The Guns of Autumn, the CBS News special that created such a furore last week, was bloody, brutal and shocking, but it was also a distortion. Preshow publicity had implied that the 90-minute special would be an exposé of hunting, or perhaps an explanation of it, or at the very least a thoughtful study of an activity that means so much to so many people and is abhorred by so many others. But only a small part of The Guns of Autumn was devoted to hunting; the bulk of it was about killing, which is not the same thing. Virtually tame bears were killed at garbage dumps, deer in a small-fenced preserve, buffalo in pastures, geese on the ground. In one long, almost unendurable sequence, inept marksmen tried with dreadfully slow success to kill an already dying deer. Men and women posing with carcasses of what they had shot were depressingly callous.
This was factual and appalling—ugly, stupid and cruel—but it was a cheap shot. As Nelson Bryant wrote in The New York Times, "If one were planning to portray the glories of love between woman and man in a television documentary, and then devoted the entire show to the antics of a drunken clod in a bordello, one would achieve the same level of truth."
In focusing on bad hunters and disgusting slaughters, The Guns of Autumn confirmed the opinion of antihunting people that killing animals is a vicious business, and it embittered those to whom hunting is a valued and legitimate pastime. Between now and Sept. 28, when CBS will air a reaction to Guns, the controversy is sure to build. And killed stone dead is an opportunity for a serious study of hunting with all its subtle, complex pros and cons—a documentary that could have had great value.
September 14, 1975
Brian Oldfield, the shotputter, surfaced in Santa Rosa, Calif. a couple of weekends ago at the 110th Scottish Gathering and Games. Oldfield, who had a taste of Scottish competition earlier this summer (SI, Sept. 1), accepted the invitation of the California Scotsmen and proceeded to dominate the strong-man competition, winning such things as the 17-pound stone put, the 28-pound weight throw for distance, the 56-pound weight throw for height (his toss cleared 15'6") and something called the Scottish hammer throw (the hammer looks like a standard track hammer: a ball on a wire). Brian was acclaimed "United States champion" for his overall performance but went down to defeat in tossing the caber, the classic Scottish event. The caber is a sort of telephone pole, and the manner in which it is tossed is as important as the distance. Ideally, you flip it so that it lands straight up on its other end. The winner, John Ross of Santa Rosa, hit twice straight up—at 12 o'clock, so to speak—while Oldfield's one good fling landed at 11 o'clock.
Undaunted by defeat, Brian put on the kilt he had picked up in Scotland and fit in beautifully at the party that followed.
A year ago when attendance at National Football League exhibition games turned out to be disappointingly low, the NFL said that was because of the players' strike. When a lot of empty seats appeared during the regular season, the NFL blamed that on the Federal regulations passed in 1973 requiring sold-out games to be televised locally, and the term "no-shows" became a permanent part of pro football's vocabulary.
Attendance at exhibition games has been disappointing again this year, even though there is no strike and the television rule only applies to nationally televised games. The Washington Redskins had only 18,444, 15,513 and 17,304 at games in RFK Stadium, where capacity is 54,747. One New Orleans Saints exhibition in the 74,472-seat Superdome drew 40,089, smallest home crowd in the Saints' history. The New England Patriots, up from last year's sparse figures, are still down 10,000 fans a game compared to earlier seasons in Schaefer Stadium.
The NFL doesn't know what to blame now, but the trouble seems to lie in high prices for poor performances. It used to be that fans were so football hungry they would all but break down the gates to see two NFL teams meet in a preseason game. Now, obviously, they are no longer impressed by exhibitions that are little more than practice games.
Even the owners and coaches are becoming aware of this, and the overlong six-game preseason schedule may soon be a thing of the past. Edward Bennett Williams, the Redskins' president, is plumping to increase the regular-season schedule from 14 to 16 games while cutting back accordingly on exhibitions. Paul Brown, the venerable coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, agrees, saying, "We could do well with only three or four exhibitions, maybe only two."
SEEING RED ON THE GREEN
Golf is such a quiet, peaceful game. A couple of weeks back in Silver Spring, Md., one foursome drove into another on the 2nd hole at Northwest Park and by the time a minor disagreement about the courtesies of the game was settled, one player was in the hospital with a fractured skull and two others had wounds that required medical attention.
At about the same time, in the U.S. Amateur Championship at Richmond, Va., John Allen Beutler and Robert Hoyt came to the par-5 18th hole all even. Beutler lay 4, three feet from the hole. Hoyt, six feet away, lay 3. Hoyt putted for the birdie that would have given him the hole and the match—and just missed. Exasperated, he tapped his ball in for a 5. Beutler instantly declared that Hoyt had played out of turn and claimed that this meant he had lost the hole and therefore the match. Hoyt howled in protest, and both men turned to the nearest USGA official for a ruling.
Now, Beutler was wrong; under The Rules of Golf he could insist only that Hoyt replace his ball and play it again, or else he could let the shot stand. But the official did not know this. He ruled that Beutler's claim was valid and that he had won the match.
Hoyt stalked off the green in fury, and that was his mistake. Once he left the green, say the holy rules, he could no longer appeal the official's incorrect decision. That error was quickly discovered and the USGA apologized to Hoyt, but he was still the loser. He probably would have had some justification if he had emulated those Maryland turkeys by trying to break his putter over a convenient head. Instead, said the USGA, Hoyt reacted to the apology "with an attitude of outstanding sportsmanship." Well played, Hoyt.
TALK ABOUT ICING
Professional sports teams from time to time have set up training camps in exotic sites. The Chicago Cubs used to go to Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California, and the old Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees would scoot off to distant places in the Caribbean. But the get-away-from-it-all award certainly belongs to the World Hockey Association's Toronto Toros, who opened their camp last week in Sweden. And not just in Sweden, but in a town called Ornskoldsvik, which is 300 miles north of the steamy fleshpots of Stockholm. The Toros will play seven exhibition games in Sweden and two in Finland before coming in out of the cold.
THE WAR GOES ON
When Barry Switzer of Oklahoma discovered that Alabama's suit against the NCAA (SCORECARD, Sept. 1) would be heard by a judge who was an Alabama I aw School graduate in a Tuscaloosa, Ala. court, Switzer supposedly said, "Don't tell me who's going to win. Just give me the point spread."
In short, the Oklahoma coach was not exactly surprised when Judge Sam C. Pointer Jr. enjoined the NCAA from enforcing legislation that would limit traveling squads to 48 players. And, like most coaches in big-time college football, Switzer was pleased by the ruling that for the time being allows both home and visiting teams to suit up 60 players.
Yet a few coaches, Houston's Bill Yeoman among them, expressed disappointment, not so much with the court's decision as with the fact that NCAA members would go to court to fight rules that were passed in open session at the NCAA convention.
"I'm of the opinion," said Yeoman, "that if the NCAA passes a rule, then the schools should follow it. I'm sorry Alabama did this. Now when some school doesn't want to accept a rule, they'll start a court case—as long as they have the money."
Yeoman said Houston would not take 60 players to away games. "There may be times when we will have only 47 or 48 men," he said, "but that's what we've always done. Carrying 60 means spending extra money—for extra rooms, extra meals, extra plane tickets."
Then he added, with some sadness, "I'm not sure this ruling means anything at all. I'm sure the NCAA will counter-sue. And there will be counters to the counters. And nothing will change."
And college football will continue to suffer.
Charles O. Finley, owner of the Oakland A's, named Jim Hunter "Catfish" and John Odom "Blue Moon," and he tried to call Vida Blue "True." One wonders if Finley occasionally signs players primarily for their names: two of the farmhands the A's recently called up from the minors are Gaylen Pitts and Charlie Chant.
Just across the Bay from Finley in San Francisco, there is a player Charlie must covet. Pitcher John Montefusco of the Giants is both talented and garrulous, a combination that inevitably recalls Dizzy Dean. Add to that a current dispute over the proper pronunciation of the San Francisco pitcher's last name and one recalls the ancient question of whether Dizzy's given names were Jerome Herman or Jay Hanna. On a recent NBC Game of the Week broadcast over national TV, Joe Garagiola pronounced the name "Monte-fuss-co," which annoyed some Italian-American residents of San Francisco's North Beach who felt that, of all people, a Garagiola should know that the name is properly pronounced "Monte-foos-co." There is a new TV show called The Montefuscos (which lends a bit more to the young pitcher's publicity harvest); the TV people also say "foos" instead of "fuss."
However, just to complicate things, John, a native of New Jersey, calls himself "Monte-few-sco," a pronunciation that is simply wrong by Italian standards. Still, a man has the right to pronounce his name the way he wants. San Francisco fans, who are happy just to have a player they can talk about, tend to ignore the whole issue by referring to their rising young star as The Count of Monte Frisco.
As Dean used to say, "It gives the fellers in the press box somethin' to write about." Thank you, Diz. Thank you, Count.
One graphic difference between college and pro football was made clear the other day by Roosevelt Leaks, the University of Texas star who is now a rookie running back with the Baltimore Colts.
"We've worked every day for seven weeks," Leaks said with some awe. "In college that would put us at about mid-season, but we haven't played a league game yet. I'm still a rookie, but I'll probably feel like a second-year man by the time the season starts.
"In college I used to get tired of football toward the end of the season. Up here, I guess I'll just have to get tireder."
THEY SAID IT
•Tom Lovat, Utah football coach, about his 1-10 season in 1974: "Last night I sat down and tried to think about all the highlights from last year and I fell asleep."
•Blaze Starr, Baltimore's exotic dancer, after rejecting a plea to streak on a horse at Pimlico: "It was a long shot, and it wasn't wearing blinkers."
•Owen Sheridan, head groundkeeper at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills for 43 years, on the change from grass to clay-type courts: "I was sorry to see the grass go. Me and it sort of grew up together."
•Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinal pitching star, on autograph hounds: "Sometimes I sign autographs, sometimes I don't. Personally, I think anyone who saves autographs is crazy."