One could imagine the fans going absolutely wild, cheering as the hero executes a full nelson while smiling winningly behind his granny glasses, booing as the villain lunges across the ring with a boa constrictor wrapped around his neck. But, alas, the words crowding the marquee of Detroit's Olympia Stadium were meant to be read vertically:
The easy thing would be to damn Bobby Fischer for the wreckage of the world chess title match, in which he was to have played Russian challenger Anatoly Karpov. Fischer would not give in to the world chess federation (FIDE) on what appeared to be a minor point, so FIDE stripped him of his title and handed it to Karpov.
FIDE had accepted the first of Fischer's two "non-negotiable" demands: that the $5 million title match, scheduled to begin June 1 in Manila, have an unlimited number of games, draws not counting, the winner being the first player to score 10 victories. But Fischer also insisted that in the event of a 9-9 tie he would retain his title (although prize money would be split evenly). This was rejected by a 35-32-3 vote of the first Extraordinary General Assembly in FIDE's 51-year history.
Although FIDE considered its action a compromise, Col. Ed Edmondson, executive director of the United States Chess Federation, sees more Byzantine implications. Edmondson notes that on the vote that went against Fischer, 12 Communist and Arab countries voted in a block with the majority. "Exactly what the U.S.S.R. Chess Federation wanted," says Edmondson. "Fischer had their prize egg and they wanted it back." The Russians, he says, were counting on Fischer's celebrated intransigence. If so, they gambled correctly: Bobby once again demonstrated his apparent need to elevate stubbornness over a minor and arguable point to the level of lofty principle.
But if Fischer was mulish, so was FIDE. It is hard to take seriously Karpov's statement that it was a "big day" for Soviet chess now that "the world crown is back in our country." As Edmondson notes, "Karpov probably wanted to play Fischer. Now he'll be only a paper champion."
So the losers in all this are Fischer and Karpov. And don't forget the wood pushers of the world, who were looking toward Manila with such anticipation.
BETTER RED THAN...
Alert trivia fans may have noted already that this is the Year of the Big Mac in pro basketball, what with Bob McAdoo being chosen Most Valuable Player in the NBA and George McGinnis sharing MVP honors (with Julius Erving) in the ABA. Fine, but who remembers what 1973 was, MVP-wise?
The Year of the Red Head, that's what. Named MVP in '73 were Dave Cowens in the NBA and Billy Cunningham in the ABA. Call it coincidence, but college basketball's Player of the Year that season was Bill Walton.
Although he lives just a few blocks from the Brigham Young campus, the conclusion is inescapable that Rich Ayers, a 260-pound center at Provo High, was foredestined to play his college football elsewhere. The first portent came when Duane Painter, a BYU assistant coach, paid a recruiting call on the hometown prospect. When Ayers confessed that he was leaning toward the University of Utah, he and Painter got to arguing. Soon things became downright huffy.
Learning of this untoward turn of events, Painter's boss, BYU Coach Lavell Edwards, launched a salvage operation, inviting Ayers to his office in Smith Fieldhouse. All went well until Ayers stepped outside and discovered that his car, which had been parked in a restricted zone, was missing, impounded by campus police. He phoned his mother, and who should be sitting in the Ayers' living room but Utah Assistant Coach Evert Jones. Jones had driven down from Salt Lake City as soon as he learned that young Ayers was to meet with Edwards, and he now consented to pick up the stranded prospect, which is another way of saying he fairly flew out the door. Predictably, Ayers signed a letter of intent with Utah, while BYU settled for a consolation prize: the $10 fine the high school star paid to get his car back.
With ticket prices at Madison Square Garden scaled up to $8.50—a big top if ever there was one—it was nice of the circus folks to send Buttons the Clown to New York City branch libraries last week for a series of free shows. Still, the way Buttons chose to end his 30-minute appearances seemed rather curious. "All right, kids," he announced, "close your eyes and count to five." As the unsuspecting youngsters followed his instructions, the clown made a mad dash for the door.
Resembling something out of the Millrose Games rather than Ringling Brothers, Buttons' hasty disappearing act often confused the children, some of whom raced noisily through library corridors in a vain attempt to find him. After a typically chaotic finale at the Jefferson Market branch in Greenwich Village, children's librarian Becky Koppelman said, "Buttons puts on a nice show but the ending is a little abrupt."
Buttons, a suitably cheerful 31-year-old North Carolinian whose real name is Leon McBryde, pleaded a tight schedule. "I have all these appearances to make," he explained. "If I don't get away in a hurry, the kids would trap me in a corner." McBryde added that the "crazy congregation of mirthful minutemen," as circus publicists call the clowns, have to defend themselves against children in many ways. "They want to touch your costumes and feel your big shoes, which is fine. But when they start pulling off your nose or ripping your clothes, that's going too far."
So let's hear it for Buttons. The pratfalls that he and other clowns routinely perform involve athletic ability, too, but running from children all day requires something extra. Especially since at 6'7" and 270 pounds he is the biggest of Ringling Brothers' mirthful minutemen.
After a dozen years as NBA commissioner, Walter Kennedy retires on June 1. To give the league owners ample time to choose a successor, Kennedy notified them of his intentions more than a year ago. And in Simon Gourdine, his second in command, he has trained a man who by every conceivable standard appears qualified for the job.
For their part, the owners have lived up to their roles. Endlessly quarrelsome as ever, they have failed to agree on Gourdine or anyone else through a succession of meetings. Having dragged their feet all together, they now are twiddling their thumbs separately. No further meetings are scheduled before June 1.
Much of the drama of this year's NAIA swimming championships was provided by Chicago State University's Fred Evans, who won the 100-yard breaststroke. For nearly five minutes after Evans' victory the crowd at Southwest Minnesota State College's pool stood and cheered, openly moved at having witnessed what was unquestionably a breakthrough. Evans is black, the first of his race ever to win a national swimming championship in the U.S.
Because his time of 59.63 was more than three seconds off John Hencken's American record, Evans' victory alone will not make a dent in the widely held notion that blacks are physiologically unsuited for swimming. This is an assumption that recalls the once-cherished belief that black trackmen, while natural sprinters, were not meant to be distance runners. Swimming's version has it that blacks tend toward physical characteristics—heavy bone structure, dense muscles and the like—that make them what coaches call "sinkers."
To refute this, swimming will have to produce its equivalent of Kip Keino, Ben Jipcho and Filbert Bayi. The best to date is Enith Brigitha of The Netherlands, who moved to Amsterdam from her native Cura√ßao five years ago. She was a finalist in three events in the 1972 Olympics and runner-up in the 200-meter backstroke at the last world championships and she currently ranks as the third-fastest 100-meter freestyle swimmer in the world. "I've often wondered why U.S. blacks haven't done well swimming," she muses.
The likeliest answers have little to do with physiology. Swimming, observes Olympic hero Don Schollander, "is mostly a country-club sport, and country clubs discriminate." Peter Daland, coach of NCAA champion Southern Cal, says, "Pools and coaching aren't available to a wide segment of the population. Besides, disadvantaged families are oriented to sports with a professional outlet, where there's a payoff at the end." Sherm Chavoor, U.S. Olympic women's coach in '72, says, "Blacks don't swim because it's in their minds; they've been led to believe, mistakenly, that they can't."
SPEAKING OF RABID
The struggle for the Stanley Cup is under way (page 32), time for a lot of self-styled fans—and not just those in Philadelphia, either—to work their cries for blood to a feverish pitch. Before being drowned out, let us speak of a like-minded group who, in another sport and season, packed a private, enclosed box at Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium to cheer on the Vikings. Swilling beer and raising their fists, they filled the air with profanities and assorted pleas to "kill him" and "knock his head off."
Suddenly a small bat appeared. As it fluttered around the area, a hush came over the raucous assembly, broken only by an occasional nervous joke. Few people seemed to be concentrating on the game and several of them cowered as the creature flew by. At length the bat alighted on a table, but nobody made a move. Finally one brave fellow armed himself with a paper cup and, sneaking up on the intruder, trapped it. A relieved but oddly subdued cheer went up. It was several embarrassed moments before the next "knock his head off" was heard.
Know where to borrow a few thousand bats until the Stanley Cup is over?
DOING A NUMBER
The magic number was five when Coby Orr, playing his very first round of golf, sank a hole-in-one at San Antonio's Riverside course. Coby used a five-iron (his only club besides a putter). He was playing hole No. 5, a 103-yarder. And that's also Coby's age. Five.
FRANK, BUT NOT MERRIWELL
Setting himself up as a sort of official scorer, Dr. David J. Burt, assistant professor of English at South Carolina's Francis Marion College, plowed through 31 modern novels dealing with football, a body of literature that included Semi-Tough, North Dallas Forty, The Last Picture Show and many lesser-known works. Then Burt got out the adding machine. By his painstaking compilation, 17 of the novels used commercialism in sport as a theme, the same number focused on adultery, while racism and drug dependency figured prominently in 12 and 10 novels, respectively. The more ambitious books contained all these elements—and gambling, groupies and orgies, too.
Burt's conclusion, spelled out in a paper delivered to the Popular Culture Association's convention in St. Louis, was that "the great American myth of the Frank Merriwellian athlete" has been thoroughly and effectively debunked. In its place is the image of the football player as "a money-grabbing, pill-popping, sexually rapacious stud." That is, if you believe what you read in novels.
THEY SAID IT
•Brian Oldfield, shotputter, on his former job as instructor at a juvenile correctional institution: "It was the only place I could teach and not have to go to PTA meetings."
•William (Judy) Johnson, Negro leagues infielder who was recently elected to the Hall of Fame, on why he took up baseball instead of boxing: "I could only spar with my sister, and Dad said I couldn't hit her in the face, chest or stomach. So all she did was belt me around."