Skip to main content
Original Issue



In the last few weeks there have been major scandals connected with spectator sports here and abroad. Unsuccessful attempts were made to bribe college football players in Ann Arbor, Mich. and Gainesville, Fla. In Britain, where betting on soccer is estimated at $196 million a year, gamblers brought off two successful coups by bribing soccer players. British racing has been shaken by dopings perpetrated by thieves against reputable owners and trainers. In France, too, there is suspicion of doping.

What is behind all this corruption? Well, money. The growing populations of the world are taking more interest than ever in sport, and its exploitation, both legitimate and illegitimate, produces enormous profits. Some heavy bettors will do anything to insure their bets, and they have the money to buy anybody who can be bought.

Just how much corruption exists nobody knows. We hear only of those figures who have resisted temptation and called in the police or those who have yielded to it and been caught by them. Can we be confident that those responsible for the integrity of sport are making all the efforts they should make to keep the crooks off the playing fields, out of the locker rooms and away from gymnasiums?

There was considerable shock and much breast-beating when it was discovered that TV quiz shows were being rigged and that entertainers took payola, but some cynics shrugged their shoulders and said stupidly, "After all, it's only a show." Spectator sports, by the narrowest definition, are also a show, providing some of the most spirited entertainment in the world. The promoters of neither professional nor amateur events can afford the spurious excuse, that, after all, it's only good dirty fun and the public has had its spectacle no matter how much the crooks have made.

It is up to the authorities to take every possible precaution against a repetition of the Black Sox scandal of 1919—in any sport. Baseball was strong enough to recover its popularity after that disaster, but not quickly or easily. Boxing hasn't recovered from its many fixes and deals.

The police can help by keeping known felons and gamblers away from the venues where contests are prepared and played; sports authorities can set up their own protective agencies to anticipate corruption and go after it on the faintest suspicion. If scandals occur for lack of such preventive activity, the infected sport is likely to die. Only one form of "sport"—professional wrestling, which hardly deserves the name, even in quotes—has succeeded in the U.S. as an acknowledged fraud. One is enough.


One scandal that continues, quite literally, to fester is the business of making walking horses sore to give them their elegant gait. Recently a trainer who previously had been convicted of showing a sore horse was cleared on appeal in Lynchburg, Va. Ridiculously enough, the conviction of the owner, who had fired the trainer but had not appealed, still stands.

The Humane Society of the United States, which initiated the Virginia case, promptly abandoned the field after losing the appeal. The HSUS says, rather petulantly, that the horse show committees are not cooperating to end this evil. This is true, but it is no excuse. With or without allies, the HSUS should be waging a persistent and painstaking fight to protect the horses from ribbon hogs.

If humane societies and horse show committees wish to be taken seriously and not rightly dismissed as a gaggle of ineffective cranks and headline hunters, they will get together on a program of decency and suggest and obtain up-to-date laws necessary for its rigid enforcement.