One of the hopes that Arthur Ashe had when he visited South Africa last month (SI, Dec. 10) was that his trip would have some lasting effect. He especially tried to convince the government that black tennis players could not expect to improve unless the color line was broken in many tournaments during the course of a year—and not just in the annual South African Open.
Last week, in direct response to this plea, the government announced that the Sugar Circuit, a group of several tournaments that draws the best players in the nation (and some foreigners), would henceforth be open to blacks. As Ashe said in South Africa, "Possibly my visit is just window dressing, but once you pause in apartheid for five minutes, how can you go back? The next time you'll have to pause 10."
December 24, 1973
Every time New Orleans turns around, the cost of its new Louisiana Superdome, currently under construction, gets a bit higher. A legislative committee is looking into the latest estimate, which is $162 million—up from $155 million, which was up from $129 million, which was up from $93.5 million, which was up from $73 million, which was twice the $35 million estimated when Louisiana voters approved the idea in 1966.
Recently, James A. Moreau, New Orleans city councilman, was in Baltimore, where folks are toying with the idea of building their own domed stadium. The Baltimore people figure their toy would cost about $114 million and were somewhat taken aback when Moreau flatly suggested they abandon the idea. "If private industry does not want to build the stadium," he told them, "then don't build it." He said private industry was the best judge of whether or not a domed stadium was economically feasible, of whether or not it would make a profit, or at least pay its own way. He said the debt on the Louisiana dome will run $9.5 million annually. Add $3 million a year to operate the place, and it means the Superdome must clear $34,500 a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, just to break even. If it doesn't, the taxpayers are stuck with the bill.
For those who feel Moreau might be trying to discourage competition in the domed-stadium field, it might be wise to recall that in February 1969, when the city of Buffalo was trying to get a dome started, Roy Hofheinz of Houston's Astrodome pessimistically predicted that a new domed stadium would cost four times as much as the Astrodome did. At the time, his words seemed self-serving and extreme. Five years later they seem conservative—or have you forgotten that the Astrodome, then the most expensive stadium ever built, cost $31.6 million?
A fan has proposed a simple but radical idea for making soccer more popular in the U.S. Get rid of the goalie. "I'm serious," he writes. "There is no goalie in basketball. I can see the team on offense moving in to score with interesting passing plays, and a defense organized to intercept. Some rule changes would be necessary, but it would be worth a trial. I'd like to see two teams play this way. It could reveal a very interesting new game."
The North-South game in Miami on Christmas night will experiment with the rules of football, and college and pro authorities will be watching with interest. The changes are designed to reduce static situations in the game; after a missed field goal, for instance, the ball will be given to the opponents on the original line of scrimmage (if the kick was attempted from beyond the 20). To encourage runbacks of kicks, fair catches will not be allowed on punts, and on kick-offs into the end zone the ball cannot be downed for a touch back but must be run with. Kickoffs will be from the 35 instead of the 40. Further, a team losing by three points or more can elect to receive instead of kicking off after it scores.
Officials toyed with the idea of adding a sudden-death plan if the game ended in a tie but then decided they did not want too many gimmicks. The ones they are playing with seem quite enough for the time being.
ALI ALAS ALOT
Your average sports fan is not likely to grab a copy of the Vatican publication Latinitas for late news from the world of fun and games, partly because Latinitas operates on a leisurely deadline but even more so because it is written in Latin. However, if that ancient language were the only one the sports fan had, and he wanted to find out what happened in the Ali-Frazier fight in 1971, Latinitas has the scoop for him in a story headlined SIC VINCIT CASSIUM CLAYUM IOSEPHUS FRAZIER (Thus Did Joseph Frazier Conquer Cassius Clay). It begins with a lively "O constantium pugnatorum inusitatam inauditamque firmitatem et omni laude decorandam!" which may not sound like Jim Murray, but gets the job done. In fact, the English translation of the story has an antique grandeur that is seldom evident in straight sports reporting. Consider the ending:
"Here now is Cassius beaten down by destiny, here he is shamefully laid out on the ground. The referee counts the seconds while by his side Joseph, himself groggy, remains standing.... Here is Cassius slowly raising himself on his elbow and rising to his feet, his knees hardly carrying him, reeling, staggering, lurching. 'I cannot see, I am wounded, broken up, smashed to pieces, vaporised.' The public roars deafeningly.... One minute Joseph cuts him to pieces with his gloves, another minute he seems to spare him. But the last seconds run out and the gong sounds to put an end to the fight of the century."
ANOTHER MAN'S MEAT
One man's poison is another man's meat, so to speak. Sailing, for example, is on top of a wave for the moment, its people serene in the realization that the only power they need is wind. Yet even in sailing there are problems. A week or two ago the U.S. syndicate that was to build the new America's Cup yacht, Courageous, asked unsuccessfully for a postponement of the 1974 races because of the energy crisis. It soon turned out that it was not a lack of fuel that was hampering the syndicate; it was a lack of money because of the precipitous decline in the stock market.
The elimination of Courageous leaves one new U.S. boat, Mariner, owned by the Kings Point Foundation of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, which presumably is less sensitive to Wall Street's setbacks than the Courageous group. And the 1967 and 1970 winner Intrepid is still around, ready for a third straight America's Cup appearance. But it seems likely now that the challenge presented by Australia's bright new boat, Australis (SCORECARD, Nov. 12), will be a very strong one. If, for the first time in history, the U.S. loses this most famous of international sailing races, you can blame it on oil.
Stars of the French national ski team have been griping at coaches and feeling terribly put out by one thing after another for a couple of years now. At one event last season, upset by infelicitous weather, they ran the course like recreational skiers, dawdling their way from top to bottom. Last week, after the team's embarrassingly bad debut in this season's competition, the French national ski federation fired six top racers, all of them noted complainers. In getting rid of them, France in effect was writing off this season and next and beginning to rebuild toward the 1976 Olympics.
Cries of anguish echoed through the French Alps. Skiing success in Europe's Alpine countries is directly tied to national pride and tourist dollars; the average ski buff likes to go where the champions are. When World Cup stars Jean-No√´l Augert, Henri Duvillard, Patrick Russel, Ingrid Lafforgue and Britt Lafforgue, along with also-ran Roger Rossat-Mignod, were summarily dismissed, there were outraged reactions, many inspired by the equipment manufacturers and resort operators who have a big investment in Alpine skiing.
"Let the dogs bark," said Jean Vuarnet, 1960 Olympic champion and boss of the French team. "Criticism of trainers is all right to a point, but there is a limit and it has long since been overstepped. When a skier wins he never talks of his coach or trainer, but when he loses it is always their fault."
Jean-Claude Killy, he of the solid gold past, promptly offered to train the cashiered victims for nothing, promising to deliver them to the starting line at the FIS world championship at St. Moritz in February. Then, said Killy confidently, "It will be easy to tell by the clock which are best."
Maurice Martel, president of the French ski federation, growled in response, "For years Killy has been trying to entice our racers into professionalism. I note that this is the first time he has talked of doing something for nothing." Vuarnet said, "Winning medals at any price does not interest us."
BY INGENUITY OUT OF JAPAN
The sports-loving Japanese are perpetually faced with space problems, and once again they may have found an answer, unless their energy crisis kills it. This time the problem is horseback riding, and the answer is a life-sized electric horse capable of achieving a simulated speed of 800 yards per minute, or about 27 miles an hour. It is said to be ideal for would-be riders frustrated by urban sprawl—and it can be used for training during the inclement winter months.
The horse, called Gallop, is the result of two years of work by the Mizushima Kikaku Company, a firm specializing in original leisure facilities. Gallop contains a 200-volt motor that drives a system of cogs and chains to provide a lateral, rocking motion, his head bobbing in a 10° arc. Four buttons on his shoulder control the start, stop and two-gear speeds.
There are 40 different Gallops in existence, some chestnut, some white, some palomino, their glistening synthetic horsehair attached to plastic skin. Gallop costs $8,928 f.o.b. Tokyo, and the optional extras include a tape-recorded clip-clop and neighing noises.
MILES TO GO
Maybe sports schedules have no direct bearing on the energy crisis, but the curious travel pattern of two National Hockey League clubs last week could be worth noting. The New York Islanders and the California Golden Seals played in New York on Tuesday night. On Wednesday they both flew out of town, the Seals to Pittsburgh, where they played that night, the Islanders to Los Angeles, where they played Thursday night. On Thursday the Seals flew from Pittsburgh to Oakland, where they played Friday night. The Islanders returned to New York on Friday, and played there Saturday night. The Seals flew back across country to Boston on Saturday and played there Sunday night. In brief, the Islanders played in New York Tuesday, Los Angeles Thursday, New York Saturday; the Seals in New York Tuesday, Pittsburgh Wednesday, Oakland Friday, Boston Sunday. Nice compact little schedule there.
THEY SAID IT
•Marlin McKeever, Philadelphia Eagle linebacker: "George Allen helped me set a record—most times traded by one coach."
•Gene Mauch, Montreal Expo manager, on obtaining Willie Davis from the Los Angeles Dodgers: "As far as I'm concerned there's only one centerfielder in the league, and I've got him."
•Mike Curtis, Baltimore Colt linebacker, on the subject of pro football players taking pills: "Look, how often does a player take pills? Fourteen times a year? No, make that 20 games a year. That's small in comparison to what some housewives or business executives take."
•Pete Rose, National League batting champion, on the home run he hit in the pennant playoff after Met fans abused him in Shea Stadium: "I hit only five home runs in the entire regular season, but I'll tell you how mad I was at those fans. That home run would have gone out of Yellowstone Park."