SO SHALL YE REAP
Politicians, whose popular image can use refurbishing, are seeing an easy way to please sports fans by abolishing local TV blackouts of home games, even though professional football insists that the game's continued financial health requires such blackouts. It is disagreeable to watch sports commissioners being told by Congressmen how to administer their affairs, and club owners how best to run their business, according to the mood of the moment in Washington. But it is also true that Pete Rozelle and others in sport have sadly weakened their case by past readiness to accept congressional favors, such as exemptions from antitrust laws. They can't have it both ways.
New York horse racing is in a bad way. Legalized off-track betting upset the fine balance that used to exist between undercover and pari-mutuel betting at both thoroughbred and harness racing tracks, and sent attendance and wagering at the tracks skidding. Horsemen complained that OTB was stifling their sport, and Governor Rockefeller belatedly appointed a super authority (the State Racing and Wagering Board) to straighten out the mess. Now there are a dozen jobs (with salaries ranging from $33,000 to $65,000) at the top of the bureaucracy that oversees racing, and the man Rockefeller appointed to head the ménage is Emil (Bus) Mosbacher, the America's Cup sailor whose racing experience has been at the helm of a yacht.
One of the groups involved, the New York Racing Association, fell all over itself to help create the $250,000 Marlboro Cup race for Secretariat, and in so doing undercut traditional events. Now Jack Krumpe, the NYRA's president, proposes that next year the Marlboro be made an international race to be run as the climax of the fall season. This would effectively destroy the Washington (D.C.) International at Laurel Race Course in Maryland ("There can't be two internationals within a few weeks of each other," explains Laurel's John Schapiro), which for more than 20 years has fostered international competition.
September 16, 1973
Schapiro hopes New York will do the right thing, but he should not be sanguine about his chances. New York racing is not noted for logical or altruistic behavior. It is worried about the challenge posed by Sonny Werblin, who wants to build a major racetrack at the new sports complex in northern New Jersey, close to New York City. One of the investment firms helping Werblin to arrange financing for the venture, which would drain both horses and revenue from New York, is Hornblower & Weeks-Hemphill, Noyes. A senior vice-president of Hornblower & Weeks is Joseph Gimma, who is also chairman of the New York State Racing Commission. The question of conflict of interest was raised but Gimma was cleared of such implication—by the State Racing and Wagering Board and Chairman Bus Mosbacher.
Round and round it goes, like Alice in Wonderland.
Critics of college football say that all too often football players are privileged characters on campus. The current situation at Southern Methodist supports the argument. Thirty-six students were moved out of one of the most desirable dormitories on campus so that members of the football team could have exclusive use of the building.
"We feel like we really got shafted," said one student. Another complained about the principle involved and objected to the school "moving freshmen football players in all of a sudden, after we were already in there."
Athletes were also given one of the two lines in a campus cafeteria, with the result that 600 students must use one line while 125 athletes use the other.
Before this year football players at SMU were treated much the same as other students, but Dave Smith, new head coach, says separate dormitory and eating facilities are necessary "for control, morale and a prideful atmosphere." Dr. James D. Wroten Jr., vice-president for student affairs, said that Smith asked for the separate facilities last January, shortly after he was hired. Wroten said he resisted Smith's request as long as he could but that they were "on a collision course," and he had to give way. The odds are that Smith's wishes will continue to prevail for the time being. SMU has been trying for some years to regain its old place as a top football power, and it will give Smith every chance to accomplish what his predecessor Hayden Fry was unable to.
JUST A LITTLE BIT
Government regulations allow only one more hole-in-one story in this section this year, and this is it. David Dickenson, a member of the Kirtland Country Club outside Cleveland, is a nationally ranked paddle tennis player, a tennis ace, an 11-handicap golfer and, reflecting this competitive drive, an aggressive insurance salesman. This year he convinced his club it should give a $4,000 Pontiac to anyone who shot a hole in one on the 155-yard 6th hole during Kirtland's annual member-guest tournament, and then arranged for the club to buy an insurance policy as protection against a hole in one.
Primarily a life insurance man himself, he talked to an underwriter to establish a rate for the policy. The underwriter said $550, which meant the odds the company was laying against an ace were $4,000 to $550, or about 8 to 1. "You don't know much about golf, do you?" Dickenson asked, and worked the price down to $234 for four days of coverage at tournament time. It seemed safe enough. The hole is over water, the green has a lot of tilt and it is the hardest par-3 on the course.
Dickenson should have suspected what was going to happen when, during a practice round, he put his tee shot three feet from the pin. In the afternoon he shot a hole in one.
When something like this happened in Double Indemnity, Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray got in a lot of trouble. Not Dickenson. He was cheerfully presented with a check for $4,000 by Richard Haverland, a vice-president of the insurance company, who did not act at all like Edward G. Robinson, the suspicious claims agent in Double Indemnity. Haverland is a golfer himself, and he knew how Dickenson felt. Besides, it was soon apparent that luck was draped all over Dave Dickenson. A few days later he flew to the Virgin Islands with a couple of clients for a little fishing. Well, not fishing, really, for all Dickenson planned to do was take photographs of his friends catching fish. They were on the boat four days and the only time he sat in the chair was when one of the others took time out for a beer or a rest. And what happened? Dickenson in his brief moments in the sun caught five blue marlin, ranging from 350 to 500 pounds. He never got to take a picture, worse luck.
THE FUTURE AND STOREN
The selection of Mike Storen to replace Bob Carlson as commissioner of the American Basketball Association is a hopeful sign for a league nearing the close of a hopeless off-season. Three ABA teams were without coaches at the time of his appointment, with the opening of training camps only a week away, and Memphis was also without a front office. It had yet to sell a ticket for the regular season, which opens Oct. 10.
For a league so lacking in organization there could be no better choice than Storen. At Indiana and Kentucky he proved himself one of the best front-office men in basketball. He built the Pacers and Colonels into quality teams that would surely be economically successful in a merged pro league. His forcefulness in ABA councils in the early years is credited with keeping the young league alive.
But, as with any other commissioner, Storen's effectiveness will depend on how much freedom the owners let him have. Given a free hand, he could be as dynamic a leader as Al Davis was for the old American Football League. And the chances seem good that he'll have that free hand: even though he is not the most popular man in the ABA and had twice previously turned down the job, he was elected by a 9-1 vote.
The NBA should observe Storen carefully. Its own commissioner, Walter Kennedy, retires in 1975. If the anticipated merger of the leagues precedes Kennedy's retirement, the NBA might find it wise to swallow its pride and accept the man from the ABA as first commissioner of all pro basketball.
Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, got some things off his chest about pro football. For one, he said he was afraid the National Football League was getting stodgy and complacent, particularly on the field (page 50). He would like to see the league adopt the two-point conversion (by running or passing) that the old American Football League used before the merger with the NFL. He also suggested that the kickoff be from the 35 instead of the 40, since "most of our kickers put the ball out of the end zone and thus kill one of the most exciting plays in football."
He said, "I don't think we can assume a mossback approach and not change anything. Pro football has taken the play away from other sports, and we don't want to lose our advantage. We need to be careful we don't get stagnant. But some owners, particularly some of the older ones, want to keep things just as they always have been."
Hunt predicted that the NFL would expand to 30 teams within three years and suggested it look to Canada (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver) and Mexico City for possible franchise sites, as well as to oft-mentioned Seattle, Tampa, Phoenix, Memphis and Honolulu.
The University of Tampa said a couple of weeks ago that it liked pro football (SCORECARD, Sept. 3) and would do all it could to help get a pro team for the city of Tampa. What has happened since may be merely coincidence, but it sounds like the old Biblical thing of casting your bread upon the waters. The star of Tampa's football team last fall was tackle John Matuszak, picked No. 1 in the National Football League draft by the Houston Oilers. Now the Oilers have sort of returned the favor by sending a player to the university.
What happened was, the Oilers held a one-day tryout in Tampa last May and were impressed by a 29-year-old soccer-style placekicker named Kenny Jordan. Jordan had not done any kicking since junior high school but after watching the soccer-style kickers in the NFL on television he started working out for two hours every day on the field at Plant High School in Tampa. He got to where he kicked one or two field goals from 65 yards out and could hit regularly from inside the 50.
General Manager Sid Gillman and Coach Bill Peterson of the Oilers were impressed by Jordan, offered him a contract and asked him to report to their training camp. Then a University of Tampa coach, Billy Turner, who had watched the Oiler tryout, discovered that Jordan still had four years of college eligibility. He suggested the kicker pass up the pros temporarily and take a four-year scholarship to college instead. Jordan, not wanting to renege on an agreement, even if unsigned, was worried what the Oilers would think. But after Gillman heard about the scholarship offer he agreed to "waive" the unsigned player to the university, and the NCAA gave its approval.
"Call it a down payment on our due bill with Tampa for giving us Matuszak," said Bill Peterson.
The furor in Canadian hockey over the World Hockey Association's signing of underage players (and the National Hockey League's threat to sign them) at first centered around the harm being done to amateur hockey. But now criticism is directed at the amateur leagues themselves. Officials of Midget (under 16) and Juvenile (under 18) hockey claim the Juniors (under 20) are raiding their leagues. Tom Graham of Toronto says, "If the Juniors want the pro teams to lay off hiring underage boys, they'd better lay off, too."
And a government report issued by the province of Alberta declared that at certain levels the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association was "little different from a slave market in which the promoters and dealers have taken all the power." It warned that "constraints upon individual rights of players...are so serious as to cry out for immediate and drastic action." Hearings are planned.
Brian Shaw, coach of the WHA's Edmonton Oilers, claimed the attitude expressed in the report might be justified in the case of a 12-year-old boy playing amateur hockey for his own amusement. "But let's face it," said Shaw, "by the time a player is a Junior he has only one thing on his mind and that is to make it into the professional ranks as quickly as possible."
Graham's reaction to all this was, "At the rate they're going they'll soon be playing 16-year-olds in the NHL."
THE GAME OF THE NAME
It's name time again for football roster nuts, those who enjoy culling college squad lists and coming up with super teams based only on the names of the players. Best so far comes from the Eastern College Athletic Conference, which can field an offensive team composed of Block, Rush, Butts, Buck, Driver, Cannon, Bolt, Dart, Lively, Lightfoot and March. The defensive team is Hard, Wall, Rock, Stone, Grip, Grab, Axe, Savage, Gang, Stopper and Crump. On the bench, but great at victory parties, are Glass, Beers, Case and Booze.
The captain of the name team, suggests Boston Herald American Columnist Dick Dew, should be Bill Pappafotoboloas of Boston State.
THEY SAID IT
•Gertrude Ederle, who swam 21 miles through New York Bay in preparation for her 1926 conquest of the English Channel, asked at the age of 66 if she could make the same swim today: "Sure, I'd float across on the garbage."
•Jerry Tagge, Green Bay quarterback: "It took me a whole year to learn how to call a play convincingly. Even if you don't know what you're going to do, you have to act like you do."
•Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh Steeler coach, after ex-manager Bill Virdon of the Pirates challenged one of his players to a fight for calling him an obscene name, when asked what he would do if one of his 280-pound linemen called him something nasty: "I'd say sticks and stones may break my bones...."