THE BASIS OF POWER
Happy Chandler, onetime commissioner of baseball and longtime Kentucky politician, surfaced last week to criticize all baseball commissioners before and after his reign, with particular emphasis on the current titleholder, Bowie Kuhn. Criticizing the baseball commissioner is easy to do—we've done it ourselves a few times—but Chandler's shotgun approach merely obscures the problems besetting the office. Happy praised himself as a players' man, fiercely independent of the owners, at best a debatable assumption, and added that baseball's commissioner today should be more like football's Pete Rozelle. Yet Rozelle, an admirable administrator, is under fire by the NFL players association as an owners' man, while Kuhn is engaged in a serious showdown with Charles O. Finley, who is currently the most successful owner in baseball.
The trouble lies not with the man in the commissioner's job, but in the matter of his power, his authority, and in whether or not a sport can govern itself. It does not matter whether the baseball commissioner is Chandler or Kuhn or Yogi Berra; his capacity to govern derives from the consent of those being governed. When this consent is denied—as it has been in sport after sport in recent years by recourse to outside authority, specifically the courts—no commissioner can control his sport. Baseball recognized this years ago by including in its governing law a provision that says the various clubs "agree to be bound by the decisions of the commissioner...and waive recourse to the courts."
Finley has not yet gone to court in defiance of Kuhn, but he has hinted that he might, which would directly challenge Kuhn's authority. On the other hand, football's ability to govern itself was considerably strengthened last winter when the owners of the New Orleans Saints refused to challenge in court a drastic ruling against them by Rozelle. They were not happy about it, but they accepted the judgment. The consent of the governed: a principle of republican government. Without it, there is no authority, unless you use an army to back you up.
November 26, 1973
Some people think the fuel shortage will be a blessing in disguise if it forces us to take up the sedate and peaceful practice of traveling via horse instead of combustion engine. But getting a horse is not a brand-new idea: statistics reveal that there are more privately owned saddle horses in the country today than there were in 1900. Further, travel with a horse is not all that sedate. Captain Paul Latoures of the California Highway Patrol says that in 1901 accidents involving horses killed 3,850 people in the U.S., a fatality rate of 32 persons per 100 million miles. In 1972 motor-vehicle deaths in California occurred at the rate of less than four persons per 100 million miles. Don't get a horse.
Hank Stram, coach of the National Football League's Kansas City Chiefs, had some encouraging things to say about the proposed World Football League (SCORECARD, Oct. 8), which hopes to begin play next season. Stram did not praise the new league, but neither did he dismiss it out of hand, as some NFL people have done. Stram recalled the early years of the American Football League, before it achieved parity with the NFL and, eventually, merger. Of those days when Hank coached the Dallas Texans, forerunners of the Chiefs, he said, "There was a lot of talk then that the AFL would not succeed, but somebody is always trying to downgrade your product. That only stimulates you and motivates you to do a better job. If you're any kind of competitor, you're going to try to prove what people said was wrong. You always have to endure the tough times and fight your way through the hurt periods."
Stram thinks there are enough players to stock a new league, thus agreeing with WFL leaders, who say that of 7,000 college seniors playing football each fall only 500 or so are given even a chance to make it in the NFL. "It's easy to say there aren't enough players," Stram said, "but who's to know? They said that about the AFL, and look how competitive it became."
ANYBODY HERE SEEN KELLY?
Terence Vincent Kelly, a lawyer in Oshawa, Ontario, is a sports nut, but not your common variety of sports nut. Unlike some intense fans, he does not latch on to one team and follow it everywhere, seeing every game it plays. Not Kelly. He wants to see every team everywhere. In Scotland last year he attended five soccer matches in one day, just to get the atmosphere of each game. Last March he matched the National Hockey League schedule with an airlines guide and went on a hockey toot: on Friday night he saw the Vancouver Canucks play the Sabres in Buffalo, on Saturday the New York Rangers and the Flyers in Philadelphia, on Sunday afternoon the Minnesota North Stars and the Bruins in Boston and on Sunday night the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Rangers in New York. He popped home Monday, but on Tuesday flew to Bloomington, Minn. to see the North Stars against the California Golden Seals and on his way home detoured to St. Louis to see the Golden Seals play the Blues.
During the baseball season he caught a Friday night pitchers' duel between the Mets' Tom Seaver and the Cardinals' Rick Wise in St. Louis, an Angels-Royals game in Kansas City on Saturday and a Cardinals-Cubs doubleheader in Chicago on Sunday.
He has season tickets to hockey games in Toronto and Buffalo, and to Canadian football games in Hamilton. He'll go to England for cricket at Lord's and to Newfoundland for soccer cup matches.
What is it about sport that gets him? "Electricity," he says. "A buildup of things that make the game important." This Sunday he plans to attend the Grey Cup, the big final game in Canadian football, although he still did not have tickets as of last week.
"I'll show up about 1:20," Kelly told Jim Kernaghan of the Toronto Star. The game starts at 1:30. "I'll get in. There's no such thing as a sellout and there never has been. Somebody out front always has tickets, and somebody always has one or two left over, no matter what the game. Except for my season tickets, I rarely arrange anything in advance. There's a way to buy a ticket at the right price."
YOU'RE THE TOP
The No. 1 team in college football, unlike its counterpart in college basketball (page 70), varies from year to year, but almost invariably it comes from a tiresomely familiar list of colleges. Any halfway knowledgeable fan can predict the most likely contenders for the national championship two, three, four years from now. Almost certainly, it will be the same old gang. Last week's Top Ten, for example, included only one team, UCLA, that had not finished in the exclusive list at least twice in the past five years; since 1969 a small cluster of 20 teams has monopolized every rung in the Top Ten.
The most frequent member of the group has been Michigan, which has not missed in five seasons. Next are four-timers Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State. With three appearances each are Texas, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Southern California, Alabama, Tennessee and LSU. Seven of these 11 perennials were still unbeaten after last Saturday's games, and the other four had lost only four games among them—if you don't count games played with each other. From these 11 teams have come the national champions in each of the last 12 years and in 22 of the last 27.
As Woody Hayes of Ohio State has said, "In college football, success attracts the best athletes. Success leads to success." And the rich get richer, the schedules get softer and, except for the few times a season when the Best play the Best, the games get duller.
Frank Broyles of Arkansas, who commented last spring on this concentration of talent (SCORECARD, June 4), suggested a week or so ago that the NCAA cancel all football schedules two or three seasons from now and realign the teams. As it is now, Broyles argued, the top teams each season "play four, five, six schools that can't compete with them. The alumni don't want to support a university whose football team gets beat 40-0 and 50-0." He proposed that the perennial top teams be grouped together and play only one another.
"I think something drastic has to be done," said Broyles, "or a lot of schools are going to drop football entirely in the next few years."
World Team Tennis, the new professional tennis league, may not turn out to be a success, but it has already made an impact with its team nicknames. Studiously avoiding the bloodthirsty labels that permeate existing leagues, most of the WTT clubs have come up with names that reflect a characteristic of the city or an aspect of tennis. Thus, one finds the New York Sets, the Denver Racquets, the Chicago Aces, the Los Angeles Strings, the San Diego Swingers and the Detroit Loves (whose general manager happens to be Bob Love). And the Oakland Golden Gaters, the Philadelphia Freedoms (you remember Independence Hall), the Pittsburgh Triangles, the Baltimore Banners (The Star-Spangled Banner! Right!) and the Houston EZ Riders (they're owned by Mr. and Mrs. E. Z. Jones).
Someone has suggested that if California gets another franchise in the league the team could be named the San Andreas Double Faults. In any case, headline writers will have rich opportunities when WTT teams play. We can see Freedoms Curtailed, Banners Furled, Triangles Bisected, Strings Tied and, when Detroit wins the championship, Loves Conquer All.
The rabbit lobby has achieved a signal victory in Florida. Humane societies objected to the common practice of training racing greyhounds by letting them chase live rabbits in practice sessions. They complained to Attorney General Robert Shevin, who took their case to court, and this month Circuit Court Judge E. R. Mills ruled the practice illegal. Because greyhound racing is big business in Florida, Judge Mills gave the industry a year of grace to come up with a rabbitless training system.
In handing down his ruling, the judge said, "I'm not satisfied with the evidence by the state or the defendant. There was not enough to show me that the method is or is not the only way these dogs can be trained. But I can't believe there can't be some method other than the use of what the evidence indicates are Easter bunnies and jackrabbits."
Greyhound owners, breeders and trainers were dismayed by the ruling. Some predicted that most of Florida's greyhound breeding farms would fold their kennels and leave the state before it goes into effect. "It's awfully damn hard to train a dog to race without a live rabbit," said owner Woody Blackwell. Brad Cochrane, a trainer, said, "I think it behooves the state to come up with a new training system. It gets about $35 million a year from greyhound racing."
The greyhound men said that only jackrabbits, regarded as pests in most parts of the U.S., are used to train the dogs. Owner Chester Culbreath said, "I don't understand it. Some people wring chickens' necks, and they hit hogs between the eyes with hammers. They used to pay a bounty to kill jackrabbits out West. So what's wrong with dogs chasing rabbits?"
THEY SAID IT
•Bernie (Boom Boom)Geoffrion, Atlanta Flames coach, on how he would like to handle the Philadelphia Flyers, National Hockey League penalty champions last year: "If I could talk Jimmy Brown into coming out of retirement and then get the Flames to sign Larry Csonka and Dick Butkus, I'd take a week to teach them how to skate. Then, the next time Philadelphia came to town, I'd put the three of them on the same line."
•Duffy Dyer, New York Mets reserve catcher, discussing possible trades: "I hope that when Yogi Berra sits down to talk trades, he'll do just what he did this season—forget about me completely."
•Frank Howard, former Clemson football coach, on Bear Bryant's $100,000 contribution to the University of Alabama for scholarships: "Ol' Bear's getting religious. Now he's tithing one-tenth of his income."