys had incomes of $100,000 and up. Top man was Laffit Pincay Jr. with $322,000. Angel Cordero was at $306,000, Ron Turcotte at $278,000, Bill Shoemaker at $251,000.
Some innovations in stadiums and athletic fields:
Ambassador College in the heart of Pasadena is solving a nasty space problem by constructing a track-and-field area on top of a 300-car subterranean parking garage. The track, one-sixth of a mile around, and its infield will utilize artificial turf. At the other side of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, part of UCLA's practice football field crosses over a multilane highway.
In Moscow, Idaho, the University of Idaho's new roofed stadium, not yet completed, has a four-inch-thick asphalt surface on which courts are marked out for basketball, tennis, badminton and volleyball. There is also a 300-yard, six-lane running track with a 120-yard straightaway, as well as areas for pole vaulting, long jumping, wrestling and boxing.
The remarkable thing about the New Idaho Stadium is a huge eight-foot roller that extends almost the complete width of the arena. Wrapped around the roller—which normally is parked against a wall at one end of the field—is a Tartan Turf surface that can be rolled out onto the asphalt base when the stadium is to be used for football, soccer, baseball or other pastimes normally played on grass. When it is completed, the stadium is expected to be in use 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
Mention was made a few weeks ago of precocious chess players (SCORECARD, Feb. 12). Last Sunday one of those mentioned, 5-year-old Robert LeDonne, appeared on a kids' show called Wonderama. On Wonderama, host Robert McAllister often meets prominent people in various fields of endeavor. In his time McAllister has caught passes thrown by Norm Snead, shot baskets with Bill Bradley, played hockey with Brad Park. Shelby Lyman, who achieved fame as a TV chess commentator during the Fischer-Spassky matches, suggested to Producer Dennis Marks that McAllister meet young LeDonne in chess.
The match was arranged, and it turned out to be rather impressive. The two played a super-lightning game with a five-minute time limit, which means they had 2½ minutes each to make a maximum of 40 moves. The pieces flew back and forth, with the chess brilliance of the 5-year-old becoming quickly apparent as he forced his older rival into defeat. We keep telling you, Fischer. Look behind you.
Have you ever had profundus digitorum tendon avulsion? If you played defense in football, you may have had it without knowing it. Profundus etc. is a fairly common injury that happens to the ring finger, although it is often unrecognized and therefore improperly treated, according to Dr. Dennis R. Wenger in Archives of Surgery, an American Medical Association publication.
The trouble is caused by the fact that the ring finger is the stepchild of the hand, as you can quickly discover for yourself. Make a fist. Now extend each finger separately and curl it back again. Notice what happens when you send the ring finger out on its own. When, for example, a defensive player grabs a ballcarrier, only to have him twist and break away again, the ring finger finds itself out there alone where it never expected to be. A tendon tears. There is acute pain and the finger swells and stiffens. Too often a player endures the pain and the finger goes untreated. But if the condition is not corrected by surgery, a permanently damaged finger can result.
Injuries like this, that are peculiar to or concentrated in sport, are the declared target of the newly organized Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. Founded by Dr. James A. Nicholas, team physician of the New York Jets and a very good friend of Joe Namath's knees, the institute expects to do research in and provide data on all areas of sports medicine. Sports injuries often have jocular names like tennis elbow or charley horse, but they are of serious concern to those who suffer them. That such injuries are distressingly common is indicated by the institute's publication of a long list of them, including such things as yoga-foot drop, glass arm, bowler's thumb, jogger's heel, golfer's hand, football knee, baseball finger, cauliflower ear, pulled hamstring, fatigue fracture and stitch.
Hang on, sufferers. Help is on its way.
The Buffalo Braves of the NBA have been running a halftime contest in which a fan selected from the audience by lot has one chance to sink a shot from mid-court. A local Dodge dealer put up a new car as a prize for anyone who made it. Seventy-nine times over the past two seasons hopefuls came down from the stands to try, and 79 times they returned to their seats Dodgeless. Then Clay Schroeder, a 14-year-old freshman at Starpoint Central School in suburban Lockport, got the chance at halftime of a game between the Braves and the Los Angeles Lakers. Schroeder, who plays only intramural basketball, lofted a left-handed push shot through the basket, and the crowd, third largest of the season, went bonkers, shouting and cheering for more than a minute as their sudden hero wandered around the court in a cheerful daze. He wound up near the Lakers' bench, accepting congratulations from Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and other admirers. Of the car, young Schroeder said, "This will be a switch. I'll be the only teen-ager whose father has to ask him for the car."
THEY SAID IT
•Jack Dolph, former commissioner of the American Basketball Association: "I love basketball, but I am concerned that the game is too long, the season is too long, and the players are too long."
•Jim Winfield, after being knocked out in 55 seconds of the first round by Bobo Renfrow, on why he took the count kneeling on one knee: "I don't like the sight of blood. That's why I didn't get up."
•Billy Martin, manager of the Detroit Tigers, on his opposition to the designated hitter rule: "It could be one of the biggest mistakes baseball ever made. Who voted for the rule? The National League, voted unanimously to let the American League use it."
•Bear Bryant, Alabama football coach, on the role of athletics on the campus: "It's kind of hard to rally round a math class."