No strike that inconveniences people, whatever its merits, gathers much public support. The town garbage man may be the most oppressed of workers, but let him refuse to pick up our garbage in order to draw attention to his plight and even ordinarily compassionate people can become hard-line social Darwinists overnight.
When the strikers who threaten to inconvenience us are young, healthy, not in the least oppressed-looking, and are averaging $40,000 a year in pay and benefits, the natural tendency of the man in the street is to ask, "Plight? What plight?"
That, if a handful of man-in-the-street interviews are meaningful, is just what the fans are howling about the NFL Players Association and its three-week-old strike against the NFL owners. Their exasperation merely increased with the cancellation of the College All-Star game and the accompanying loss to a Chicago charity of some $212,000. However, in the resultant barrage of owner outrage, a few facts were obscured. 1) For years the owners themselves have attempted to do away with the game because a number of top rookies have been injured in it; 2) the Miami Dolphin players would have made more than $230,000 if they had participated in the game, which exceeds the princely sum the Chicago Tribune donated to charity last year; and 3) the NFLPA is promising $106,000 to compensate Chicago's needy.
And the times may be a-changin'. As Phil Pepe of the N.Y. Daily News pointed out the other day to a hot and discouraged picket at Hofstra University, site of the New York Jets' training camp, the secret to reversing the tide of public opinion is merely for the players "to sit back quietly and wait for the voices of management to do it for them."
Wellington Mara of the New York Giants, to the Giant rookies: "If the veterans don't show up, we will play it with the rookies. And if you walk out, we would conduct a tryout camp tomorrow and do the best we can."
Joe Robbie, Miami's managing general partner, in a press release: "This is no longer a strike in the ordinary sense. It is now a mission by the players' association to search and destroy.... Charity is the innocent victim...killed in the cross fire on the streets."
We can only hope that this sort of verbal overkill is just bargaining-table macho and that behind a closed door somewhere, somebody is talking sense to somebody.
Australians, who dealt summarily with the bad manners of an aging American crooner recently, are having a bit more trouble with some cane toads that escaped from the home of a Darwin biology teacher two weeks ago. A cane toad is eight inches long, eats cigarette butts, which is all right, Ping-Pong balls, which isn't, squirts a powerful poison that can kill dogs, cats and pigs, which is bad, and lays 20,000 eggs a year, which is awful.
Of the 13 toads that got away, eight have been found and the remaining five are being tracked through the Darwin suburbs by a team of wildlife officials who play tape recordings of toady mating calls. Should that ruse fail, they could always try My Way.
What more is to be said about the matter of girls playing organized baseball with boys? Well, face up to it: in Clay, W. Va. a battery may be in love.
Recently, 11-year-old Bunny Taylor (SI, July 1) pitched a no-hitter in Clay against an all-boy team. "I felt real happy," Bunny said afterward. "The boys on the other team were saying things, calling me a monkey, but I ignored it. The boys on my team were proud of me."
Fair enough. But listen to what Bunny's mother said. "I think a couple of the boys on the team have a crush on her, especially the catcher, Robert Junior Murphy. You can see her grinning when she starts to pitch. She'll grin at him, and he'll grin at her. After the game Bunny will say, 'That Robert Junior, he just tickles me to death.' "
Well, why not? It was inevitable. And after all, Robert Junior Murphy is a good name for a ballplayer. So is Bunny Taylor.
But what is going to happen when girls start playing in leagues for slightly older kids? Perhaps the following:
Catcher calls time and goes out to the mound. "What's the matter?" he says.
"Nothing's the matter," she replies.
"Yes there is, something's the matter," he says. "Did I do something?"
"Nothing's the matter," the pitcher insists, but the catcher can tell, he knows her moods; there's something, and the conference on the mound continues.
Whatever changes baseball goes through, none of them ever seem to speed up the game.
"God blew it when he gave us grass" was the wry observation of SI writer Dan Jenkins at the conclusion of the first college football game ever played on Tartan Turf. That was on Sept. 14, 1968, in Knoxville; Georgia vs. Tennessee, 17-17. Now, only six years later, there is a school of thought that holds God was semi-right after all.
Two agronomists at Purdue University, Professor William H. Daniel and Superintendent of Athletic Facilities Mel Robey, have developed a way to grow real turf for football fields while at the same time eliminating some of the climatic hazards that made artificial turf desirable in the first place. They have patented their system, called it Prescription Athletic Turf (PAT) and sold franchise rights to a company in Lansing, Mich.
In the meantime they are giving PAT a full-scale test in Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium. First the 62,000-square-foot field was excavated to a depth of 16 inches. Then a plastic cover was set in place. Four suction lines, running the length of the field, and drainage lines, running crosswise, were laid on top of the plastic. The entire excavation was then filled with sand. The suction lines were hooked up to larger lines at one end of the field, which in turn were connected to two suction pumps. The pumps, located under the stands and capable of removing 25,000 gallons an hour, empty rainwater into a catch basin. It all means solid footing, no matter what the weather.
Pat's other feature is heating cable, buried six inches in the sand, to keep the grass warm and growing when the weather turns chill late in the season. Finally, over this vast network, 7,000 square yards of Warren's A-20 bluegrass sod were laid—"a dwarf variety and very vigorous," says Robey.
The cost of the Purdue project was $125,000, or $2 a square foot, half as much as most artificial turf costs these days. PAT cannot be called a replacement for artificial turf in that it may not hold up under, say, a full football season, 50 soccer games, 200 band practices and assorted other events. Its investors see it rather as an alternative, one that will improve the quality of Purdue football.
With a little help from some friends, God and green grass are making a comeback in Indiana.
There is no more vengeful foe than an offended soccer fan, and if you are a diplomat of a neutral nation (soccerwise) watching the World Cup matches in Germany (page 26), you had better be sure you are seen cheering for both sides, or not cheering at all.
Mr. Diplomacy himself, Henry Kissinger, rooted for Holland against Brazil in their semifinal match in Dortmund and two days later found himself denounced in Rio's Jornal do Brasil. Columnist Zozimó Barrozo do Amaral compared his attire most unfavorably to that of Pelé, also a spectator, describing Kissinger as "dressed in a drab $20 raincoat—probably bought at Macy's" and looking "like a raggedly clad detective straight out of an American movie."
Almost a week later Zozimó was still burning. One of Kissinger's sins, he wrote, was "to cheer openly and noisily for the Dutch team." Another, even noted in the news columns, was Kissinger's admitting he knew little about soccer. However, Zozimó was able to conclude triumphantly that Kissinger must have repented his rudeness because, at a later game and in the company of the Brazilian ambassador to Bonn, he had "made a point of being courteous and affable."
That's our Henry. Courteous, affable and impulsive. At the conclusion of the final match between Holland and West Germany in Munich, he was observed exchanging shirts with his game companion, the German foreign minister.
Probably bought at Macy's.
SO IT GOES
The sun has finally set on one of the most durable symbols of empire, one that has withstood war, revolution and Sportface. World Championship Tennis is informing its players as they sign up for the 1975 circuit that anyone appearing in a WCT tournament wearing a white shirt will be fined $250.
Most people go to North Bay, Ontario for the fishing, which has been especially good this year thanks to a damp spring that produced more than the usual number of flying insects.
What is good for fishing, however, is not necessarily ideal for soft ball. For the first time in the history of the Gateway Major Fastball Association a game has been called on account of mosquitoes. Bruce Office Supply was leading the Canadian Forces Base Falcons 9-0 after four innings when darkness descended and the lights went on. Immediately, swarms of mosquitoes and shad flies rose from the shallow waters of Lake Nipissing and began to gather, first around the lights, then around players, coaches, spectators and the umpire. For an inning everybody gave it a try, writhing and slapping, unable to get signals of any kind. Finally, in the top of the sixth, Umpire Harvey Allen, noting through a break in the clouds that the spectators had all gone home anyway, called the game and gave the win to Bruce Office. The evening went to the insects, and the blame, or credit if you wish, to the Resources Ministry, which had abandoned spraying this year as being ecologically unsound.
ON TO THE HOUSE
The Tunney sports bill is halfway home. It passed the Senate last week, after seven hours of debate, by a vote of 62-29. The measure, which is an amalgam of several bills that emerged from Commerce Committee hearings on the state of amateur athletics in this country, creates and funds a five-member Amateur Sports Board and empowers it to charter organizations to represent the U.S. in international competition.
Ostensibly, the bill cuts the power of the AAU off at the knees by limiting the number of sports that can be controlled by a single organization to one (or at the most three when it can be demonstrated that the other two would benefit from common administration). Right now the AAU governs 11 international sports and has voting control over all 26 sports that come within the purview of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Under the terms of the bill, the status of the NCAA is unaltered except in one important respect—it cannot arbitrarily prohibit athletes from competing in open events. Such prohibitions have been the NCAA's primary weapon in its long power struggle with the AAU.
Danger lurks everywhere. A government-appointed bureaucracy could turn out to be even less competent than the present one; the AAU could choose a disruptive course; the International Olympic Committee could refuse to recognize the newly chartered organizations; the intramural squabbling between the existing organizations could expand to include a number of new combatants.
Despite the hazards, however, a fan's inclination might now be to root for the bill in the House of Representatives, if only because there is a chance that its passage will finally bring to an overdue end the infuriating fratricidal feuding of the AAU and the NCAA.
SE HABLE ESPA√ëOL
In a recent game between the Kansas City Royals and the Oakland Athletics, Cookie Rojas tagged Bert Campaneris of the A's, then dropped the ball. Umpire Armando Rodriguez called Campaneris safe. Rojas claimed he held the ball long enough for Campaneris to be called out. Jack McKeon, Kansas City manager, joined the argument. After the game he was asked what happened. "How would I know," he said. "They were all talking Spanish."
After nine years of being very gainfully employed, the great French trotting mare Une de Mai, winner of $1,851,424, went home to Bouce, France this week to await the arrival of her first foal, an event that has been planned for five years. Back in 1969 Une de Mai beat Nevele Pride, America's record holder for the mile (1:54[4/5]), in the Roosevelt International. Nevele Pride's owners, the Slutsky family from Ellenville, N.Y., were so impressed they promised a free stud service from their stallion when Une de Mai was ready to retire. The mare's owner, Count Pierre de Montesson, decided this was the year to collect.
THEY SAID IT
•Fred Patek, 5'4" Kansas City shortstop, asked how it feels to be the smallest player in the major leagues: "It feels a helluva lot better than being the smallest player in the minor leagues."
•Braulio Baeza, whose mount finished nine lengths behind the phenomenal filly Ruffian, asked what he thought of her: "I don't think. I just chase. I could cut through the infield and she still beat me."
•Richie Zisk, Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder, after hitting two home runs off Houston's Claude Osteen: "He made two mistakes. The first was a slider that didn't slide. The second was a curve that didn't curve."
•Derek Sanderson, on a possible conflict between his style and that of his new coach, the New York Rangers' Emile Francis: "The Cat is coming around a bit. He wore a striped shirt to one game last season, and I told him if he grows a mustache I'll buy him some platform shoes."