PERFECTING TIME & LIGHT
For the Olympics, a movement that spends a lot of time thinking about the past and perhaps not enough thinking about the future, there are two remarkably progressive, albeit obscure, innovations in Montreal.
First, you may have noticed that times in the track events are given in hundredths of a second rather than the more traditional tenths. This is the result of widespread acceptance of electronic timing, which is considerably more precise than old-fashioned hand timing.
Comparative studies show that it takes significantly longer to start a stopwatch by hand than by electronic impulse. Hand-held times are thus "faster" than electronic ones. Experts believe that the famous 9.4 world record for the 100-yard dash that Jesse Owens tied in 1935 would have been closer to 9.6 by electronic standards. (The present world record, nine flat, shared by Ivory Crockett and Houston McTear, is hand-held time.) Because of the difference between the two methods, qualifying standards for the U.S. Olympic Trials were double-listed. A 100-meter man, for example, needed an electronic 10.44 to qualify, compared to a hand-held 10.2.
August 1, 1976
Electronic timing, coupled with photo finishes, is a vast improvement. At the NCAA meet in Philadelphia a couple of months ago, both electronic and handheld watches were used. They revealed not only the usual differences in time but that the correct order of finish differed from the judges' naked-eye version in about one-third of the sprint races. With electronic photography, there is no doubt about who won.
Second, at the closing ceremony we should see an amazing spectacle of some 85,000 people waving little greenish-yellow light sticks in the name of world friendship. The light stick of itself is a fascinating gismo. It was developed by the American Cyanamid Co., which spent $2 million and nine years trying to transfer the secrets of the firefly to this new product. The $1.50 Cyalume light has no flame, generates no heat and no sparks, needs no oxygen and no batteries and is not affected by wind or rain.
Fans and athletes will break the glass vial which is safely encased in the plastic light stick. This will allow two chemicals to mix and, presto, instant light. It shines brightly for three hours, the glow lasts up to 12. May the friendships glow as well—and last much longer.
IMPROVING THE GLOW
But if we are going to spruce up the idealistic Olympic spirit, nations will have to find some way to score political points. Perhaps the solution is a contest by mail or telephone—like chess. It could be a kind of super board game, global Monopoly if you will, with each country drawing instruction cards that say things like, "You are politically impure. Go back where you came from." Or, "You have interfered with my trade relations. Change your flag, your anthem and the name of your country."
Each nation could apply all its political skills, deploy its entire foreign service and intelligence community, spend money, make deals, threaten, subvert, extort and/or quit. Call it the Polympic Games.
Then, with all this out of the world's system, the Olympics could involve only athletes flaunting their skills. We trust the idea isn't too revolutionary.
It's hard to explain what common sense is but you know it when you see it. Take last weekend's College All-Star football game in Chicago. It was, as usual, an uninspired contest with the pros (in this case, Pittsburgh) thoroughly mopping up the collegians.
Late in the third quarter with the Steelers ahead 24-0, the collegians going nowhere and the rain blinding, the game was called. For a sport that has built a macho reputation for playing no matter what, it seemed strangely refreshing that those in charge demonstrated what mothers everywhere try to instill in youngsters: enough sense to come in out of the rain. Among other things, the decision likely avoided needless injuries to players and high-spirited fans.
Las Vegas also demonstrated common sense by announcing that all bets were off because it was no game. Which was true in every dimension.
Jockey Bill Shoemaker recently has grumped, "Some people think riders aren't athletes because the horse does all the running." Now comes the National Athletic Health Institute giving such naysayers a horse laugh after testing 500 athletes from all sports.
Jockeys, says Medical Director Dr. Robert Kerlan, have the best overall conditioning of all athletes. Their cardiovascular endurance exceeds that of most pro football players; their strength relative to body size (not much over 100 pounds) is quite remarkable.
Shoemaker, 44, chortles, "When they told me I was better off than most 20-year-olds, wow." Having slacked off to four or five rides a day before the test, in a bit of a bow to his age, the re-energized and again frisky Shoe has gone back up to six or seven rides. And he's grinning a lot.
All manner of strange human endeavors are explained away by saying, "Oh, well, different strokes for different folks." Most ordinary golfers, for example, fret over sliced drives, two-foot putts and whether they will break 90. But Paul Rawden, 56, of New Haven, Conn. is worked up not over the quality of his strokes but over the appearance of the pencils with which he records his strokes.
Sadly, he finds evidence that pencil quality is falling off. Manufacturers, he explains, are starting to make the stubby and traditionally wooden pencils—with no erasers since why would any golfer ever need to erase anything?—out of, ugh, plastic. Says a downcast Rawden, "They look awful."
Rawden knows. Since 1971 he has collected nearly 10,000 pencils, which seems a bit unfair to those of us who are always slapping piles of papers on our desks and looking under our chairs for just one. Anyway, he has packaged the foreign and domestic pencils, 750 to a case, and loaned about half of them to the World Golf Hall of Fame in Pinehurst, N.C., where they rank as a favorite exhibit with visitors anxious to see if their course's pencil is represented.
But why do this, Paul? "It's fun and it's cheap. Besides, what's wrong with it?" A six-handicap golfer, he figures he has traveled more than 100,000 miles in search of pars and pencils since he started picking them up for no particular reason while vacationing in Vermont. Most have the club name stamped on them, although plain pencils, which Rawden understandably hates, are popular too. He writes requesting some pencils; others are mailed to him unsolicited. A favorite is bullet-shaped; another is a pencil once used by Lee Trevino.
There are other problems besides plastic. Rawden has had to do a lot of explaining when he is discovered crawling around trash cans at golf clubs trying to find a stub; one club tried to charge him $1 for a pencil worth 2¢ to 5¢; he once damaged the side of his car at a course while maneuvering to pick up a pencil.
His goal is to get samples from all 13,000 golf clubs in this country. But isn't Rawden afraid somebody might steal his pencil collection? Says he, "Who would want it?"
If it is true, as many believe, that the future of each of us can be foretold by studying the positions of the sun, moon and planets, then shouldn't it follow that a horse's future can be forecast?
Certainly, concluded astrologist Suzanne Schwartz, the resident star gazer at the Concord Hotel, which is not far from the site of last Sunday's richest harness race in the world, the $262,500 Monticello-New York City OTB Classic for 3-year-old pacers.
Supplied only with the colts' foaling dates and burdened with none of the traditional form charts, tout sheets and other silly superstitions, Suzanne picked Speedy Romeo, the bettors' second choice at 7 to 2, to win. Said she, "This is a Pisces horse, a gentle horse. It will win because Pluto is in the eighth house of legacies and Neptune is in the tenth house." But just to make sure Mrs. Schwartz knew what she was talking about, they held the race anyway.
And the winner was Oil Burner, whom the astrologist had predicted would finish eighth in the 10-horse field because of the glum news that "Saturn was in his second house." Second was Atashy, Suzanne's pick to finish seventh. Speedy Romeo? A not so heavenly fifth.
FIRE THE WINNERS
In sports the idea is to win, right? Well, the idea may be victory, but victory itself assures no longevity when it comes to American League baseball.
Here's the roll call of championship years gone sour. In 1964 Yogi Berra led the Yankees to the pennant and was promptly fired; in 1965 Sam Mele directed the Twins to the league title and was out in 1967; in 1966 Hank Bauer led Baltimore not only to a pennant but to a four-game World Series championship and he was gone in 1968; Dick Williams was boss of Boston's 1967 miracle and he was gone in 1969; and in 1968 Mayo Smith directed Detroit to the title and was bounced in 1970.
The only exceptions to this win-and-get-fired game are Baltimore's Earl Weaver (three league crowns, one World Series triumph) and, surprisingly, Williams when he signed on with Oakland. He led the A's to two league titles, two World Series championships, then quit after being worn out by the antics of Charlie O. (The other day, Williams, who subsequently moved along to California, was fired. But for an honorable reason: the Angels lost a lot.)
In 1974 Alvin Dark managed the A's to the pennant, in 1975 to the division crown and was fired shortly thereafter. Last year Darrell Johnson was hailed for getting Boston to the AL championship and ten days ago he was dismissed.
If you want serenity, try the National League. Walter Alston, Danny Murtaugh, Red Schoendienst and Sparky Anderson not only have kept their jobs despite losing, they have stayed around even when they won. Clever men.
LAST LINE OF DEFENSE
Everybody has to be somewhere, and André Richardson, 26, of Seat Pleasant, Md., insisted that his somewhere was not robbing an apartment of $5,000 worth of merchandise last Oct. 12. Rather, he said, he was somewhere watching the Washington Redskins on television.
And to support his contention, four of his friends took the witness stand to say, indeed, they all watched the game with André so he could not be guilty of any illegal use of hands.
Ah, said the prosecutor, but isn't it strange that the Skins didn't play that Sunday but instead were in the Monday night game. That disclosure left Richardson with an awkward gap to fill in explaining his Sunday behavior.
And when André was unable to call an audible when he saw the defense change, the judge ruled that Richardson had jumped offsides and clearly hadn't gotten back in time. Thirty days.
THE INITIAL THING
If there's a rising tennis player out there with the initials C.C., there is evidence that you should quadruple your practice time because 1977 looks like your year. It does, that is, if you pay attention to things like 1975 when A.A.—Arthur Ashe—was generally acclaimed the best player in the world by winning the WCT and Wimbledon. This year, it looks as if B.B.—Bjorn Borg—will top all others. So you see, C.C., the serve clearly is yours, whoever and wherever you are.
And there's good news, too, in this theory for the former king of tennis, S.S.—Stan Smith—whose game has suffered over the last few years. His time will come in 1993 when he'll be a very canny 46-year-old.
THEY SAID IT
•Bum Phillips, Houston Oiler head coach, on why he dislikes intrasquad scrimmages: "Why should we pound our own guys into the ground? The Oilers are not on the Oilers' schedule."
•Kate Schmidt, U.S. javelin thrower, when asked if, despite strict Olympic Village rules, there has been any hanky-panky: "I certainly hope so."