As always, nothing in South Africa is simple. On the surface, the government's decision to reduce racism in sport was as welcome as it was long overdue. Anything that will help to bring the races together in peace, harmony and goodwill is a resounding plus.
But leaders of nonwhite sports associations in South Africa were less than ecstatic in their reaction. The new policy, while allowing competition between teams of different races, still encourages whites, Africans, "coloreds" and Indians to belong to separate clubs.
"This is not what we have been striving for," said Abdullah Abass, president of a nonwhite rugby association. "Our demand is for nonracial sport." Cuthbert Loriston, leader of another nonwhite rugby group, said the new policy was "a change for the whites, but there is nothing new for us in the announcement." A nonwhite cricket official named Hassan Howsa said he and his associates would reject the policy, declaring that what South Africa needs is a free flow of players among clubs regardless of race.
Even so, the new policy is a significant step forward, if only because it is an admission by a repressive government that its restrictive policies are wrong.
THE DOCTOR AND THE DILEMMA
Julius Erving's insistence, just before training camp began, that his long-term contract with the New York Nets should be renegotiated aroused a good deal of furor. Erving was charged with greed, lack of respect for the sanctity of a contract and so on, while Nets Owner Roy Boe was called cheap, shortsighted and ungrateful, particularly after Erving's abrasive agent, Irwin Weiner, declared that at least 25 players in the NBA were earning more than the incomparable Dr. J.
The truth is, both Erving and Boe have been caught in the gears of expansion and inflation. When Erving signed his $1.9-million, seven-year contract with Boe and the Nets in 1973, it was considered a generous, even extravagant, deal. Under it, Erving could earn nearly $300,000 this season. But pro basketball salaries have gone sky-high since Erving signed that contract. Nate (Tiny) Archibald, recently obtained by Boe from Kansas City, reportedly makes $400,000 annually. As good as Archibald is, he is hardly worth $100,000 more a year than Erving. A prime reason why the NBA agreed to the merger with the ABA was the anticipation of Erving's presence in NBA games and on NBA telecasts. Taking all this into account, Julius is worth everything he is asking for.
But look at Boe's position. In going after Erving, Archibald and others, he has obviously tried to build the best team possible. Indeed, his Nets won the ABA's final championship last spring, and they are sure to be a leading attraction in the NBA this season. Yet, under NBA rules and the terms of the merger, Boe will not share in gate receipts at away games, he will not get a cut of the league's lucrative TV income until 1980 and he is paying $4 million to the New York Knicks as indemnity for the Nets' territorial encroachment as well as another $3.2 million just to join the NBA.
Erving deserves a new contract. Boe will be hard pressed to meet its terms. Because the "old 18" clubs of the NBA stand to benefit most from Dr. J's presence, is it unreasonable to suggest that they get together and work out a method to underwrite the added cost?
Before the Canada Cup's vigorous international competition ended (SI, Sept. 27), Bobby Hull, who jumped from the National Hockey League to the World Hockey Association four years ago, said pungently, "It's a shame that after this we'll have to go back to having so many bad games in both our leagues, games where people fall asleep or just sit on their hands. You look at all the good things that happened in this series and you wish we could have this type of competition all the time. That's why it's such a crime we can't see all the best players in all the best cities all the time, like the old days, when every game was a fantastic spectacle."
Hull wants a merger of the NHL and WHA. "I believe it will happen," he says. "It's got to. We could eliminate the weak franchises in both leagues, get rid of the 100 or so jerks who just play for the money and don't put anything back into the game, and we'd have something good again.
"I'm happy I played a part in getting the WHA off the ground because it helped in some ways. But in other ways it hurt, and that bothers me. I don't know whether I'd do it all over again. I'm somewhat restless now."
THIS WAS MUCH FISH
This is a story of failure, but what a failure. Hugh Foster, a 33-year-old Barbadian who works for IBM in the Virgin Islands, is a sports fisherman who boated more than two dozen marlin last year. In September he entered an annual bill-fish tournament off Puerto Rico that is staged by the San Juan Yacht Club. Fishing from Captain Johnny Helms' 40-foot Star Trek II, Foster caught a 395-pound blue marlin on the second day of competition and at 2:45 p.m. of the third day hooked into another big fish. At first, seeing only the tip of its dorsal fin, Foster guessed this one might weigh 300 to 350 pounds, but when it surfaced and he saw its massive head he upped the estimate to 600 pounds. The world record for Atlantic blue marlin taken on 50-pound-test, which Foster was using, is 666 pounds. When the fish leaped clear of the water for the first time, the estimate went up again, sharply. "Frankly," said Foster, "it scared me." Pike Herbert, the mate, said, "The head alone would go to 600 pounds." Chris Styn, another fisherman on board, said he had seen a 1,200-pound black marlin in South Africa and that this fish was bigger. Ralph Oldfield, acting as Foster's gaff man, said, "It was a horrible fish, a violent fish."
Two hours after it was hooked, the marlin was close enough to be gaffed, but Oldfield failed to connect. Throughout the afternoon and night Foster brought the marlin close to the boat more than 50 times, but each time it pulled away again, stripping 500 yards of line from the reel as it did so. At 9 p.m., six hours after it was hooked, the fish put on a spectacular display of jumping. "I never saw water stirred up like that by a fish," Foster said. "It looked like someone had dropped a building in the ocean." At four in the morning the marlin almost leaped into the Star Trek, its pectoral fin brushing the gunwale as it fell.
By dawn Foster was stiff and sore, his arms cramped, his legs weary, his body crying for sleep. At 8 a.m. he decided to force the issue. He tightened the drag to try to bring the fish close to the boat again, but the line snapped and the marlin was gone.
Oldfield was chagrined by his failure and Helms, who had fished with Hemingway and Castro, was crestfallen because his boat had lost such a magnificent specimen.
But Foster, who had fought the huge marlin for 17 hours and 15 minutes, was exhilarated, almost jubilant after the sustained excitement of the long struggle. "This was a nice fish," he said. "I got to know him so well."
THE LEAVING OF IT
Listen to Willie Mays, on what it is like to be an old athlete: "I remember the last season I played, I went home after a ball game one day, lay down on my bed, and the tears came to my eyes. How can you explain that? It's like crying for your mother after she's gone. You cry because you love her. I cried, I guess, because I loved baseball and I knew I had to leave it."
Secretariat's first foals have gone for fabulous prices at the big yearling auctions this year, but his oldest son, aptly named First Secretary, is not for sale. Nor will he ever run in a race.
First Secretary is a "bastard son" of the great racer out of the Appaloosa mare Leola, to whom Secretariat was bred in a test of his fertility as a stallion. Born two years ago this November, he is almost fully grown and bears a striking resemblance to his handsome father except for the characteristic white Appaloosa "blanket" spattered over his hips. He will not race because he was born at the wrong time of year (he officially became two years old last Jan. 1, when he was not yet 14 months old). Instead, beginning next February, he will stand at stud in Minnesota, where he will service Appaloosa mares.
First Secretary's one and only visit to a racetrack came last month when, to publicize the lively, burgeoning world of Appaloosa racing, his owners, Jack and Lynn Nankivil, shipped him to Albuquerque for an appearance before the $100,000 World Wide Futurity. But, says Jack Nankivil, unlike his sophisticated, well-traveled daddy, First Secretary is strictly a country boy and from now on he'll stay home on the farm.
Little League baseball, so often criticized, has another nonfan in Ed Lopat, who helped pitch the New York Yankees to five straight pennants a quarter of a century ago. Lopat, who managed briefly in the majors, is now a scout for the Montreal Expos, and he blames organized boys' baseball for what he describes as the sorry state of hitting in the big leagues today.
"It's a shame to see some of the batting averages—guys hitting .216 and .220," says Lopat, who was a good hitter for a pitcher (his batting average for his first seven years in the majors was .244). "Outfielders hit that low and play every day. It's the way kids are brought up now. You can't hit in those Little Leagues, not with every manager using some big stiff as his pitcher, scaring everyone to death. You're never going to be a hitter if you start out scared.
"The pitchers are way ahead in this game. They only need a year or two to jump in and make something of themselves. Look at the Fidrych kid. The pitchers keep arriving and the hitters keep dying.
"When I was a boy we never had those leagues. We scrounged for games on a lot. Some days all we did was hit. No game, just batting practice. No winning or losing. Just learning to play."
WATCH OUT FOR PEDESTRIANS
If you are wondering which way that neighbor of yours is going to vote in November, take a look at his car. According to Professors Everett C. Ladd of the University of Connecticut and Seymour Martin Lipset of Stanford, who did a nationwide survey of college faculty members, the car you own reflects your political and philosophical orientation. For instance, people who own American cars tend to be more conservative than those with foreign cars, and among those who own American cars the ones with a General Motors model as their primary vehicle are the most conservative of all.
"These differences hold up with respect [to] the liberalism-conservatism scale, 1972 Presidential vote, attitudes toward Gerald Ford, cultural tastes, attendance at religious services, academic preferences and scholarly behavior," the professors claim. They note that, among faculty members, far more GM owners voted for Nixon in 1972 than did owners of other cars. Ford owners are more liberal than GM owners but more conservative than Chrysler owners. People with American Motors models are the least conservative of this group.
Among foreign-car owners, the political-philosophical spectrum runs from those with Japanese models (more liberal than American-car owners but distinctly more conservative than other foreign-car owners) to those with German cars (Volkswagen drivers are not as liberal as those who own Mercedes) to the extremists who drive Swedish cars, with Saab owners the most left-leaning of all (98% of the faculty members with Saabs voted for McGovern in 1972).
People who have both an American and a foreign car are, predictably, in the middle of the spectrum. On the other hand, the most liberal faculty members of all, those who make even Saab owners seem conservative, the ones who are "to the left in social views, the least religious, the most involved in high culture and scholarly research, the least interested in sports and the least committed to teaching" are the wild-eyed, fanatical 2% who don't own any car at all.
THEY SAID IT
•Bill Bergey, Philadelphia Eagles' linebacker, after the team's first win following seven straight losses, six in exhibition games: "Every week when I get home, my son Jason asks, 'Who beat you today, Dad?' What a great feeling to be able to tell the little twerp we won."
•Lonnie Teper, sports information director at Cal State Los Angeles, reporting that a spy had been seen sneaking away from a tower near the team's practice field: "Actually, we're flattered. We were 1-7-1 last year."
•Al McGuire, Marquette basketball coach: "I don't know why people question the academic training of a student-athlete. Half the doctors in the country graduated in the bottom half of their class."