Niki Lauda, the race driver, was given the Victoria Sporting Club's International Award for Valour in Sport at London's Guildhall recently, and in accepting the award Lauda made some perceptive observations about bravery in driving.
"There are two elements that make up valor," he said. "One is skill, expertness. The other is dashing personal courage. Of course, the dashing personal courage is more spectacular. It may be that the award has been given to me chiefly because of the impression I gave of flaunting such gallantry. If so, I am afraid it is based on a misunderstanding.
"In my career, skill and practice have always outweighed personal courage by far. Practice makes perfect. Perfection permits you to push the limits of your performance beyond the point at which others either pull out or skirt disaster. As long as you don't exceed the limits, you are normally safe. Driving in safety does not call for outstanding courage."
March 7, 1977
BIG DAY IN BAGHDAD
On a slow news day in San Francisco last week, our man on the spot, Ron Fimrite, was searching the streets for a story when he stumbled upon the First International Penny Pitching Contest on the sidewalk outside the Washington Square Bar & Grill. Among the participants were Chub Feeney, president of the National League; Conni Venturi, former wife of golfer Ken Venturi; Steven Weed, former friend of Patty Hearst; Joan Hitchcock, former friend of John F. Kennedy (she is writing a book about it); and Cedrick Hardman, the 49ers' former All-Pro defensive end.
The winner was not a former anything. He was vice squad cop Chris Sullivan, who took his $ 100 prize across the square to a bar called Powell's and spent it all there because the Washington Square B. & G. was too crowded.
Later the same slow day SI's legman legged it across a couple of hills to the Temple Bar on Tillman Place where a liar's-dice tournament was under way. Liar's dice is a bar game, popular in San Francisco, that requires a modicum of skill, unlike its nearest rival, boss dice, which requires no skill at all, just a lot of loud banging of leather dice cups on mahogany.
Embarrassingly enough, the tournament was won by Bob Lee, the back-up quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings and part owner of the sponsoring Temple Bar. Lee says he had never played the game before, which possibly explains why he won.
BRAVE NEW WORLD CUP
Adriaan Paulen, the new president of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, who in the 1920s was an Olympic 400- and 800-meter man, paid a visit to Washington in January to bring the good news that track and field will finally have its own world championship. "It is a pity," he said, "that the best athletes of the world only compete together once every four years in the Olympics. Youth, in Europe especially, is going over to other sports because it doesn't have enough meetings in track and field." The IAAF has come up with a plan to stage biennial "World Cups," patterned after the European Cup, which is held in the years between the Olympic Games. The first World Cup is scheduled for D√ºsseldorf, West Germany, Sept. 2-4.
The format of the cup competition is unusual: only finals will be held, with one athlete in every event from each of the eight participating teams. One team will come from the U.S., two others will represent the top two nations in this summer's European Cup and the remaining five teams will be composed of the best athletes from the rest of Europe, the Western Hemisphere (outside the U.S.). Asia, Africa and Oceania.
There are obvious weaknesses in the plan. For instance, Cuba, Jamaica and Trinidad will have to decide who should compete in the 100-meter dash from the Western Hemisphere—Silvio Leonard, Donald Quarrie or Hasely Crawford. And in some cases the silver medal will go not to the second best in the world in a particular event, but to the fourth, eighth, or worse. Perhaps only gold medals should be awarded.
Whatever, the prospect of a major international athletic event with neither medal counts nor national anthems is exhilarating. The World Cup might well turn out to be a festival among athletes rather than a showdown among nations.
SMALL-TOWN HORSE MAKES GOOD
Trusty Time was a buggy horse for an Amish farmer near Columbus, Ohio until his tendency to (you'll pardon the expression) come unglued when confronted by trucks on the highway caused his owner to make one too many trips to the buggy repair shop.
Last October Trusty Time went first to a horse trader and then, for $400, to Don Jacobs, a harness horse trainer from Mount Sterling, Ohio. Jacobs bought the 4-year-old bay gelding for use as a saddle horse, but Trusty's speed caught the trainer's eye. Trusty was fitted to a sulky and soon was pacing in claiming races at Lebanon Raceway in Ohio. From there he graduated to Northfield Park and to date he has had seven wins in nine starts, all by two lengths or more. His earnings for owner-driver-trainer Jacobs are more than $5,000.
Last week Trusty was sold once more, this time for $25,000 to a Cleveland man who put him in a van and sent him out on the road again, this time heading for New York. Providing Trusty Time can cope with taxicabs, his first race in the big time will be this Saturday at Roosevelt Raceway.
Gladys Heldman thinks of everything. The foremother of women's professional tennis in America has announced the Lionel Cup championship, a four-week circuit to begin March 14, thereby filling in virtually the only remaining space on the tennis calendar.
The Lionel Cup will be open to all women players, including Renee Richards, and its prize money will be $20,000 a week, most of it put up by the Lionel Corporation. Tennis addicts need no longer face the prospect of withdrawal symptoms between the end of the Virginia Slims tour and the start of the European season. Thanks, Mom.
From Golf Journal, the publication of the United States Golf Association, we learn, to our pleasant surprise, that those fellows in white shirts and blue armbands who make rulings at the Open and the Amateur also make rulings while leaning out second-story windows in their undershorts.
Kenneth Gordon of the USGA was playing in an invitational tournament last fall at the National Golf Links of America at the eastern end of New York's Long Island. The National is distinguished for being one of the oldest and quietest golf clubs in America, and also for an oddity in its rules that considers the clubhouse an "integral part of the course," not an obstruction.
Gordon had lost his morning match and was taking a nap in his room on the second floor of the clubhouse when there was a knock at the door. Standing outside when he opened it were a player and his caddie. The player explained that his second shot on the par-5 18th hole had come to rest on the roof of the clubhouse and that the only access to his ball was through Gordon's room.
Gordon, who knows his rules, showed the player and his caddie to the window and then out onto the roof, where, it turned out, the ball was lying in a rain gutter. The player turned for advice to Gordon, who even in his shorts and without an armband has an air of authority about him. Gordon leaned out the window to inspect the situation, his ever-present pipe in his teeth, and then told the player he could declare the ball unplayable (Rule 29-2. The Rules of Golf), take a one-stroke penalty and drop it within two club-lengths of where it lay.
A rooftop, however, is not an ideal spot for a drop. Twice the ball rolled well beyond two club-lengths of where it had been dropped, so while Gordon watched, the player carefully placed the ball where it had been dropped the second time (Rule 22-2) and pitched it from the roof back onto the other integral part of the course—grass—where, lying four, he was still alive.
Maybe the player won his match and went on to win the tournament. Maybe he didn't. But Gordon went back to his nap, another job well done.
NAME OF THE GAME
Oakland A's Coach Red Schoendienst was in his hometown of Germantown, Ill., being honored on Red Schoendienst Day, when he received the following telegram from his new boss, Charlie Finley:
"Congratulations to you. Red Schoendienst, for the honor of having a baseball field named after you. The best I have ever done was to have a mule named after me—Charlie O. who unfortunately passed away Dec. 15, 1976. I am now looking for a replacement for Charlie O, the mule, and this time it will be a jackass, and I assure you he will not be named Charlie O, but will be named after someone who, in my opinion, is a real jackass. I am sure your imagination is good enough to identify this person immediately."
Let's see. Could it rhyme with phooey?
DOWN IS UP
Athletes, as ABC has told us ad nauseam, experience either the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. The Stratford High School basketball team of suburban Houston has just experienced the thrill of defeat.
Because of a split season with separate champions in each half, Stratford had to lose to Spring Woods High in order to get into a three-way playoff for the District 17-4A championship.
"It defies explanation," said Coach Jerry Kroll, trying to explain, "but anyway, the team we tied in the first round would automatically go to the district championship if we won."
So the Stratford reserves played the entire game and that strategy worked. They lost 72-45. Only the Stratford fans were confused by their role. They sat listlessly in the stands, wondering how one cheers a team on to defeat.
"What could we do?" said cheerleader John Aven. "We couldn't very well yell 'Win team, win.' We were hoping they'd lose. They had to lose."
Lose they could, and lose they did. Said Stratford reserve Roger McCleary, presumably with a straight face, "We knew we had to lose and we did it."
Natural disasters in the U.S. do not usually arouse the humanitarian concern of the rest of the world. We appear able to handle our own floods, droughts and earthquakes without help.
But this year our terrible winter has touched the hearts of the people of West Berlin, who have known their share of bad winters, and under the auspices of the German Red Cross $514,000 in aid to America has been raised in that city. A notable contributor to the fund ($400) was Max Schmeling, once the world heavyweight champion and the man who in 1936 kayoed Joe Louis in the 12th round, then in 1938 was destroyed by Louis in the first round.
THEY SAID IT
•Don Buse, Indiana guard who leads the NBA in assists, on how he learned his trade: "We had George McGinnis at one forward and Billy Knight at the other. They said, 'Listen, you're going to have to learn how to do something besides shoot because we're going to do all that around here.' "
•Jim Stinger, basketball coach at Philadelphia's Bishop Neumann High School, on why his star Center Billy Walter improved his class standing by 107 places: "His four little sisters and brothers want him to go away to college so they can have his bed."
•Vitas Gerulaitis, tennis pro, discussing mispronunciations of his name: "Everyone thinks my name is Jerry Laitis and they call me Mr. Laitis. What can you do when you have a name that sounds like a disease?"
•Abe Lemons, Texas basketball coach: "You can say something to Popes, Kings and Presidents, but you can't talk to officials. In the next war, they ought to give everybody a whistle."