BAN THE BULL
The two-year-old ban on blacking out pro football games is due to expire Dec. 31. Renewal, perhaps permanent, is now under congressional consideration, and Rep. Torbert Macdonald's House Communications Subcommittee has been listening to testimony from interested parties. Most interested of all was the NFL's Pete Rozelle, who looked the committee straight in its eyes and said that NFL clubs had lost $9 million in two years, mostly because of a drop in season-ticket sales attributable to the lifting of local TV blackouts.
"Pure baloney," said an angry Macdonald later. "The legislation is not hurting them one iota. They can't show it. We were given a snow job, not a statement."
In the course of his testimony Rozelle pointed to Kansas City, Miami and Atlanta as the cities with the greatest losses in season-ticket sales and said the blackout ban was the reason. Said Macdonald, "Rozelle failed to mention that Kansas City had a disastrous season last year or that it imposed the blackout on every home game. So the club was totally unaffected by the law last season." Rozelle might also have mentioned that Miami televised only three games, and that Atlanta's record, 3-11, was one of the worst in pro football.
Meanwhile, on their own, two Vanderbilt economists, C. Elton Hinshaw and John J. Siegfried, have used "multiple linear regression analysis" to discredit the NFL's old argument against the blackout ban, which is that live televising of home games will increase no-shows and that the absence of live attendance will adversely affect the demand for tickets, as well as television ratings.
Using 360 NFL games over the 1973 and 1974 seasons, the period of the ban, as their sample data and taking into account the differences in weather and the quality of games, the economists found that "weather and game quality influence the decision to not show up for the game, but televising the game locally has no significant effect."
Besides, they point out, with what appears to be understated logic, "To demonstrate that the anti-blackout law harms professional football, it would be necessary to prove that no-shows eventually turn into no-buys. There is reason to be skeptical of this because games that are not sold out are not televised locally, thus encouraging ticket purchases."
The NFL may have good arguments for returning to the old blackout policy, but it hasn't come close to convincing Congress—or the fans.
CHIMP CHAMP CHUMPS
A cynic once remarked that no one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
Well, the Atlanta Braves just about did. As part of a program to make "being at the stadium fun next season," the Braves proposed using a chimpanzee with his own cute little ball, bat and glove, who would sweep the bases in the fifth inning with his own cute little broom.
"The reaction has been unbelievable," said Bob Hope, director of public relations for the Braves, as he announced the shelving of the primate proposal. "We must have had 50 calls; the telephone was ringing all day long with upset season ticket-holders on the other end. One guy called and said because of the monkey he was going to cancel his tickets and he would call four other people he knew and get them to cancel theirs, too."
Charge the error to the front office.
Jocko Conlan, the former National League umpire who is now a resident of baseball's Hall of Fame and Paradise Valley, Ariz., had this to say when he was asked whether Luis Tiant had balked in the World Series: "He balks every time he pitches with a man on. Not only does he fake with his knees, but he stops two or three times, which is illegal. I hate to say this but I don't know how those guys over there [the American League] could look at that all year and not call it."
Racing is in trouble on both sides of the Atlantic. A report titled "The Future of Thoroughbred Racing in the United States," produced by Pugh-Roberts Associates, a consulting firm, says that the growth of the industry in the U.S. has surpassed a number of restraining limits—market size, the amount of money fans are willing to spend and the supply of quality horses. As a result, says the report, a long period of consolidation lies ahead, during which the number of tracks and racing days will be brought back into line with the available fans, money and horses. The report predicts that 17 out of 94 tracks will close by 1984—-two of the 10 large tracks and 15 of the 84 smaller ones.
In Britain disaster has already struck. There the average cost of keeping one horse in training for a year has doubled in the last three years—from $3,000 to $6,000. (The average cost in the U.S. is $9,000.) Yet the average British purse has remained stable at $1,500. The situation is so far out of hand that recently, at Ascot, horses worth half a million were racing for $1,200 in prize money. Furthermore, British owners must pay the government 8% value-added tax on both training fees and the purchase price of fresh stock.
Consequently, fewer horses are being maintained in Britain. Eighty percent of the yearlings purchased recently at the Houghton Sales at Newmarket went overseas. Several well-known owners are reducing the size of their strings drastically, and one, Ravi Tikkoo, a shipping tycoon who owns a major stable, has announced he will move his entire operation, 55 horses, from England to France, where taxes are lower and purses are higher.
The sport of kings may be getting too rich even for royalty.
Possibly for the first time ever, a soccer match has been delayed by laughter. Ten thousand Athenian soccer fans, awaiting the start of an exhibition match between Greek and Chinese all-star teams, had risen and were standing in respectful silence as what they took to be the Chinese national anthem reverberated from the stadium's loudspeakers. The Chinese team on the field, observing all those standing Greeks, also came to polite attention, assuming the Greek anthem was being played.
The rolling in the aisles began when a lilting female voice rose above the unfamiliar music to extol the virtues of the daily use of a local toothpaste.
The Greeks won anyway, 2-1.
PAIN IS THE SPUR
Heel spurs, those devilish little outgrowths of bone that torture athletes, are the subject of controversy. Some podiatrists treat them with cortisone shots, others with heel pads, others with surgery. Some try all three. A recent report to a podiatry association came out strongly for surgery, claiming that while about 40% of the cases could be treated successfully, if slowly, without surgery, the other 60% required the knife. The procedure, the report said, was simple and brought rapid relief with "minimal discomfort."
A contrary opinion holds that such treatment may be O.K. for relatively inactive people, but that for those who regularly engage in vigorous sport—running, tennis, basketball, for instance—surgery is not the answer. "The heel spur is not a disease," says Dr. George Sheehan, a cardiologist who writes a column on running and its physical repercussions for Runner's World, "but the result of a defect in the engineering of the foot. Drugs, shots, whirlpool and minisurgery are palliative measures good enough for civilians and spectators, but the athlete will find that getting back to thousands of foot strikes an hour requires treating the cause and not the effect. The treatment? Control the foot and allow for correct weight bearing. This requires not surgery but a flexible, noncompressible support designed by a podiatrist versed in biomechanics."
An interesting new golf course called Brandermill on the outskirts of Richmond, Va., has been seeded and is being readied for play late this winter. It meanders five miles through what is now a forest of oak, gum and maple but before long will be clusters of town houses, villas and all those other words real estate people call the places people live in.
Although few really worthwhile courses have come out of real estate projects, Brandermill arouses interest for a couple of reasons. For one, it is the work of Sea Pines Corp., the outfit that built Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island. For another, the design is by Ron Kirby, who for 14 years was associated with Robert Trent Jones. For a third and perhaps most interesting, the course was designed with women in mind.
Sea Pines made a study of play at its other courses and found that women did 60% of the golfing on them. Usually, the only accommodation made for women is the construction of tees well in front of the men's, to shorten each hole. Rarely is thought given to adjusting the structure of each hole so that women face more or less the same challenges and are required to play the same shots as men.
Kirby set out to change all that. Brandermill, which can play as long as 6,683 yards, will be only 5,141 from the women's tees. If a bunker narrows the landing area for the average male player, there will be a corresponding narrowing in the average women's landing area. If a hole requires a driver and a five-iron for a man, it will demand the same for a woman. And for everyone, the emphasis will be on accuracy over distance.
That done, it's on to the men's grill.
TRIAL BY FIBER
Here is the test:
1. Run 1¾ miles in under 12 minutes.
2. Do 80 bench jumps over a pole four inches higher than the top of kneecap.
3. Do 50 sit-ups with a 10-pound weight behind your neck.
4. Do four pull-ups, palms facing out, feet not touching the ground.
5. Do 40 one-legged knee bends.
6. Lying on your side, lift the upper part of your body 20 times with a five-pound weight behind your neck.
7. Do 15 frog-lifts while hanging from a chinning bar—bring knees to chest, then extend legs parallel to the ground and hold for three seconds.
8. Do 10 bar-dips on parallel bars, lowering your body each time until your elbows make a 90-degree angle.
Congratulations! You have just qualified for the U.S. Women's Alpine ski team.
Last week at Stratton Mountain, Vt. seven girls between the ages of 17 and 21 completed the test in one hour and 15 minutes. "This doesn't mean they'll make the A team," said women's Coach Jon Bowerman, who devised the test for his prospects. "We are just taking a measure of their physical condition."
An hour later the girls were playing soccer.
EGYPT O, ISRAEL O
Syracuse telecaster Dave Cohen was doing a sports show some time back and happened to use the old line about a tie game being about as satisfying as kissing your sister. The world news that same night was pretty heavy with stories about the Secretary of State and negotiations going on in the Mideast. Five minutes after Cohen left the air he received a phone call from an irate viewer who demanded, "What's wrong with Kissinger's sister?"
THEY SAID IT
•Ara Parseghian, on the hiring of USC's John McKay by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a new NFL franchise: "I am living, if barely, testimony to the abilities of John McKay."
•Tom Apke, Creighton University basketball coach, about having his younger brother Rick on the team: "Well, it's one set of parents I don't have to worry about."
•Orville Henry, sports editor of the Arkansas Gazette, on TCU Coach Jim Shofner, whose team has lost 18 straight: "He's such a nice guy. But if they had a Naive Bowl, he would coach both sides."