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Original Issue



Ideally, in the world of sport conflict should be restricted to the playing field and not allowed to spill into courts of law and legislative chambers. But ideals are difficult to achieve in a world where sport often is the step-sister of big business. Throughout the nation during the last week or so, hosts of jurists and legislators have been drafted to referee the rivalry among competing leagues in baseball and football. In at least four courts the American Football League, or one of its member teams, has sued a counterpart in the National League, or the league itself. Meanwhile, in Washington the Senate of the United States has been pondering a bill which some think means new life—and others quick death—for big league baseball.

In bringing a federal antitrust action against the National Football League, the ambitious new AFL has claimed, for instance, that the old league put a team in Dallas for the sole purpose of harassing its rival in its own headquarters city. For this, despite the fact that it had fielded teams in at least three National League areas, the AFL is asking $10 million in damages. Football's newcomers are thus pleading aid under the antitrust laws to gain a monopoly in an area where competition makes for tough sledding.

Contrarily, the cry of baseball's newcomers, the Continentals, before they saw the Kefauver bill sent back to committee last week to stew quietly for another year, was that more antitrust in baseball was vital to break up the monopoly now existing. Not being lawyers, we do not fully understand how the same legislation can stifle competition on the one hand and insure it on the other. Being sportsmen, we can and do profess a leaning toward competition itself. We hope that somehow all this legalizing will promote it where it counts—on the sports field.


"This was a committee action and there is no value in airing the problem," said Chairman Pincus Sober of the U.S. Olympic Committee on Track and Field, "although I, personally, believe it is a pity that the best marathon runner in the United States is not on the Olympic team." He was speaking of the almost unbelievable decision his committee had just made: to leave the five-time U.S. champion road racer John Kelley off the team it picked for Rome. Like Chairman Sober, we believe this decision was indeed a pity. Unlike him, however, we think there is every value in airing the problem—if only to demonstrate the occasional workings of government by committee.

No one—in committee or out—questions the fact that Kelley is the country's best marathoner. But under the strictest interpretation of U.S. Olympic law team members must be chosen on the basis of their performance in trial races. Kelley's assured place on the team was put in jeopardy when severe blisters forced him out of the first Olympic trial, the Boston Marathon, last April. At that time, however, the track and field committee wisely decided to overlook its rule and promised to reconsider Kelley's status if he showed up well at the AAU championships at Yonkers, N.Y. (SI, June 6).

Kelley won at Yonkers by a margin so wide that, in Pincus Sober's words, "he could have stopped for a shave and a haircut and still come in first." Nevertheless, when Sober's committee met in California last week to select the three-man marathon team, it dismissed Kelley in favor of a Californian named Bob Cons, who had placed fourth at Yonkers (Cons was two and a half miles behind when Kelley crossed the line). As Sober said later, the committee "decided to follow the selective procedure to the letter."

The track and field committee's choice must still earn final approval by the national executive board. We can only hope that this distinguished body will feel the spirit moving, and say to hell with the letter of the law.