BIG FIGHT, BIG DEAL
The erasure of TelePrompTer from what promises to be the most lucrative prizefight in history—the heavyweight championship match between Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston scheduled for September 25 in Chicago—is a blow to TPT President Irving B. Kahn but not to the other participants. Fighters, managers and promoters now have a shot at a deal that protects against instant taxation and provides what every fighter needs—assurance of income after retirement. The winning bid was made by a new firm called Graff, Reiner & Smith, consisting of:
Sheldon Graff, 38, Beverly Hills financier, formerly a top representative of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, for which he wrote policies totaling millions of dollars.
David J. Reiner, 39, closed-circuit executive and engineer, who was previously affiliated with TelePrompTer in fight presentations.
Martin W. Smith, 41, advertising consultant who worked with Reiner in the closed-circuit field.
Reiner and Smith approached Daniel A. Schiffer, 43, Graff's attorney, for advice on bidding for the ancillary rights to the fight. Schiffer immediately suggested Graff, "an enthusiastic sports fan," as the financial angel. A deal was made that Graff would handle finances, Reiner the technical aspects and Smith the promotion.
Their very attractive bid was a $2 million guarantee or 85% of the gross from all ancillary rights—theater TV, radio, kinescope and movies—whichever was greater. They offered to pay $300,000 down and the balance of $1.7 million over the next 17 years. In the event of returns above the $2 million guarantee they would continue to pay $100,000 a year starting in 1980, when the $2 million guarantee would run out.
The delayed payoff is, of course, a device to provide tax benefits and a form of old age insurance to those involved. Smith believes that the receipts will in fact exceed $4 million.
After the Patterson-Liston fight the new enterprise plans to engage in other closed circuit TV projects with emphasis on industrial use of their system.
BOX-OFFICE BEAU GESTE
Once upon a time a ballplayer's name day was an occasion on which fans showered gifts and cash upon a hometown athlete who pleased them. Baseball front offices then captured the idea and turned it into a promotional gimmick, conning businessmen into contributing largess in return for plugs. The sole prerequisite for the stunt is a local hero, but a team that is almost 30 games out of first place has no hero. Come August 17, in the ultimate of name-day absurdities, the New York Mets will therefore honor Stan Musial of the Cardinals.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Who's next—Willie Mays?
FINAGLE AT LE MANS
Domination of the Le Mans 24-hour race by Italian Ferraris continued last week for the third consecutive year. A Ferrari driven by Phil Hill and Oliver Gendebien won again and three other Ferraris were in the top five. The frantic rule-changing of the Le Mans authorities, presumably to encourage development of a car that can beat the Ferrari, was once again footless.
The authorities, indeed, seem much too capricious in their rule-changing and their interpretations of their rules. Over the years, they have made a bouillabaisse of the rules, so complex that only they seem to know what is in the pot. Thus, Colin Chapman, the dashing young Briton who builds Lotus cars, had entered two new Elites in the grand touring classification and two new stripped-for-action racers in the so-called experimental category. The Elites did all right, placing one-two on what is called the index of thermal efficiency—a handicap rating taking into account weight, distance run and fuel consumption. But the experimental Lotuses, though all their specifications had been submitted for approval last February, were not permitted to compete. They were first rejected because front and rear wheels were not interchangeable. By flying to his factory and back, Chapman rectified the matter, but the Lotuses still were rejected because officials continued to insist that the cars were unsafe.
"The Le Mans authorities are so unpredictable," Chapman said, "that the race isn't worth the time and trouble."
That had nothing to do with the finagling to fight the Ferrari, of course, but one of this year's rules changes did. Maximum engine displacement was increased from three liters to four. Four-liter racers from Italy's once powerful Maserati factory and Aston Martin of Britain duly appeared. The trouble was that Ferrari had a nifty four-liter engine, too. It was this 12-cylinder number, fitted in an experimental open chassis, that powered last week's Le Mans winner.
OF PARASANGS AND FURLONGS
More than 23 centuries ago a Greek writer named Xenophon—the one whose Anabasis made Greek so eternally dull to so many young students of the language—penned the first handy-dandy guide for beginning horsemen. The Art of Horsemanship (published by J. A. Allen, London), far more fascinating than the relentless record of parasangs marched in the Anabasis, has been translated many times, but perhaps never so well as in its most recent reworking by Harvard's M. H. Morgan.
Xenophon's ancient observations and admonitions have a timeless ring.
One of his basic verities:
"Never deal with him [the horse] when you are in a fit of passion. A fit of passion is a thing that has no foresight in it, and so we often have to rue the day when we gave way to it."
Xenophon also offers pointers on how to avoid being cheated when buying a horse, how to handle him without being hurt and how to groom and condition him.
"To conclude," Xenophon asks, "if a man buys his horses skilfully, feeds them so that they can bear fatigue, and handles them properly in training them for war, in exercising them for the parade and in actual service in the field, what is there to prevent him from making his horses more valuable than when he acquired them, and hence from owning horses that are famous and from becoming famous himself in the art of horsemanship? Nothing except the interposition of some divinity."
Living proof of Xenophon's adage is Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, the renowned Thoroughbred trainer, whose life is the subject of a book by Jimmy Breslin out this week (Sunny Jim, Doubleday). In it Mr. Fitz says of horse racing: "You're always lookin' ahead. Don't have time for anything that happened yesterday. That's gone. What's ahead is what's important. Makes livin' nice."
The nice life of the horse trainer appears to have been good for Mr. Fitz, who is aged 88, and for Xenophon, who lived to be almost 80.
ART OF TAXING WITH AN ANGLE
The Wisconsin legislature passed a 3% selective sales tax last year and included sporting goods in its list of items to be taxed. Then someone in the tax department decided that angleworms, sold by small boys throughout the state at 10¢ a dozen, and night crawlers, going at 25¢ a dozen, were sporting goods. The boys, it was ruled, would have to pay $2 for a peddler's license, keep monthly records, make monthly payments to the state and file annual reports either on a calendar-or fiscal-year basis.
Statewide reaction among fishermen, small boys and parents might be compared to the Boston Tea Party. After a few days of agonizing reappraisal, State Tax Commissioner John Gronouski called the whole thing off. The ruling, he half-explained, had been made by a trainee.
"The worms are not taxable," he said. "It's a lot of nonsense."
Agreed. And the boys have gained some notion of what they will have to go through when they grow up to be adult businessmen.
THE INSIDE TRACK
•Owners of Jamin, France's great trotter, have turned down $50,000 for his first foal, a colt named Samos. To avoid European competition, they will not sell Jamin progeny on the Continent but will sell to an American if the price is right.
•Australian bookmakers have set 3-to-1 odds against their sloop Gretel winning the America's Cup race but with the expectation that odds will shorten to 3 to 2.
•Behind the unique August 14 American Football League draft, which will involve switching uniforms by 30 players, is an effort to placate television people, who complain of one-sided games. Strengthening of such weak sisters as Oakland and Denver is expected.
•Basketball as an Olympic sport is under a two-pronged attack. Some foreign countries would like to see it out, because of U.S. dominance, and certain AAU leaders would, too, chiefly because most American team members have enjoyed college athletic scholarships, an offense against pure amateurism. But so have most U.S. track and field stars.
THE NONFISHING FISHER
Aside from chewing up ax handles for the salt that's on them and riddling the snouts of foolish dogs with their quills, porcupines wreak annual damage of $1.5 million in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. They have recently undergone a population explosion because so many bobcats and cougars—who sometimes will risk a porcupine meal—have been killed to reduce predations on sheep and cattle. So, with fewer enemies to bother them, the porcupines have been almost unhindered in their work of girdling the bark from trees, thereby killing the trees.
Into this ominous situation now slithers the sleek, agile fisher, a nocturnal beast who looks very like a giant mink but is much less familiar to forest or nightclub. He is, in fact, one of the least known of the sylvan animals. Even his name is founded on ignorance of his habits. Trappers caught him in traps baited with fish and assumed that he fished. He does not. He lives on small game animals and some fruits, but most of all he dearly loves a feast of fat porcupine. He is, indeed, the only animal that consistently dines on porcupine. Therefore he may be just the fellow to take care of what lumbermen call "the skulking pine-pig."
He is faster in the treetops than any other North American mammal and he is so fond of the treetops that he is classified as arboreal. The treetops just happen to be where the porcupines do their worst. And the fisher is deft enough to kill a porcupine without getting himself a snootful of quills. He corners the porcupine in a cul-de-sac in the tree, then flips him onto his back and slashes his unprotected throat and belly. He makes it look easy.
If the fisher finds a porcupine on the ground, the porcupine will roll himself into a tight, impregnable ball but the fisher outdoes the porcupine in patience and concentration. Sooner or later the porcupine unkinks himself, and the fisher, lying alertly beside him, flips him over.
Taking a cue from biologists who have reduced insect pests to tolerable populations by introducing other insects that prey on the pests, conservationists of the Northwest have been replacing the cougar and bobcat with the fisher. It's an expensive business. British Columbia trappers get $100 per live fisher. Since January of last year 36 fishers have been set down by helicopter in the Oregon forests. No one knows yet how well they are doing but nothing much is expected for a few years. The fisher breeds but once a year and the female carries her young for 50 weeks, then drops a small litter of two to four kits. Fortunately, the porcupine breeds at a ponderous pace, too, carrying her single infant through seven months of gestation.
The entire project, therefore, must proceed in slow reproductive motion and any obvious evidence that depredations have decreased is unlikely for a few more years. So far, the experiment is just that but, if it is successful, fishers will be planted from northern California to British Columbia.
THEY SAID IT
•Billy Goodman, Houston infielder, on the slow plane the Colt .45s took to Los Angeles: "That was the Bo Belinsky Bomber. It came in high at 5:30 in the morning."
•Les Bolstad, University of Minnesota golf coach, on his return from the NCAA tournament: "We finished ninth in a field dominated by southern schools. It's about the same as a southern school coming up and trying to play us in hockey."
•Dizzy Dean, in the first inning of the 22-inning, seven-hour Detroit-New York marathon: "Yes, sir, fans, it looks like a long afternoon. One a them four-hour games."