GRAND PRIX SQUEEZE
This is an article from the Sept. 8, 1975 issue
The costs of motor sports are zooming about as fast as the cars, and are even running right over a few promoters. The latest casualty is the Canadian Grand Prix, which lost its scheduled Sept. 21 race when it was unable to work out money differences with the Formula One Constructors and Entrants Association, the folks who bring you all the cars and drivers. Now there is fear that the disappearance of the Canadian race could set off a reaction that statesmen used to call the domino effect.
Crux of the dispute is the constructors' demand that all the Grand Prix promoters boost purses each year for the next three years, with each race adding a total of $250,000 by 1977. Canada resisted, balking especially at an extra assessment to be shared with the U.S. Grand Prix, which follows the Canadian race and wraps up the season. When Canada hesitated, the association pulled out, thereby canceling the race, perhaps as a warning to other promoters who might have rebellious ideas. This, of course, piles a bigger cost burden on the U.S. Grand Prix, which traditionally split with Canada the expense of flying the men and machines to North America.
Sponsors of the U.S. race don't want to abandon their prestigious event, but at the same time they can barely afford to put it on. Now that Canada is out, the Oct. 5 race at Watkins Glen, N.Y. will be the only Formula I event in North America this season. The Glen race, however expensive, is firm for this year, but a long winter of negotiations will follow, involving racing circuits all over the world. And when the racers fire up again in 1976, one can expect more cancellations from hard-pressed tracks. Budget battles are breaking up the old familiar Grand Prix lineup.
After the University of Alabama filed suit against the NCAA (SCORECARD, Sept. 1), various coaches and members of the press were wondering what effect the action might have on Paul Bryant and his Alabama football team. Charlie McClendon, football coach at LSU, said, "It's been my observation that schools which sue the NCAA usually end up on probation."
"That's what Ole Bear wants," said a cynical sportswriter. "If he's suspended, he won't have to go to any more bowl games." In the past eight years Bryant and his Crimson Tide have had no wins, one tie and seven defeats in postseason games.
IT BOMBED IN MIAMI
Jumping on the old bandwagon, a group called Metro Sports, Ltd. staged a superstars competition in Miami Beach. Called American Supersports, it featured an impressive array of headline athletes, active and retired—among them Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Rick Barry, Ben Jipcho, Dave Wottle, Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus and Bob Seagren—who went at each other in a series of events scheduled over five days. There was no TV, but the promoters expected big things at the gate, particularly since the competition was divided into shows, with tickets sold separately for each show.
Instead, it was an absolute bust. After 3½ days, total attendance was barely 3,000, and when only 400 people drifted into the Convention Center to see a Saturday afternoon show, Metro Sports gave up and canceled the final day and a half of competition.
The promoters said they lost $150,000 on the fiasco. This did not gain them much sympathy from the athletes, some of whom were given checks and then advised not to cash them. Several stars had to chip in to pay a $400 hotel food bill for four young karate experts who were also in the show and had assumed the promoters were picking up the tab.
Mantle, who phoned his lawyer about the situation, remained philosophical. "We were kind of having fun," he said. "I was enjoying it. And the check they gave me was for everything they promised. But if it's no good, then it's no good. I guess it's just a memento."
Mays' reaction was a bit stronger. "I thought the idea was a good one," he said, "but it's pretty obvious they should have some money behind them before they attempt a project like this. I'm not going to let them off the hook. That's what I have a lawyer for. If you let it go, then you'll have another group come along and do the same thing."
A retired sailing buff named Taylor Adams is fascinated by nautical terms, those having to do with sailing ships, their gear and structure. Some of the terms make ships sound almost human. For instance, you may not be surprised to learn that a boat can have a waist and ribs and a skin, but Adams points out that it also has a buttock and probably a crotch. There are jaws and a throat, cheeks, an eye, a nose and a whisker, none of these necessarily in or on the head. Most of us know what a hand is on a ship, but what is a heart? Or, for that matter, a foot, a sole, a heel?
Along with human attributes, Adams found a menagerie afloat, possibly first brought aboard by Noah, maybe even two by two. Thus: cat and dog, fox and bear, duck and goose, pig and hog, fly and jackass, monkey and donkey, horse and hounds, swallow and robin, worm and leech—and, bringing up the rear, fish, crab and dolphin, although these three seem a bit obvious.
Anyway, what Adams wants to know is, how many of the anatomical and zoological terms can you old salts identify?
Most of the players on the University of Kentucky football squad had jobs this summer that required hard physical labor. They worked on farms, in construction, building roads, driving trucks. An exception was Cliff Hite, Kentucky's No. 1 quarterback prospect, who had a job in a flower shop.
When the squad gathered for practice, Hite took a lot of heavy ribbing from his teammates, who thought working as a florist was pretty funny. But All-Southeastern Conference Running Back Sonny Collins came to Hite's support. "You don't have to put up with that stuff, Cliff," he said. "Hit 'em with a daisy."
During the contract bickering between National Football League owners and the Players Association, league officials got into a little heavy psychology with their employees. When the Players Association first began acting like an honest-to-God labor union a few years ago, the owners reacted with indignation and resentment, as though there were something indecent about pro athletes talking of negotiations and strikes. This year, however, the owners switched to an almost sardonic insistence that the Players Association function as a union all the way. They even suggested rigid pay scales for various job categories (center, for example, or running back).
The pay-scale idea has not been formally submitted and has not even been made public, but here is how it's supposed to go. Rookies would be paid as follows: quarterbacks, $25,000; receivers, defensive linemen and middle linebackers, $20,000; centers and running backs, $19,000; guards, tackles and outside linebackers, $18,000; defensive backs, $16,000. Raises would depend on seniority, not individual skill. Thus, after four years all running backs would get $26,000, all defensive backs $22,000. Maximum salaries would be $125,000 for quarterbacks, $50,000 for running backs, $40,000 for defensive backs.
The ramifications are fascinating to contemplate. Imagine trying to persuade a college quarterback (Jack Mildren, say) to switch to defensive back (which Mildren was until he quit the pros this year). The disparity in salaries might lead to a wildcat strike by cornerbacks and safeties, who could set up a row of pickets along the 30-yard line with signs saying UNFAIR. Then the question would be, will wide receivers coming downfield honor the picket line?
When bird watchers in Arizona and New Mexico listen to the call of the southwestern bird known as the Inca Dove, most agree that its mournful two-note coo sounds like, "No hope, no hope, no hope...." At least, that's the way Roger Tory Peterson and all the local bird books describe it.
In neighboring Texas, however, the call is described differently, perhaps because the Lone Star State is filled with sports nuts. According to the recently published The Bird Life of Texas, what the Inca Dove is really saying is, "Ball two, ball two, ball two...."
HAR-TRU IT IS
Beyond everything else, what tennis fans talked most about at Forest Hills during the first days of the U.S. Open was the new surface. Gone were the traditional grass courts and in their place a gray-green, claylike material called Har-Tru. Sentimentalists mourned the passing of the green, and players whose serve-and-volley style works better on grass cursed a bit. Nonetheless, Har-Tru seemed here to stay.
It looks like clay but is not. Basically, it is crushed greenstone from the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland, where it was originally quarried for use on asphalt shingles. As the greenstone was ground down to size, two piles of waste—one of rock dust, the other of granules too small for shingles—arose. Eventually, the waste was pressed into use for tennis courts and worked out just fine. The Har-Tru surface dries out more quickly than clay, and in fact requires frequent watering to keep it from turning into a minor dust bowl. Moreover, the bounce is true—which explains the "Tru" in the name; the "Har" is for H. A. Robinson, who helped develop it. The only thing wrong with it, really, is that it isn't as pretty as grass.
THE HOLE TRUTH
Gordie Howe, the hockey star, played a round of golf this summer with President Ford. On one green Howe conceded Ford a two-foot putt. The President declined, tapped the ball—and missed. He added the extra stroke to his score.
"We're not counting that one," Howe protested.
The President indicated the press corps and Secret Service men who were watching the match. "Maybe you're not," he said, "but they are."
It should be clearly understood that responsibility for this item lies with a public-relations firm that has been trying to make New Orleans' vast new Superdome seem human. Old complaints about the Superdome's cost and new gripes about the noise emanating from the giant six-screen TV set that hangs from the ceiling are to be set aside for a moment while, according to the P.R. quipsters, football fans dining in one of the Superdome's super restaurants study their super menus. What they can have—forget the debt! forget the TV!—is the following:
Orange Juice Simpson
Super Salad Bowl
PittsBurgher on a Bun
Offside of Beef
Hungarian Field Goalash
Green Bay Crackers Punternickel Bread
Boston Patriots Cream Pie
Denver Broncoca Cola
Or would you rather watch the Saints?
THEY SAID IT
•Robin Roberts, former major league pitching star, who disapproves of high-pressure Little League: "Baseball at that age should be a softball thrown underhand where you can hit 15 times a game with no walks and no strikeouts. The score should be 42-38."
•Gary Marangi, Buffalo Bills backup quarterback, on Cincinnati Bengals rookie Tackle Al Krevis, an old college teammate: "Al is progressing fast. He holds like a veteran."
•Guillermo Vilas, tennis ace, on wheeler-dealers: "They come to me and say, 'Do you want to make a movie?' I say, 'Which movie?' They say, 'We don't know. We'll find something.' That's the kind of thing I don't like. Maybe if they needed someone to play a left-handed tennis player, I would consider the role."