SHOWS AND NO-SHOWS
The no-show controversy bubbles on. The National Football League said that the federal law requiring teams to allow local telecasts of sold-out home games was responsible for 656,290 no-shows this past season, and argued that this caused an immediate financial decline in the areas of parking and concessions and will cause a future decline in season-ticket sales. Proponents of the anti-blackout law, among them Representative Torbert Macdonald of Massachusetts and Senator John Pastore of Rhode Island, claimed that the NFL was exaggerating the importance of no-shows and that the new four-year NFL television contract is expected to total $220 million compared to S 184 million for the four-year contract that ran through this past season. Pas-tore commented on the "upgrading in value" of the television contract, but actually the ratings for NFL football, which were off slightly in 1972, were down a bit again this past season.
Meanwhile, a San Diego football fan named Don Peters has a suggestion that ignores the issue but could go a long way toward filling the empty seats left by no-shows, not to mention parking lots and concession stands. He proposes that an office, possibly staffed by volunteer workers, be established in each NFL city to function as a clearinghouse for no-show tickets. Fans without tickets would sign a waiting list, ticket holders not attending the game would advise the central office, and the no-show tickets would end up with the no-ticket people. If the idea works, a lot of eager fans would fill those cheerless empty spaces. It might be worth a try.
The Southeastern Conference, proud bastion of Southern football, really took the pipe in postseason bowl games. The cream of the conference—Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Tennessee, Florida and Georgia—played in bowls, and Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Tennessee and Florida went down to defeat. Only Georgia, with an edgy one-point win over Maryland, salvaged anything.
Five defeats in six games is insufficient evidence for a blanket indictment, of course, but for the moment it appears that the rebel yell is "Ouch."
Who is this mare Secretariat's name has been linked with, she who is to be the mother of his first child? According to Bill Taylor of Claiborne Farm, where Secretariat is at stud, she has no name, only a number, and Taylor could not even remember her number. She is an Appaloosa mare, one of that exotic spotted breed, and worth between $500 and $600. Taylor is not sure how old she is—"Seven, eight or nine, somewhere in there," he said—nor how many foals she has had before.
"I guess she's had four or five," he said. "She's been used pretty regularly as a nurse mare." Nurse mares are bred to any ragtag male in order to get them in foal so that they will be able to produce milk for thoroughbred foals whose mothers are unable to nurse them. The Secretariat mare's earlier foals were sold as riding horses or to the University of Kentucky for experimental purposes. The average price was $50 to $60.
What, $50 or $60 for Secretariat's first child, even an unfashionable, non-thoroughbred child? Taylor agreed that seemed low. "I had a mare once in foal to Buckpasser," he recalled, "and I got a nice piece of change for it. I think I sold it to a girl to use as a show horse." He thought the Secretariat foal might make a useful hunter or jumper.
Taylor was asked why the farm had not used a thoroughbred of no distinction as a test mare, on the chance that a usable racer might result. "The test mare has to be real gentle," he explained, "so that the horse won't get hurt. She must be very docile. Often, a young stallion acts roughly and strongly, and thoroughbred mares usually won't stand for that. They're very high-strung and nervous.
"And it's the wrong time of year. This foal will be born next October or November. Under racing rules it will officially become a year old the following Jan. 1, when it actually will be only a couple of months old.
"Besides, the shareholders in the syndicate that owns the stallion wouldn't want it."
O.K. Now the only question is, What should the foal be named? Trial Run?
Devising and utilizing a computer program of mathematical equations, two Kansas State University engineering professors have concluded that among track and field athletes, pole vaulters are underachieves. Dr. Philip G. Kirmser and Dr. Hugh S. Walker assert that the present world record in the pole vault (18'5¾") is far under what it should be. The two believe a 20-foot vault is not improbable, although they say the 20-foot vaulter will have to have a gymnastics background and a new type of pole. "The pole needs to be more flexible than the fiberglass poles now in use," says Kirmser.
The professors also decided that the longer a vault takes—that is, the more time the vaulter is off the ground—the better the vault will be. "A good vault," says Kirmser, "takes from 1.1 to 1.2 seconds from start to finish. A jump that takes only .8 or .9 seconds is a poor jump. We know a poor vault instantly. A good one always lasts longer."
It's difficult to argue with that. The higher a man jumps the longer it should take for him to get back down. It sounds a little like Calvin Coolidge's dictum: "When a great many people are unable to find work, unemployment results."
In this day and age, when success in sport is measured too often by the dollar sign, it is a pleasure to come across Robert Vanderbrook, a 22-year-old medical student at Louisiana State University. Vanderbrook was in the stands at the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Eve and caught the game-winning field goal kicked by Notre Dame's Bob Thomas. Afterward he made for the dressing room and as he waited outside an exuberant Notre Dame fan offered him $500 for the ball. Vanderbrook said no. The father of Tom Clements, the Notre Dame quarterback who was named Most Valuable Player in the game, heard the exchange and asked Vanderbrook what he intended to do with the ball. "I want to give it to Coach Parseghian," the LSU student said. Clements got him into the dressing room and to Parseghian, who very much wanted the ball, and asked. "What can we give you for it?" Vanderbrook said he'd kind of like a souvenir, so Parseghian gave him another ball that had been used in the game, three jerseys (one for Vanderbrook, one for his brother and one for a friend) and posed for a photograph.
Later, Vanderbrook was asked if it had been a difficult decision, rejecting the $500 offer for the ball.
"Sort of," he admitted, "but I really wanted the coach to have it. If it had been an LSU game and we had won and I had caught the ball, I'd have wanted to give ii lo Charlie McClendon. It means a lot more to the coach than it would to me."
Notre Dame won college football's national championship for Parseghian with that narrow victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and, later, over Ohio State in the final Associated Press poll. But the Notre Dame coach believes the way it came about is all wrong.
Parseghian advocates a championship playoff of the top college teams at the various bowl sites, with priority given to the four major bowls. More than that, however, Parseghian says this old idea should be fully examined and acted upon once and for all. "Every year the same thing happens," he says. "People start talking about a playoff and how difficult it is to reach a significant pairing in a bowl game. This year the Sugar Bowl had the opportunity, but a lot of things had to fall into place before it happened.
"What the NCAA or somebody should do is hire a man to promote the idea among the college administrators, coaches and bowl officials and find out exactly where they stand on playoffs. Air this thing out completely. Let all the proposals and objections be heard. Finally, one of three conclusions could be reached. Playoffs can be held, or they can't be held, or there's enough interest to work out an acceptable format. It might take a year or two to do it but I think it would be worthwhile."
Parseghian believes national titles won in playoffs are more significant than those awarded by voters. This is not to say, however, that he believes Notre Dame's current championship status is even slightly tarnished. "We were able to win ours on the field," he says, "where it counts."
Some people like to bet on horses. Some people like to bet on the economy. Some people go for both. Calder Race Course in Florida, in an effort to be all things to all gamblers, has installed a machine in its Turf Club that gives horse players quick information on how General Motors is doing while they are watching the tote board to see how their colts or fillies did. Too bad telephones are barred at racetracks. Otherwise losers could recoup—or get in even deeper—by calling their brokers.
The most famous, or at any rate the most historic, running track in the U.S. is the one in the Coliseum in Los Angeles, where the Olympic Games were held in 1932 and myriad famous races have been run since. Now reports say that Carroll Rosenbloom, owner of the Los Angeles Rams, has asked authorities for permission to remove the track and drop the level of the field several feet so that more seats can be constructed closer to the action. It seems a shame but an official pointed out that the popular Rams, particularly now that they are winning again, draw huge crowds to the Coliseum Sunday after Sunday, whereas track meets, for the most part, draw sparsely.
The limited spectator appeal of track is evident on the other side of the country, too. The Philadelphia Track Classic was bumped from a preferred Friday night date at the Spectrum and had to settle for a Monday. The Monday that was assigned—Jan. 28—seemed safe enough: there would be no basketball or hockey games that night, at any rate. Then someone realized it was the night of the Frazier-Ali heavyweight fight, and the Spectrum is a choice site for closed-circuit TV. In a spirit of cooperation, or perhaps desperation, the Track Classic moved up its starting time to get the meet over before the fight began.
Only 4,800 tickets (priced at $5 and $6) will be sold for the track meet, all of them in advance. The remaining 10,000 (at $10 and $15) will be saved for fight fans. Those who attend the track meet can remain for the fight, which makes the track ticket an impressive bargain. Even so, because Philadelphia fight-fans traditionally buy tickets at the gate, few arc expected to shell out for track tickets ahead of time.
THEY SAID IT
•Woody Hayes, Ohio State coach: "When we lose a game, nobody's madder at me than me. When I look in the mirror in the morning, I want to take a swing at me. I'm only interested in pleasing one fellow, and that's Woody Hayes. He's the hardest of all to please."
•Augie Donatelli, retired National League umpire, asked if he had ever made any bad calls: "Now, what the hell. Do you think I'd admit to that?"
•Bob Kuechenberg, Miami Dolphin left guard, on the hidden asset of playing with a steel pin in his broken arm: "The unusual thing is that ever since they put this pin in I've been getting great reception on my car radio. I wonder what'll happen when I try to get on an airplane."
•Don Canham, University of Michigan athletic director, on the financial future for college athletics: "There is not an athletic department in the country where officials are optimistic about the financial outlook five years from now. Not at our place, not at Notre Dame, not at USC. To me, that's frightening."