By all odds, Teamster Day at Longacres Racecourse in Renton, Wash, would be one of the sport's more forgettable events. Not so for the Exacta winners in the 10th race: for $5, those who hit won $628.75. The date was June 28, 1975. Or, put numerically, 6-28-75. Or, put another way, if you didn't win, forget it.
Republican recreational note of the week: President Ford's new swimming pool on the White House south lawn is now completed. In fact, the Chief Executive plunged in for the first time last week and pronounced it dandy. The swimming hole was built with private donations and, what with installations and landscaping, the bill came to $67,500.
For his first dip, the President changed into trunks and bathrobe in a small anteroom off the Oval Office. After his swim, officials got to looking at the nearly $60,000 in leftover donations and made an executive decision. Now they're going to build a private bathhouse at pool-side. After all, we can't have folks wandering across the White House lawn in bathrobes. Even if they are Presidents of the United States.
July 13, 1975
THE BOTTOM LINE
After studying FORTUNE'S annual rating of U.S. industries, a statistician figured that the National Football League would fit into the lineup at about No. 689. And like numerous businesses on the list above it, an NFL report issued last week shows that 1974 was not so hot. Profits were down by 45%. There was a players' strike. There were such worries as the World Football League helping itself to a Csonka or two. And through the year "no-shows" reached alarming heights.
The NFL Management Council offered disturbing statistics down the line: Ticket sales fell from $100.8 million in 1973 to $94.2 million. Eight teams in the league lost money last year, compared with just two in 1973. (The NFL is not saying which teams finished in the red.)
The average NFL team made a profit of $256,000 in 1974, as compared with $472,500 the year before, the report said. Actual league income before taxes rose slightly over 1973, but this is largely because of a $15 million boost in TV and radio revenue. Of course, increased TV coverage leads to increased no-shows and decreased ticket sales in a sort of Catch-22 situation.
Meanwhile, the Players' Union is loath to accept the figures, maintaining that the league is playing pauper as a subterfuge to cut rosters from 47 to 43. Maybe so. The fact remains that 1975 is going to be an important year for No. 689.
MAKING IT PERFECTLY CLEAR
The next sound you hear will be the gnashing of teeth all around the NBA, a reaction stirred once again by George McGinnis. This time, it's not McGinnis' availability as a player that creates the frustration, it's his candor. The big center dropped by hometown Indianapolis last week and commented on his role in particular and that of pro basketball in general. He feels a bit like James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan, McGinnis said, living in a world he never made: "The structure of pro basketball right now is the craziest thing I ever heard of."
Interviewed by the Indianapolis News' Larry Fortner, McGinnis said he is not going to return the $500,000 bonus he got for signing with the New York Knicks, despite the fact that the accompanying $3.1 million, six-year contract was later voided by Commissioner Larry O'Brien. "The money is in the bank drawing interest," he said. "I'm not going to put myself in the position of being personally responsible for paying it back. I don't know exactly what will happen about the bonus; I think that the team I sign with will make some kind of settlement with the Knicks.
"Look what's happening," McGinnis continued. "You've got the owners of one league fighting the owners of the other—and while they're fighting, the players are ripping both of them off. It's stupid. The fans are getting tired of all the hassle—this guy's contract for $2 million or that guy's court battle. Fans are sick of reading about McGinnis and his big money when they have to pay $1.50 to park, $6 to get into a game and a buck for a beer. It's too much. They can't even afford to take their families to a game. The way things are now, it's got to go higher, not lower. It's going to hurt basketball."
Then McGinnis allowed, in closing, "There's no way I'm worth $3 million to play basketball. I used to do it for nothing."
LEANER AND MEANER
Something's got to give, the Texas A&I economists ruled, and the athletic budget has got to give up 16%. That sort of unkind cut would set most football coaches and athletic directors to howling, but Gil Steinke, who is both at A&I, coolly faced up to it a year ago—and here he is now with his report:
•Economize on uniforms and equipment. Says Steinke, "If you win, what difference does it make how you look?"
•Quit feeding the players after home football games. "They're more interested in going to fraternity parties than in eating, anyway."
•Eliminate the training table. "Our guys get fat enough on regular dorm food as it is."
•Economize on travel. "Leave home as late as possible to save one meal on the road, and return right after the game. So you get back at 4 a.m.; if you stay, your players are going to be up until four, anyway."
Lest someone thunder that such savings must hinder success, Steinke's economical Javelinas went from a 2-8 record in 1973 to 13-0 and the NAIA championship last year. And lest someone think that he has his back to the budget wall, the coach figures even more savings are possible. Steinke suggests eliminating scouting in favor of exchanging films; dropping laundry money for scholarship athletes ("I figure NCAA schools could save up to $35,000 here"); and cutting out full-ride scholarship grants in non-revenue sports.
And here goes Steinke to the bone:
"Reduce the size of coaching staffs. I know of one school with a staff so big they have an assistant to coach offensive right guards. Some teams have so many managers and trainers you have to run their pictures on two pages in the game program. There's a lot of fat in every athletic department, no matter the size of the budget, and I guess we proved it at A&I." Then the coach added his clincher: "Maybe the moral of our story is that hungry people work harder."
Nancy Fitzgerald is a fierce competitor in golf. She is cool under pressure, drives the ball well and putts beautifully. She is also eight months pregnant. That last item is merely a physical condition, not a handicap.
Playing through 90° heat and wilting humidity in the finals, the 30-year-old mother of two shot a one-under-par 73 to capture the Indianapolis women's city championship 2-up. Then she had a few comments for the world's mothers-to-be. If a woman is feeling well, she said, she recommends golf during pregnancy. Her doctor-husband approved of her tournament appearance, and besides, a hospital was nearby and she was issued an extra-fast golf cart. Other than that, there was nothing unusual about the afternoon. "The women thought it was great that I was playing," said Mrs. Fitzgerald, "but all the men were nervous."
GOTTA HAVE HEART
Proof that no sport draws more dedication than fishing: angler hooks large sturgeon on the Oregon shore of the Columbia River. Terrific battle ensues until the fish braces against a rock, standard sturgeon tactic. After an hour of tugging, the fisherman calls to a friend and hands him the rod. Friend holds rod while angler fumbles in tackle box, then returns, takes rod back and resumes the fight.
"What was all that about?" asks an onlooker. "Oh, he's got angina," says the friend. "Whenever it hits him, I hold the rod while he takes his nitroglycerin."
BRIDE AND SWOON
All through the intensity of the NBA playoffs, rookie Guard Phil Smith emerged as one of the toughest of the Golden State Warriors. Clouted on the jaw in one tangle with some Chicago Bulls, he twice pushed the team trainer away so that he could get back into action, not realizing that he was bleeding. Then the season ended, and he stepped up to marry college sweetheart Angela Brown. And when the minister asked him the key question, tough, cool Phil Smith fainted.
The minister took it calmly enough. "There will be a short halftime intermission before we resume," he said.
A brand-new committee is studying the situation, but the prospects are not bright for settling college football's perennial "We're No. 1" argument. That is, a true No. 1 by actual combat, wire service and other polls notwithstanding. Back in 1968 an NCAA panel weighed a national championship tournament for its major, Division I, schools, but disbanded without making such a recommendation. The new group under Temple Athletic Director Ernie Casals is made up of entirely different people, but it still doesn't follow that they'll endorse a playoff, despite the fact that NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers is on record as favoring it. However, "I don't expect to see it in my lifetime," he says.
Items in favor include added revenue, always welcome, and the fact that the NCAA is now conducting playoffs in its lower divisions without any notably bad consequences. But items against seem more persuasive. There is a reluctance to interfere with present bowl structures because, as one official put it, "The bowl people have been very good friends of college football and we enjoy an old and fruitful relationship." Further, the Big Ten and Pac-8 have a sweetheart situation in the Rose Bowl; the Southeast Conference usually gets four to six of its teams into bowls, and the Big Eight has signed with the Orange Bowl to put its champion in there every season. Any change in this setup requires a majority-vote NCAA amendment and these powerful conferences would be reluctant to support a new program.
That brings the NCAA back to the alternative of arbitrarily picking teams to play for the championship, such as selecting two teams from among four bowl-game winners. Another version would involve winners of three bowl games: the NCAA would simply eliminate one team and match the other two in a grand finale, shifting the championship game site among the bowls. But the potential for resentment and debate would be enormous. It looks as if there may never be a wholly satisfactory No. 1.
ALL THE NEWS THAT FITS
Every year about this time, Ottawa's daily Le Droit conducts a contest to pick the outstanding French-speaking pro athlete of the year. This time, the newspaper announced, the winner was Guy Lafleur of the NHL Montreal Canadiens, and he was presented with a dandy trophy and a check for $1,000. So far, so good.
So far, so bad: surprised committee panelists who did the voting got to comparing notes and confirmed that most of them had voted for Andre Lacroix of the World Hockey Association's San Diego Mariners. They confronted the newspaper, and suspicions were confirmed; Lacroix had been the rightful winner, all right, but committee heads, preferring the NHL over the WHA, had disregarded the voting and picked Lafleur on their own. With that, the embarrassed newspaper identified the real winner and promptly popped a check in the mail to him. All is calm again in Ottawa.
THEY SAID IT
•Casey Stengel, after the annual Oldtimers Day at Shea Stadium: "Oldtimers weekends and airplane landings are alike. If you can walk away from them, they're successful."
•Edson Arantes do Nascimento, New York Cosmos, on his nickname: "I don't know what it means. But I was lucky my friends gave it to me as a boy because it's easy for everyone in the world to say Pelé."
•Winston Hill, New York Jets tackle, on staying in condition: "I'm on a seafood diet. I eat everything I see."