SPORT IS FOR SPORTSMEN
This magazine has said often enough that politics has no place in sport. The dictum bears repeating in the wake of India's lamentable decision not to meet South Africa in the Davis Cup finals. Follow India's thinking to its logical conclusion and there would be almost no international competition. Communists would not meet capitalists, Scottish nationalists would refuse to compete against the English, and the Asian Games would collapse under the weight of religious partisanship.
When he visited South Africa last fall, Arthur Ashe said, "Sports is the Achilles' heel of South Africa." He meant that the South Africans' extraordinary devotion to sport might yet prove the undoing of the invidious policy of apartheid, which he, as a black, despises every bit as much as the Indians. Ashe knew that he was being used by his hosts, but he was using them, too, to show that black can play against white and the races sit next to each other in the stands without terrible consequences.
This was a modest contribution in the cause of tolerance, but preferable to a heavy-handed action that assures only that black will not meet white on the tennis courts of South Africa this year and may eventually help kill Davis Cup competition, one of the few vehicles in the world of sport that does bring people of all nations together. This is the sort of thing that happens when governments take the play away from the players.
October 13, 1974
REST IN PEACE
A bastion of male chauvinism that had stood for 220 years fell recently, with not so much as a thorny burr in protest. Indeed, the end came with such stunning suddenness that the 180 assembled members of the Royal and Ancient Club were shocked speechless. Unheard of.
The beginning of the end was a letter from the Ladies' Golf Union to which, frankly, the ladies would have been happy merely to receive a reply. Inasmuch as the Women's Open was to be played on the Old Course at St. Andrews this coming June, they wrote to the R and A, please, sirs, would it not be possible for the players and officials to use the clubhouse? To their astonishment, the ladies were given access not only to the Silence Room (egad!), where the trophies and regalia are in a manner of speaking on display in a big iron safe, but to the Big Room, the holy of holies itself, and to the whole of the locker and changing accommodations.
In manlier days, many years before, British golf writer Henry Longhurst recalls, the club once introduced a lady cashier to collect the luncheon money at the dining-room door. An elderly member spotted her and said, "Dammit, it's a woman!" He soon had her out, a boast he carried to his Scottish grave.
HOW SOON THEY FORGET
Now that nonentering freshman Moses Malone is safely counting his money at the training camp of the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association, a hot item on campus at the University of Maryland is a T shirt that says, "Moses Who?"
Tigran Petrosian, the Soviet chess champion, gave and took away last week in Moscow. Chess, he said, is no longer the major preoccupation of Russian youth that it was 20 years ago. "When I was a boy you had to fight for a board. But now there are more distractions and fewer young players." The chief distractions are television, soccer and hockey.
"But," said Petrosian, "chess is an element of the national culture. There is more search and support for young players." And what have the authorities found? The best youth player in the U.S.S.R. is a 12-year-old Georgian girl, Maya Chibordanidze. "She is better than any boy of her age, a very quick thinker," Petrosian said, adding that one Bulgarian grand master who had watched her compete recently called her "a shattering player—a girl Fischer." The U.S.S.R., it would appear, is not ready to bow out of the international picture just yet.
There is a ceiling now on the New Orleans Superdome but not on expenses. The latest estimate of operating costs per day, every day of the year: $37,500. That includes bonded debt service, personnel and the new high price of energy. The last item is up about $2,000 a day to $4,800, or $1,752,000 a year, just one more shock in a series that has jolted the dome's original backers.
LOBBYIST ON THE RUN
Pan Am pilots, backing the financially pressed airline's request for a temporary government subsidy, had a message for William Proxmire, the jogging Senator from Wisconsin and one of the plan's most vocal critics. But how to get it to him?
No problem, Copilot Rich Selph said. A jogger himself, he hopped into his running clothes early one morning and trotted over to Proxmire's house where he waited for him to come out for his daily run to the Senate. Selph fell in alongside the Senator, handed him a letter rolled up in a tube and, after a few pleasantries, bid him adieu.
Next morning when Proxmire came whisking out of his house, there was Selph again, full of run. "I guess you have something else for me to read today," said Proxmire. As a matter of fact, said Selph, he did, and handed over another tube.
The pilots are taking no credit for it, but soon afterward Proxmire took the Senate floor to strongly back a Department of Transportation program of aid. From a runner's standpoint, it may have been a terrible mistake. The lonely mornings of the long-distance Senator seem numbered.
CONFUSION IN THE CREASE
As weeks go, the National Hockey League might better have spent a month or two locked in the ice of Hudson Bay. First, there were the matters of the divisions and the playoffs, for which the NHL has itself to blame. Then there was the new rules caper. TV is the culprit there.
"We're not saying the names represent an act of genius," was League President Clarence Campbell's modest appraisal of the new alignment of teams. How about an act of confusion? Hereinafter those who profess to follow NHL hockey will have to contend with four divisions named Lester Patrick, Conn Smythe, James Norris and Charles F. Adams grouped under two conferences called the Clarence Campbell and the Prince of Wales. If by some mnemonic miracle they manage to keep these straight, they will surely come a cropper on the geography and history of it all. The three Pacific Coast teams, for instance—Los Angeles, Vancouver and California—are in different divisions, and Toronto, which was led by Conn Smythe for over 30 years before his retirement, is in the Charles F. Adams Division, of course.
The playoffs are so cumbersome even Campbell admits they may not work. In simplified form, the 18-club league will play an 80-game schedule to boil six of their number away. The winners of the four divisions draw byes and the other eight teams play a best two-of-three series. Then come the best four-of-seven quarterfinals, the semis and, if anybody is still awake, the finals.
In one area where the league seemed determined not to high-stick itself—rewriting the rules to speed up the game (SCORECARD, Sept. 2)—it was laid low through votes influenced by the needs of television. Changing lines on the fly went down 11-7, a free shot when the goalie freezes the puck lost 15-3. Both had been tested in 27 exhibition games and won general approval, particularly the fast-change rule that Boston's managing director, Harry Sinden, called "the best new rule in hockey since the introduction of the red line." Where games verged on three hours last season, the exhibitions averaged two hours and 15 minutes, but from a TV viewpoint that was just the trouble. The speedup did not allow enough time for commercials.
Spectators who prefer to do something during all that dead time have two choices. They can stay home rather than pay the stiff new prices for seats—$12 tops in Toronto, $10.50 in Montreal—and watch the commercials, or they can busy themselves at their seats trying to memorize the divisions. Could be a great time waster.
Standing alone in the torrent of words that flooded the country following the Cleveland Indian announcement that the team would have a new manager next year were statements by Frank Robinson himself and Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Quite neatly, they said all that the occasion required.
Robinson: "I just hope baseball people don't say, 'All right, Frank Robinson is the first black manager, we have one, that's it.' In my heart I don't think I was hired because I'm black. I hope not. I think I've been hired because of my ability."
Kuhn: "I don't think baseball should be exceptionally proud of this day. It's been long overdue and I'm not going to pat myself on the back for it. It's time to say we've got something started, and I'm proud of that."
PRO BONO ACADEMIARUM
Academy football has fallen on hard times, a parlous state of affairs that engaged the attention of President Ford when he was still Vice-President. As the result of an article in the July 8 issue of this magazine, in which he said Army, Navy and Air Force should be competitive with college football's leading teams, there has been a movement afoot to change regulations to favor the admittance of pro-caliber players.
Annapolis has been the leader, as well it might be after the lickings it has suffered in the past two weeks (52-0, 37-0). Under present rules, academy graduates have to remain five years in their service before they may pursue careers outside the military. It is proposed now that academy athletes talented enough to go into professional sports be permitted to spread their service over a longer period of time, giving, for example, six months of each of the first 10 years to the pros and six months to the military. George Welsh, the Navy football coach, thinks a change along these lines would enable the academies to recruit those special athletes who can turn an ordinary team into an extraordinary one. The teams, he thinks, could play Ohio State even on any given Saturday and the players would live to serve their country.
HOPE FOR THE DISADVANTAGED
You do not need a crystal ball to know which team is going to win the World Series. The American League team will because it does not have the home-team advantage. In 15 of the last 19 Series the team playing only three games at home—the third, fourth and fifth—won. The Oakland A's, by eking out their win last October on their own turf in the seventh game against the Mets, were one of the few exceptions to the rule.
Noting this odd fact, statistician Robert Northington of the University of Delaware hypothesized that the team with three home games manages to split the opening games on the road, returns home for games 3, 4 and 5 and, buoyed psychologically, wins two of three. With a 3-to-2 advantage, it goes back on the road with enough pressure on the opponent to offset any home-park advantage. A check of the records bore out his theories. In the last 19 Series the home-team record for games 1 and 2 was 20-18. The home teams in games 3, 4 and 5 were 37-18, and in 6 and 7 they were 12-15.
Worthington had his bet down long before he had any idea who would play in this Series. American League, in six or seven.
THEY SAID IT
•Dave White, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute football coach, after playing Coast Guard during a thunder and lightning storm: "I moved back when the chains came near me and tried to stay away from the taller players."
•Woody Hayes, Ohio State football coach, asked if his teams had any weaknesses: "Sure. We have gone as long as seven years without a fumble between the center and quarterback. We've had two this season. That's 14 years shot to hell."