THE STILL-SWEET SCIENCE
In the great, rolling chorus of protest that has followed the Griffith-Paret fight, some of the notes sounded clear and true. An apparently healthy young man has died after 10 long days in coma, and a lot of honest people are honestly concerned. But most of the score has been richly strident or cheaply sentimental, and the libretto has proved shallow, gratuitous or, worse, opportunistic.
Reflexive issue-grabbers have demanded the abolition of what they call an immoral and dangerous sport. Most of their words are nonsense. In percentage of fatalities boxing rates about 11th, behind such calm pursuits as cricket. Medically, it is very well supervised in New York, where there was not a single serious injury in the sport from 1952 until 1960.
Morally—well, the rules of boxing are clear. When they are conscientiously enforced they are plainly aimed at offering rewards for skill and bravery, not at presenting a brutal spectacle. We continue to believe that boxing is a fine and manly sport, and also that it requires strict supervision—to protect it from gangster control and to ensure that the risk of permanent bodily harm be reduced to a reasonable minimum.
We also believe there is nobility in reasonable risk for gain and glory. The race car driver, the boxer, the mountain climber, the matador—all represent an ideal of courage enforced by grace that is badly needed in a culture crying out for excellence.
THE ONE TO ASK
The managerial perch of Walter Alston, rumored to be unsteady because he has failed to bring Los Angeles a pennant in the past two years, swayed closer to the abyss. The Dodgers were playing an exhibition game against the Braves at Bradenton, Fla. During infield practice Randy Fox, 12, freckled and abashed by little on this earth, marched out onto the diamond to the vicinity of Coach Leo Durocher, heir apparent to Alston's job. "I always wanted to be a bat boy," he explained later, "so I just went up to Mr. Durocher and asked him if I could be the Dodgers' bat boy today. He said I could."
Why didn't he ask Mr. Alston, the manager?
"Oh, Mr. Durocher was out hitting ground balls to the infielders and making a lot of noise saying, 'C'mon, baby,' and all that. I just figured he was the one you were supposed to ask."
•Carleton Mitchell, only skipper ever to win three successive Bermuda Races, will not enter his yawl Finisterre in this year's event. Since June 1960 Finisterre has been used for only the most casual cruising, and Mitchell feels it would "not be fair to either the boat or the crew" to try for an encore.
•Watch for Air Force Academy to build a strong ice hockey team within the next few years. The Falcons have an exchange agreement with the Royal Canadian Air Force to take 20 cadets a year, and if any of those 20 happen to be hockey players it will not make the administration angry.
•Wherever the Houston Colts manage to finish this season, it will not be in the red. With season ticket sales already past $1,250,000 and an additional $1 million in the bank on radio and TV rights, the new National League team is already assured of breaking no worse than even.
•Chris Craft, traditional giant of the powerboat field, will launch its first sailboat about the first of June. The boat will be a 35-foot auxiliary sloop made of fiberglass, a material with which Chris Craft has long flirted but never before used for large hulls of its own design. Price of the production model will be announced after the prototype is launched and has its shakedown cruise.
•For the first time ever American ski instructors will demonstrate a standard U.S. skiing technique this week at the annual International Ski School Congress at Monte Bandone, Italy. The unified system, a modification of extreme shortswing, is long overdue for U.S. skiers, who have spent many years and many dollars being taught a different system at almost every resort.
•The East-West college basketball game played last week in Kansas City was probably the last to offer a complete roster of the country's outstanding seniors. New NCAA regulations limiting post-season all-star games to vacation periods make it impossible for all the top players to be available at the same time.
THERE'S THE OCTOPUS
The present generation of U.S. octopus watchers, brought up on a diet of the cruiser-sized monsters that writhe and wiggle through TV's Sea Hunt, are likely to be disappointed by the shy, one-foot models on display at most aquariums around the country.
"If we give our octopuses a shell," says Christopher Coates, director of the New York Aquarium, "they hide in it and people can't see them. If we take away the shell, they become ashamed and die. In either case, people read the sign on the tank and ask, 'Where's the octopus?' All day long, it's 'Where's the octopus, where's the octopus?' "
Recently Mr. Coates decided to show them where's the octopus. He bought a big Pacific octopus from the Vancouver aquarium. To get the creature safely to New York he had to resort to hypothermia, a technique surgeons use to freeze a human heart when they operate on it. First the temperature of the octopus was lowered to 38°, then it was wet-packed in four layers of plastic bags and stuffed carefully into a large box lined with plastic foam.
Last week the frozen beast arrived by plane in New York. It took four hours for it to thaw out, but when it finally did, even the fussiest octopus watcher could see that Mr. Coates's troubles were over. The body was as big as a basketball, and the tentacle span at the widest point a formidable 14 feet.
Where's the octopus? Look behind you, Ma'am!
CURTAIN FOR THE TOP BANANA?
Last Saturday, for the first time in memory of man or beast, Eddie Arcaro walked into the paddock of a New York racetrack before a stake race dressed not in silks but in civilian clothing. (Light gray suit, dark blue topcoat, dark tie, no hoops on sleeves, no cap.) Arcaro has not ridden a horse in this country in four months, and since he began a world tour last December there have been constant rumors that his retirement was imminent.
When asked directly if he was retiring Arcaro said, "No," but in the next breath he said, "If I do everyone will know about it at the same time." There is no doubt that Arcaro is having a difficult time in reaching a decision on retirement. "Horses like Kelso and Jaipur are fun to ride and they win a lot of money," he said, "but then there are all the others." While touring the world as a sort of diplomat on horseback Arcaro also picked up a few pounds. "The added weight makes me feel strong for the first time in a long time," he said.
He has been quietly looking into several job offers in which he could capitalize on his name and remain close to racing. If you are a betting man the odds are less than even money that within the next few days Eddie Arcaro will hang up his saddle and hop right into the field of public relations.
THE OLD AND THE NEW
Classified ad in the New Orleans States Item and Times Picayune: "Swap my Antonius Stradivarius violin, made in the year 1716, for 40 hp late model Mercury outboard, after 5 p.m. (Telephone 866-2149.)"
HAVE ONE ON US, IVAN
The use of airplanes as a prime instrument in hunting always has made us a little uneasy. Now things have gotten altogether out of hand. Items: 1) In Alaska an airplane hunter took 36 sheep out of a 10-square-mile area, far too many for the herd's future welfare. 2) Farther south, on the Alaska peninsula, a bear hunter and his wife disembarked from a small plane and then sent their pilot aloft to herd and harass a brown bear out of the alders. When the bewildered bear broke from the bush, the client fired a killing shot while his wife looked on proudly. The Alaskan game department tried to confiscate the guide's plane but could not get a court to go along.
Now it seems that the Russians, of all people, may solve this one for us. Last week a 12-plane flight of bush pilots, out after polar bear, flew too close to Russian territory. There was a fast scramble of Soviet jets, and the hunt broke up in record time with no casualties to either side or, happily, to the bear population. We would like to suggest the State Department consider a double standard with regard to Soviet interference with American aircraft.
TOUJOURS LE SPORT
After the Paret tragedy two strangers in a San Francisco bar got together on the platform that boxing should be abolished. One of them said tennis was the best sport in the world. "Whaddya mean, tennis," the other bawled. "Soccer, that's the only game worth playing." They went outside, not to play tennis or soccer, but to settle the matter with their fists. The score: no knockdowns, no damage and no decision, except the tacit one that boxing, in some form, will always be with us.
WHO'S GOT THE YARDSTICK?
Occidental College runner Steve Haas sped down the California college's track last week in what he thought was record time for the 220-yard dash on a turn. It wasn't. Officials found that the course was only a shade over 218 yards and accordingly did not credit Haas with a record. No one could have blamed the sprinter if he had been a bit miffed. Only the week before, Haas had streaked across the finish line in another record-breaking effort with exactly the same unresult. That course also was found to be shy of the required distance.
But short courses are old hat at the Occidental track. Southern California's Bruce Munn had an apparent world record in the 220 evaporate there last year, and for the same reason.
Now, in yachting or balloon racing, where the contestants disappear for days and hurricanes and blizzards ensue, there is some excuse for an occasional discrepancy in the location of the finish line. But on a flat, terrestrial track laid down at a university that presumably boasts at least one mathematician, someone should be able to fix a point that is 220 yards from another point.
FASTER THAN THE AVERAGE BEAR
Just as the other synthetic heroes of TV have faded in the bright glare of John Glenn's achievement, so is Yogi Bear now going into eclipse. He is the victim of the aeronautical exploits of a well-conditioned, carefully selected bear at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. One bright day last week at an altitude of 35,000 feet this particular bear, neatly tucked inside an escape capsule, came blasting out of a B-58 supersonic jet. With all systems Go, the chute opened and the bear came wafting down to earth some eight minutes later. Bears, it seems, are more like people in size and weight than the chimps they had been using at Edwards. We won't know much more about this, of course, until the bear has been debriefed.
THEY SAID IT
•Archie Moore, on his latest victim, Argentine heavyweight Alejandro Lavorante, whom the old Mongoose had scouted for a round during Lavorante's quick tuneup knockout of Von Clay: "It doesn't take me more than 30 seconds to size up a fighter. In this case I was afforded almost two minutes to contemplate other matters."
•TV Sports Announcer Chris Schenkel, who carried out what may have been the most fateful experiment in the history of telecasting by saying not one word during the entire Patterson-McNeely fight: "I just decided I would shut up and, you know, there wasn't one complaint."
•Don Perkins, Dallas Cowboys' halfback, on the lethal secondary pursuit in pro football: "You get past the line of scrimmage, run 10 yards and suddenly it's like being back at the line of scrimmage again."
•Ex-Brooklyn Dodger catcher Rube Walker, who signaled for the famous pennant-winning home-run pitch to Bobby Thomson in 1951: "If Thomson knew what was coming, he'd never have been in the batter's box. I signaled for a knockdown pitch."
•British Walker Cupper Major David Arthur Blair, on the return of plus fours to British golf courses: "I don't think you Yanks will ever follow suit. You wouldn't stand for the high stockings. They itch."