THE HIGHEST OLYMPICS
The selection of Mexico City as the site of the 1968 Olympic Games—a candidacy that beat out Detroit—came as the Mexican capital was entertaining the 33rd Congreso Mundial of ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) with bullfights, auto racing and horse racing. There were 2,500 agents in town, and every one of them asked the same question: How will altitude (7,400 feet of it) affect the performance of Olympic athletes?
In a city where the big nightclubs provide oxygen tanks for exhausted twisters, and in which hangovers seem endless, this is a question worth asking. The answer is that the effect will be more than somewhat but not necessarily drastic. Broad jumpers and hop-step-and-jumpers will sail farther through the thin air. The breathlessness of the long distance runner will be more than apparent. Even sprinters, who don't breathe much over 100 meters and shorter distances, will notice the lack of oxygen. All athletes will be advised to inhale oxygen before and after competition.
These are prognostications based on what happened in the 1955 Pan American Games, when not a few competitors from 22 nations collapsed and were hauled off on stretchers after their events. But records, seven of them, were set nonetheless. Thus Lou Jones of New Rochelle, N.Y. fell unconscious on the cinders at the end of the 400-meter race, quite unaware that he had broken the world record with a time of 45.4 seconds.
Acclimatization is possible for some individuals, but not all, according to Peter V. Karpovich, M.D. in his Physiology of Muscular Activity. And athletes from higher altitudes like Bolivia's La Paz (11,916 feet) may find their times improved in such events as the 10,000-meter run, if one may judge by experiments conducted in 1947, when a team was taken from La Paz to sea level at Arica, Chile. In the heavier air, however, performances in jumping and putting the shot worsened.
One of the travel representatives, Peter Prag of Norway, declared that, based on his own experience with lightheadedness and shortness of breath, he would advise Norwegian coaches that "things are going to be very tough in Mexico." Reminded that he had been wined and dined at the convention, whereas "athletes don't drink," Mr. Prag responded, "You don't know Norwegian athletes."
Let coaches beware—in Mexico in 1968 their motto might well be: schnapps, schmapps.
SHUFFLE OFF, LADIES
The odds against a perfect bridge hand (everybody gets 13 of a suit), are, roughly, 2,235,197,406,895,366,368,301,559,999 to 1. There are those who will assure you that it is a most unlikely combination. But last spring four ladies from Kankakee, Ill. each picked up 13 cards of one suit (SI, April 15), causing a sensation in the bridge world. Since then, everywhere ladies with time on their hands have been off and dealing. Directly after the Kankakee cause cél√®bre came the Greybull, Wyo. astonishment. Four ladies, each with a 13-card flush. And then, after brief summer doldrums, four ladies in Evansville, Ind. managed to come up with the perfect hand. News of this must have swept on to La Crosse, Wis. for, shortly thereafter, a determined female foursome there hit the jackpot on its third try.
On we go, this time to Jacksonville, Fla., where just last week the now not-so-odd oddity came up again at a session of The Tuesday Bridge Club That Meets On Thursday Morning. Same perfect hand and, once again, ladies all.
The odds against five such hands, limited to one sex, in the space of seven months? The odds are that the ladies need a mechanical shuffler.
Dan Topping, co-owner of the New York Yankees, stood before a bouquet of microphones and said, "Yogi [Berra] took a cut in salary to accept the job as manager. We wanted to start him off at the same salary that Casey [Stengel] and Ralph [Houk] started off at."
What Mr. Topping would seem to want everyone to believe is that Berra's $35,000 is equal to the $35,000 Stengel got when he began managing in 1949. Of course it is not. As for Houk's $35,000, it represented quite a raise over the $18,000 he had been making as a coach. What every one should believe, despite what Topping says, is that Yogi is the first Yankee manager in years to take a cut in pay. And he hasn't lost a game yet.
YES, WE HAVE BANANAS
The surfing mania, which has brought on its own brand of rock 'n' roll called surfing music, has spread over the Middle West in recent months, notwithstanding a dearth of surf. An Omaha, Nebraska disc jockey, Rich Stewart, playing one surf-riding number after another, mused aloud recently on what a shame it is that midwestern kids cannot go surfing. "How about tying banana peels to your feet and sliding down a hill, hee-hee?" Stewart babbled on, in true disc jockey fashion.
But teen-agers of Omaha's Westside High School, needing funds for their chapter of the National Forensic League, thought it a grand idea. They decided to put on an open turfing contest. For $10 they got 100 pounds of overripe bananas and marked off a course on a hill near the football field. A crowd of 450 gathered last Saturday to watch as Ann Cunningham, 11, and Kent Johnson, 17, scored perfect runs of 44 feet 8 inches, the length of the course, to become Turf King and Queen. The club realized a profit of $30.
"Turfing ought to catch on," observed Club President Ray Dryden. "When you fall you don't get wet."
IT'S HOW YOU PLOY THE GAME
Quite possibly the world's most accomplished ploysters in the field of sport are the members of India's tennis association, who last year (SI, Dec. 3, 1962) arranged to confound Mexico's Davis Cup team with a fouled-up schedule, a shift in locale, a failure to provide housing, meals or transportation and a succession of similar morale-shattering annoyances. Even so, Mexico won.
Now the Indian gamesmen, whose players are at their best on a slow surface, have surpassed themselves. This year's proposed victim: the speedy U.S. team in the Davis Cup Interzone Final in Bombay. Last week the U.S. team, already in India, was officially informed that the Indians had opted to play on "sand" courts.
Now what in the name of all that is Eastern and mysterious is a "sand" tennis court?
A once-ranked Indian player, seemingly surprised that we should ask, has explained to our New Delhi correspondent that this curious playing surface is "a specialty of Bombay." Sand is not a very precise term for it.
"The courts," our informant says, "are surfaced with a mixture of cow dung and sand spread smoothly over the playing surface. The cow dung binds the sand together, and the grains of sand give the court a rough, slow surface."
A Westerner might think otherwise, but the addition of sand is the truly Machiavellian touch.
"These courts," says the former Indian star, "are even slower than pure cow-dung courts."
HEARD: A CRY FOR HELP
It begins to look as if baseball fans in Los Angeles and Washington may get some much-needed help from the American League. Last season the Senators finished 48½ games behind the Yankees and dipped almost 200,000 in attendance to become the poorest gate attraction in the majors; the Angels finished 34 games out of first and slipped 300,000 in attendance. More important to the American League's prestige, however, is the fact that in 1963 the Angels drew 1,700,000 fewer fans than the Dodgers.
There may be denials, but two plans of assistance are currently being thought about. Both are worthy.
The first calls for each of the other eight teams in the American League to freeze 15 players from its 40-man roster of Oct. 15 and to make available the other 25 at a cost of $20,000 each. Los Angeles and Washington would be able to buy one player from each team for a total of eight. The second plan calls for each of the eight teams to freeze 15 players from its 25-man roster of last Aug. 31, thus making available the other 10, again at the price of $20,000 each.
On the surface these plans seem extremely liberal and the price may fluctuate, most likely upward. American League owners have been asked to think over both plans before December's major league meetings. If either is adopted we think that attendance will fluctuate upward, too.
HAPPY AFTERNOON AT WEMBLEY
It is 100 years since representatives of 11 English football (soccer, that is) clubs met in a London tavern to formulate a universal set of rules. Since then the game has grown and spread the world over to become, indeed, the world's most popular game, one that has even begun to achieve a wide following in the U.S., obsessed though we are with our own brand of football.
The rules of 1863 were a mess. Some clubs permitted players to catch the ball and run with it—now universally forbidden. Others allowed contestants to kick opponents' shins. When shin-kicking was outlawed by the other 10, one club indignantly withdrew.
Since then the game has spread like the sea. Sailors have played it on northern polar ice. During World War I an officer of an English regiment climbed out of a trench, kicked a soccer ball toward the enemy lines and led a charge into machine-gun fire. An Everest party, 16,000 feet up in the Himalayas, paused in its climb to listen to a radio report of a soccer match. The game has become both an inspiration and an entertainment, the names of its stars an international language.
To celebrate the centenary, England played a match against the rest of the world in London's Wembley Stadium, packed with 100,000spectators, including the Duke of Edinburgh. The home team took on players from 10 other nations, the teams fielding athletes with an aggregate worth approaching $6 million. Through Eurovision, 60 million persons outside the stadium watched the match. Some 500 commentators reported the game in two dozen languages.
Such a match, such a gathering, had never taken place before. To cap a perfect day, England deservedly won a hard-fought game 2-1—a fitting climax to 100 years of competition. "You've no idea," said an English fan, "what a happy afternoon it was."
PRESCRIPTION FOR REVERIE
In the northern half of the country at this time of year most fresh water anglers are preparing to store away tackle and put in a long winter of dreaming. Best way to induce those dreams, we suggest, is to browse through The Treasury of Angling (Ridge Press/Golden Press, $14.95 until Christmas, when the price jumps $2). A handsome new book by Larry Koller, angler, rodmaker, flytier and writer, its magnificent photographs are by George Silk, LIFE photographer who, as a boy of 12 in his native New Zealand, took an eight-pound brown trout the first time he went fishing. Among the subjects expertly dealt with in text and pictures (72 pages in color) are the development of American angling, fly-fishing in the U.S. and the ways of salmon, trout, bass and the pikes. Only drawback is the title, which would be more appropriate for an anthology.
The publishers brag on the jacket that any four pages of the book's pictures "should raise the wariest fisherman from his lie." For once a blurb does not exaggerate.
THEY SAID IT
•John Crittendon, Miami News writer, on Alabama Coach Bear Bryant and his critics: "He stares down most of them, and he sues the others."
•Bo Belinsky, the playboy of the western baseball world, expounding on his reformation: "I'm really not a wild guy. I always get to bed by 2 a.m. All that talk about 6 a.m. is crazy, man. I got to get my sleep."
•John Cudmore, Southern Methodist Mustang Club vice-president, on the violence that greeted U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson in Dallas: "They treated him like a losing football coach."