Publish date:




A feast of fine football was served up to the nation in the various college Bowls last week to celebrate the new year and the new decade, and as we settled down to enjoy it we let ourselves believe for a moment that the '60s might be truly different. Maybe they will, but before the best of the Bowl games was even half done it became sadly evident that some of the futility and the foolishness of the '50s and the '40s and their predecessors is still with us.

The ugly racial flare-up in the Cotton Bowl at Dallas was over almost before it began. The snarled insult by a Texan that stirred a Negro player on the Syracuse team to quick retaliation was not heard beyond the sidelines. But the quick glimpse of flying fists and suddenly unleashed hatreds had made its impression on TV screens all over the country and left a small ugly memory to fester for the year to come.

At about the same time as the fists were flying in Texas, an ambassador of ill will flew back to the U.S. from a three-week golfing tour of South Africa. He was Tommy Bolt, the man who said in 1958 when he won the U.S. Open, "Now that I'm champion I can do what I please." At that time this magazine wished publicly that the PGA might order Tommy off the links long enough to learn some manners, and there is no reason to amend the wish in the first week of 1960. As U.S. golf's unofficial envoy to the South Africans, the onetime Open Champion sulked, swore, complained, fretted, insulted and bludgeoned his way through the weeks of exhibition rounds with British Open Champ Gary Player with such studied ill grace that the President of the North Transvaal Golf Union declared: "I have never met such a badly behaved golfer in my life."

Meanwhile, as a world plagued with misunderstanding and acrimony crawled into a new decade of potential hope, a team of Swedish basketball players, eager to try their skill in the U.S.,-were told in effect by the poohbahs of U.S. amateur officialdom to get the hell-and-gone back home.

The official reason for this blunt inhospitality, according to the Amateur Athletic Union's secretary for international relations, Daniel J. Ferris, was that the Swedish amateurs had grossly violated the rules of the AAU by financing and arranging their American tour more or less independently of the AAU. This questionable offense was given added emphasis by an old feud between Ferris and a world-traveling U.S. basketball enthusiast named Jim McGregor, who had taught the Swedes some of the tricks of the American game for a brief period in Stockholm. At McGregor's urging, young Ake Nilsson, founder and president of the eight-year-old Swedish Basketball Federation, got in touch with a number of small colleges with Swedish and Lutheran traditions here, and arranged for his unfledged amateurs to play basketball with them. At the very start of the negotiations, Nilsson wrote the AAU of his intentions and asked its blessing. The letter—curt to the point of rudeness—which he got in reply from Ferris said only "Your undated letter" (it was, in fact, quite clearly dated) "requesting permission to arrange a series of games for a Swedish basketball team in the U.S. is at hand, and we will be glad to assist you in arranging such a series if you desire such assistance."

Not having been brought up by his Swedish parents to read the Rules of the AAU along with his family Bible every morning at breakfast, young Nilsson took this letter as an implicit go-ahead and continued with his plans. Some weeks later, after a flurry of correspondence between himself, the AAU, the International Amateur Basketball Federation and other interested parties, and with his team keyed for a takeoff, Nilsson was told that under no circumstances would his team be allowed to play in the U.S. Certain it was all a misunderstanding, the Swedes came over anyway, and last week saw in the New Year at a whacking fine party at the Elks Hall in Hickory, N.C. Busily practicing in the Lenoir Rhyne College field house, they were still hopeful that the greatest nation on earth might find some way to permit them to play a harmless game of basketball with some American boys.

In the view of the Rhadamanthus of the AAU, this was an impossibility. "The die," said Dan Ferris, "has been cast." In Mr. Ferris' mind this kind of inflexibility may be tantamount to the famed integrity that got the original Rhadamanthus his job on the bench. But it might be well for him to remember that Rhadamanthus, son of Zeus and Europa, was a judge in the Land of the Dead. Mr. Ferris' mandate is, even though he seems not to know it, in a land of the living, where there are considerations more important than the letter of a rule. "We came here," said the bewildered leader of the Swedish basketballers, "seeking fair play." It would certainly make one augury of the New Year brighter if we thought that he was getting it.

High Diddle

While combing over the delinquencies of other people, we are struck by one of our own. We have never written a line about Edgar Allen Diddle, who is now the winningest basketball coach going.

Edgar Allen Diddle was born on a farm in Gradyville, Ky. in 1895. His father was a livestock dealer and rather hoped that Edgar Allen would follow in his footsteps, but the boy discovered basketball in grade school and perfected his technique at Centre College where he also was a blocking back for the fabled Bo McMillin. "I just decided I'd have to spend the rest of my life with the game," Ed Diddle says now. And so he has. For the last 38 years he has been coach at Western Kentucky College in Bowling Green—a tall, outspoken, arm-waving, towel-waving disciplinarian who has become such a fixture there that President Kelly Thompson once scotched talk of his retiring by declaring: "It would not be a departure, it would be an abdication."

"The boys I look for are good and tall," the sad-eyed, portly Diddle says. "They've got to be tough and lean and weigh up close to 200 pounds. I want big hands and big feet. When they handle that ball I want it to be like a puff of cotton. I don't want boys with fat on their hips. Those kind can't run and they're apt to stand around and think out there."

The whole Western Kentuckysquad lives together in a dormitory adjoining the Diddle home on the campus, and Mrs. Diddle supervises their activities like a housemother. Since Diddle has a phobia about weak backs, he insists that the players' beds—some as long as nine feet for the lankiest—have no springs, consist simply of cotton mattresses laid across slabs of plywood. During practice his players wear five-pound anklets while they try to hit overhead bell-ringing contraptions; during games, when the weights are off, Diddle feels they'll run and jump like gazelles.

Between games he keeps his boys alert with verbal twists. He's been known to ask his squad to "Line up alphabetically according to height." Teaching a player to shoot with either hand, he has told him, "You got to be amphibious." Irritated at another player's slowness to learn, he has declared, "You'll either do it the way I tell you, or you'll do it right." Instructing a boy how to cut for the basket, he's likely as not to inquire, "What's the straightest point between two lines?"

Courtside spectators can expect to see Diddle wildly waving a big red towel. They need only watch its gyrations to know how the game is going. Tossed high in the air, the towel expresses pure joy. Whirled about, it means satisfaction. Slapped on the floor, it's disapproval. Twisted or braided, the outcome's doubtful. And when Diddle throws the towel over head and eyes, fans know he's unwilling to witness the tragedy unfolding before him.

Last week, in the finals of the Sugar Bowl Tournament at New Orleans, the towel was once more over Ed Diddle's head. But this time it was thrown there in unbounded elation. His Western Kentucky team had just beaten Tulane 71-67, and Diddle had won his 700th game—the most any collegiate coach had ever achieved at any one school. What now? "Well," says Edgar Allen Diddle, "I think I'd like to win another hundred." He may at that; he has five seasons to go before reaching Western Kentucky's compulsory "abdication" age.

Whistle Stop

As any duck hunter knows, it's a cinch to call a duck that quacks. You just quack back at him with a duck caller. Trouble is, not all ducks quack. The golden-eye and baldpate males, for example, whistle to each other as they fly, ignoring the come-hither sounds of normal duck calls.

Now, at last, comes news that ingenious hunters on Maryland's Eastern Shore have solved the problem of calling such whistling ducks. The oh-so-logical answer: a tin whistle with the little pea inside removed.

Bowling Uphill

For Bowler Don Newport there was no getting around the facts. Palm trees were waving where the tenpins ought to be. To complicate things, the alley ran uphill. Finally, there was the matter of disturbing the readers: palm trees, uphill alley and all were smack in the middle of the public library. Newport had not been drinking or smoking opium, but he had been bowling continually for four days and four nights in pursuit of the world's marathon championship. By now, not surprisingly, he was seeing things.

Yet, despite more hallucinations, blind staggers, spastic arm muscles and blistered hands, the 30-year-old Fort Lauderdale warehouseman reached his 1,000-game goal on the fifth night when he flopped down exhausted, with an average score of 123. It had taken 111 nearly sleepless hours, but he had gained a title he can now wear proudly with his marathon golf title (504 holes in 38½ hours).

With a doctor and a registered nurse in attendance at sports Arenas' Wilton Manor lanes near Fort Lauderdale, Newport was allowed 10 minutes of rest for every 10 games completed, up to a maximum of 30 minutes. Even so, he never slept more than 20 minutes at a time in a reclining chair (also used by Nurse Rene Cree), other times dozed on his feet while waiting for his ball's return. Fluctuating between fits of argumentative depression and dexadrine-induced euphoria, Newport hefted the ball 18,647 times, using both arms knocked down 123,205 pins, bowled a high game of 212, a low of one pin. After the third day his confusion became so pronounced he sometimes faced the gallery on his windup, frequently relied on step-by-step directions from Nurse Cree, e.g., "Left foot forward. Arm back. Swing—let go."

On the fifth day, three hours short of the finish, Newport turned drowsily to his nurse, observed in his most lucid moment: "This whole thing is really foolish."

Slope Cops

Traffic accidents of almost every kind are a constant hazard in the teeming city of New York, but under normal circumstances the average New Yorker does not expect to be knocked down by a speeding sportsman on skis in midtown. The fact that this is precisely what befell a lady spectator (without serious consequences) during a Manhattan sports show early this winter is a symbolic augury of what may well come to pass if the nation's 3 million-odd ski enthusiasts continue to increase, as they have recently, at a rate of 200,000 a year.

With such masses of mankind schussing around, it is obvious that a sport whose first appeal lay in its wild and untrammeled freedom must suffer a degree of regulation comparable to that imposed on other fastmoving sports. What was perhaps the first judicial admission of this possibility was proclaimed in a West German court in response to a lawsuit brought by one Dr. Enno Essig, a middle-aged skier who had been struck by a scorching 16-year-old on a slope in the Black Forest a while back. Judge Günter Kaulbach, a skier himself, upheld the decision of the lower court and boosted the award to the plaintiff. Ruled the judge: "On a crowded slope the skier must so control his speed that he can stop if necessary and in any case avoid collisions. To this extent the same principles apply to skiing as to vehicles in public-highway traffic."

Last week from Austria came news that the era of the ski-slope cop had begun in earnest. For the first time in history, state and city police have been assigned to duty on the ski slopes at Innsbruck, and a number of skiers have already been ticketed for reckless schussing.

The Dynamo Bamboozlement

Soccer fans in the ancient west Ukrainian city of Lutsk (population: 30,000) were stunned when a team of locals trounced the national U.S.S.R. champions, Moscow Dynamo, 5-0. But Dynamo's managers took the loss stoically, pocketed their share of the gate receipts and blew Lutsk—which was a wise move, for the Lutskovites were even more astounded when they learned that Dynamo had played in Moscow the very same afternoon it played in Lutsk.

The team Lutsk had shellacked was not even Dynamo's second unit, as they subsequently, and more circumspectly, billed themselves, but a troupe of inept impostors who toured Soviet tank towns last summer blithely taking their lumps while two beguiling Muscovite Barnums, Comrades Barannikov and Morozov, turned a fast ruble and enjoyed the fruits of free and easy enterprise.

Their biggest, boldest and final hornswoggle was pulled off in distant Ashkhabad, capital of Turkmenia in central Asia. First, Comrade Barannikov called the Ashkhabad sports organization and said he was prepared to send Dynamo's second team out for a series of matches. The Ashkhabadians readily swallowed the bait, so Barannikov wired: STICK UP YOUR ANNOUNCEMENTS. WE ARE ENPLANING. ARRANGE THREE ADDITIONAL MATCHES. CONFIRM. FEE 35,000 RUBLES CASH. [SIGNED] CHAIRMAN DAVYDOV. This telegram rather puzzled the sports organization, for they knew that Dynamo's chairman was not Davydov but one Burov and his deputy was one Semichastny. They wired Burov at Dynamo headquarters for confirmation. Back came the reply: OUR SECOND PLAYERS VACATIONING. PLEASE ADVISE NAMES OF THOSE WHO MADE YOU OFFER. [SIGNED] SEMICHASTNY. The Ashkhabad officials had not recovered from their bewilderment when another wire arrived, also signed Semichastny: AUTHORIZED DEPARTURE. BARANNIKOV WILL REPRESENT. ARRANGE TWO MORE MATCHES. CASH TERMS. It was followed by a long-distance call from Barannikov, asking for telegraphic confirmation that his latest proposal had been accepted. The gullible Ashkhabadians promptly wired back their acceptance, addressing the message to Semichastny at Dynamo headquarters. Semichastny curtly replied: NO SOCCER MATCHES PROPOSED TO ANYONE. CANNOT SEND TEAM.

Although the Ashkhabadians now realized that they were dealing with two separate Semichastnys, incomprehensibly they asked no questions when Barannikov and his team stepped off a TU-104 jet from Moscow a few hours later. The "Dynamos" promptly lost their first match to a very minor team. "Our players are out of form," apologized Barannikov as he collected 8,000 rubles, cash. In the next game, the pretenders managed to hold the Ashkhabad champions to a tie, but on the following day, to the great amusement of the local press, were roundly thrashed by a collective farm team.

But not to the delight of Komsomolskaya Pravda's crusading reporters who smelled a capitalistic rat or two and ferreted out the facts. They said the mastermind was Comrade Morozov, whose disingenuous gimmick was that he had the same surname as an oldtime soccer star, Nikolai Morozov. Posing as Nikolai, he managed to get a pipeline into the Dynamo sports society and, thus equipped, operated by phone and wire out of his flat on a Moscow sidestreet while Barannikov recruited the players. Of punishment for the deception Komsomolskaya Pravda spoke no word, merely called for intensified watchfulness by the sports associations of all the Lutsks and Ashkhabads.

But to appreciate both the astonishing success of the bamboozle and the astonishing risk, hear this: Dynamo is the sports society of the Soviet secret police.

His Timing Is Off

He has a Sunday punch, you know,
That's powerful and tidy.
He never gets to use it, though,
Because he fights on Friday.




They Said It

Richard Nixon, grand marshal of the Rose Bowl: "As Vice-president I'm neutral. But as a Californian I'm for the West."

Preston Carpenter, professional football player for the Cleveland Browns, after learning he'd been traded: "I was going to leave anyway. I just wasn't having fun."

Paul Richards, Baltimore Oriole manager, on Branch Rickey and his struggling Continental League: "He's the kind of guy who goes in the revolving door behind you and comes out ahead of you."

James Hoffa, hearing that Fight Manager Doc Kearns thinks professional athletes need a union: "I'm all for it. We'll go right down the line."