WHY NOT WAVE THE FLAG?
Nationalism—the sporting brand—will be a major issue soon again in Rome when unofficial scorers, over the protests of the IOC, start counting up the points of rival countries. Actually, the tradition is a long-honored one. The Greeks vied a lot with one another in sports as well as politics and were loaded with small-town nationalism. They nurtured, pampered, finally subsidized local boys. (The girls, on pain of death, were banned from even watching the boys, who were nudists.)
When Baron Pierre de Coubertin succeeded in reviving the Olympic Games in 1896, he had the illusion that he was fostering internationalism at the expense of the nationalism he deplored. Pretty soon he found out that, like sex, you can't make nationalism unpopular. From the first modern Olympics on, spectators and athletes have regarded themselves as belonging to nations, and nothing the baron or Avery Brundage could ever say or do has been able to quell this spirit.
Anyone watching international soccer at New York's Polo Grounds this spring and summer would have witnessed an exuberant display of national pride within the framework of international sportsmanship. Scottish accents, Latin American fervor, English pride, Italian risorgimento, Serbian assurance and French élan competed and coexisted (usually good-naturedly) on the playing field, and (usually ardently) in the stands. Nationalism and internationalism are not at all incompatible, and it is both inevitable and desirable that this kind of nationalism-within-internationalism should characterize the opening of the XVII Olympiad in the Eternal City August 25.
We must not, however, confuse nationalism with nationalization. Our distinguished contributor, Mr. Charles Thayer, remarks elsewhere in this issue that "rampant universal nationalism has increased international rivalry to the point of making the will to win in sports a national policy." Whenever any state puts its big bureaucratic fingers into sports, there is danger that the sports involved will be conducted mainly for the purpose of inflating the state's finances and its almighty arrogance. Sports should never be dominated by nations; but nationalism, judiciously mixed with the Olympic spirit, which aims to promote sports for sports' sake, is healthy for sports, for nations and for individuals.
"One of our boys did it," is a harmless boast, and, unless it turns into jingoism, a healthy one. A superpatriot is as much of a bore in sports as he is in politics, but there is no man without a country. We can cheer for our boys without shame or hesitancy when they win, and we needn't shout foul when they lose. So right now we don't feel at all abashed about urging our boys in Rome to go out and beat the pants off the Russians and everyone else.
HORSEPLAYERS ARE HEALTHY ANIMALS
Horseplayers pay their bookmakers much less than other people pay their psychoanalysts. They get plenty of fresh air and exercise for their money, and no monotony.
Recently, Dr. Stanley 0. Wilkins, track physician at Monmouth Park for 14 years, diagnosed horseplayers: "They have an amazing disregard for their own afflictions, and it's sometimes fatal." In other words, no hypochondria, just occasional cardiac trouble.
Dr. Wilkins reported that an average of four persons each racing season at Monmouth Park die of heart attacks. This strikes us as remarkably small. We venture the guess that more people have heart attacks staying in their offices on fine sunlit afternoons when the tote board is effulgent with juicy prices than do at any race track.
Dr. Wilkins cited the instance of one cardiac case, warned by his wife to stay home. He told her he would rather die at the track than anywhere else in the world, and he did.
"Nothing stops a real horseplayer," Carolina Caprioni, one of Dr. Wilkins' nurses, remarked philosophically.
Horseplayers generally have long lives. They are more likely to lack cash than health.