Last week in Chicago the U.S. Olympic track and field committee decided to abandon the traditional American system of selecting our Olympic team. We used to have a track meet called the Olympic trials. The first three finishers in each event made the team, and that was that. It was a harsh and ruthless system, but it worked. If it cost us a Dave Sime in 1956 (the best sprinter in the world, he pulled a muscle just before the trials), it found us a Lindy Remigino in 1952 (a "virtual unknown, he went on to win the Olympic 100 meters at Helsinki). In the traditional Olympic trials, prior performances counted for nothing. Knowing that only what they did on that day mattered, competitors reached way inside themselves for speed and strength and endurance they didn't know they had.
Now it is different. The so-called Olympic trials scheduled for New York next July 3 and 4 will be little more than another preliminary meet. Only the winner in each event, according to the new plan, can assume that he has made the Olympic team, and even his place is subject to review. In September the committee will invite outstanding competitors to appear in another trial in Los Angeles. After that the U.S. team will be named. The committee may select the first three finishers in each event, but it doesn't have to. It can name anyone it chooses.
There will be arguments. (If a winner in the New York meet finishes fourth at Los Angeles, do you pick him? If a hitherto mediocre competitor runs his best race—the only great performance of his life—in Los Angeles, do you pick him or pass him up?)
We feel the Olympic committee has made a serious error in judgment, one certain to arouse bitterness and resentment. We applaud its intent: to insure that the best athletes will be on the team. But we deplore the arbitrariness of a final selection made by a board of coaches and officials.
Let the officials indeed do all they can to give outstanding athletes a fair chance to make the team. But let the athletes themselves, in competition and under pressure, make the final decision.
DAISIES IN INDIA
Twenty years ago, when they belonged to the Empire, very few of India's 164 million men and boys had ever handled a gun. In those days it was hard to find an Indian civilian below the level of maharaja who could hit the broad side of a Brahma bull at 50 yards. Even after the protective paw of the British lion was gone, the Indians remained strong believers in passive resistance. Then last year, when Red China suddenly became a very bad neighbor, India was caught short. The Indians were not outmanned, but they were outgunned.
Beginning this spring, Indian boys and girls will learn gun handling and marksmanship in school, using rifles that, before the end of the year, will be coming out of a new plant in the Punjab at a rate of 5,000 a day. The rifle will, be called the India Defender, but this noble name would not fool an American boy for a minute. The new gun plant in the Punjab is being set up for the Indian government by the Daisy Manufacturing Company of Rogers, Ark. The India Defender is the Daisy lever-action air rifle, Model 99—an old and familiar item frequently found under the American Christmas tree.
BACK TO THE CRADLE
If the Chicago Bears can hold their half-game lead on Sunday, the NFL championship game will be played at Wrigley Field, where the Bears beat the Giants in the NFL's very first title game 30 years ago. Few people, other than the Bears' season ticket holders, are rejoicing over the choice of venue. Wrigley Field holds only 49,000 spectators. The Wrigley stands cut across a corner of one end zone and are so close to both end lines that a player running deep and fast risks collision. The press box at Wrigley, while adequate for a ho-hum, mid-season baseball series, will never hold the small army of reporters, columnists, spotters and freebooters that descend on a title game. Twenty years ago, when a championship was last played in Wrigley, there were enough vantage points for photographers, but that was before the televisers and all kinds of cameramen came bearing telephoto lenses the size of mountain howitzers. There are no lights at Wrigley. The game will have to start at noon, so that, in case of a tie, at least one sudden-death period can be squeezed in before dark.
Soldier Field in Chicago seats 110,000. It has room for players, for press, for cameras. It has lights. So why try to crowd the game back into Wrigley, the cradle where it was born?
THAT OLD HAWAIIAN MOON
In ponds and lakes of the U.S. the large-mouth bass prospers mightily by feeding on its little distant cousin, the bluegill sunfish. The bluegill survives by keeping away from its big cousin, the bass. The relationship between the two, though unwholesome for the bluegill, is a well-established one, or at least it was until fishermen began pulling an occasional strange fish from the Puukaele reservoir on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
From the looks of it, the strange fish was a cross between a bass and a bluegill. At first, the fish and game experts in Hawaii pooh-poohed the idea. The bass and bluegill belong to separate, sharply defined genera, too far separated ever to intermingle in such a romantic way.
But Hawaii has quite an international reputation as a melting pot. If Chinese, Polynesians, Filipinos, Japanese, Boston missionaries and English merchants can mingle there, why not fish? A specimen was sent to Dr. Reeve Bailey, an authority on fish at the University of Michigan. After studying the specimen inside and out, Dr. Bailey confirmed that such interbreeding logically could not happen but certainly did. The fish was indeed a cross between the bass and the bluegill. Quite possibly, Dr. Bailey suggested, it was an unusual case of stress mating, the sort of thing that occurs, say, when a lone bass cannot find his real love and looks elsewhere for companionship.
Dr. Bailey's explanation will not do. The Puukaele Reservoir teems with bass and bluegill. Charlie Fern, editor of the local paper on Kauai, suggested a simple answer. "It was just that old Hawaiian moon," Fern wrote in his paper, "that got our little bluegill girls and large-mouth boys together."
Is this sort of crossbreeding likely to happen again? No one knows. The next full moon over Hawaii is December 30. The level of the reservoir will be lowered shortly thereafter, so a large number of fish can be netted and examined.
BACK TO THE BASQUES
There is some historic talk that jai alai started in the New World among the old Aztecs of Mexico, and that Invader Cort√®s took the game from them back to Spain. Now another Cort√®s, Roy McAndrews, who owns the jai alai fronton in Dania, Fla., is practicing a sort of reverse lend-lease. Jai alai came from the Basque country to Florida by way of Cuba 30 years ago. McAndrews is picking up his cestas and taking them to a new fronton he plans for the Canary Islands. He also is negotiating for construction of another fronton in San Sebastiàn, Spain, the heart of the old Basque jai alai country.
WRESTLE THE DEVIL
For English wrestling promoters who must arrange matches where good is pitted against evil, a banty-sized, 28-year-old athlete named Michael Brooks is proving to be a heavenly boon. Two things characterize Brooks's style: he is devastating with a hold known as the "single-leg Boston," and he has almost a saintly ability to stick to the rules no matter how rough his opponent. Brooks has to fight clean. Wrestling used to be the biggest thing in his life, but now he is an ordained Methodist minister.
In a nationally televised match last Saturday a tough Scot named Chic Purvey gouged, kneed, clawed and tried to strangle Brooks with the ropes until the referee ended the match, proclaiming Brooks the winner by default. "I keep on wrestling," Brooks declared after his tussle with the villain, "because it gives me a contact with people that I could never get in church."
A golfer's nose can ruin his putting, according to an eye specialist, Dr. William Vallotton of Charleston, S.C., who confesses to being a mediocre golfer himself. In a lecture to the 57th Southern Medical Association conference in New Orleans recently, Dr. Vallotton explained, "The golfer is crouched, looking at a small ball only 1.68 inches in diameter and several feet away and also at a hole 4¼ inches in diameter many feet away." To judge the distance of the putt, according to Dr. Vallotton, the golfer turns his head slightly to glance at the cup. The nose blocks the vision of one eye; the golfer loses his depth perception. Then when he turns his head back to the ball, he has difficulty retaining a good sense of the distance. Chances are he overputts or underputts.
For players who want to keep their noses out of it, Dr. Vallotton prescribes use of a croquet-like putting stroke of the sort already favored by Pro Golfer Bob Duden. This lets the golfer take a stance facing the cup and swing pendulum-style. The eyes look straight ahead at both the ball and cup. The nose is never in the picture.
TRUMPET OF DOOM
With 10 minutes left in their annual Thanksgiving game against South River, the football men of New Brunswick (N.J.) High were in possession, second down and eight, on their opponents' 10. The South River band, situated at that end of the field, was playing so loudly that New Brunswick Quarterback Andy Longo appealed to the referee. Referee Norm Van Arsdalen in turn asked the bandmaster to stop the music. But when Longo began calling signals for the next play, several members of the South River brass section cut loose on their horns. Before the ball could be snapped, Referee Van Arsdalen whipped out his red penalty marker and threw it in the direction of the band. He paced off half the distance to the goal and held out his arms, indicating unsportsmanlike conduct on the part of the musicians. Two plays later New Brunswick pushed the ball across, winning the game 27-19. Some of the 4,000 spectators rejoiced. Some booed, feeling that Van Arsdalen had overextended his authority.
Actually, Van Arsdalen had stretched nothing. Article one of section seven of rule nine of the interscholastic code says: "No player or nonplayer shall hinder play by an obviously unfair act." Referee Van Arsdalen has been dispensing justice on the football field for eight years. He knows the book, and will be enforcing it again next season. High school horn blowers in New Jersey are hereby warned.
RELIEF FOR BACKWARD PEOPLE
Financially speaking, the professional athlete leads an unhappy, backward life. He usually earns his best money when he is young, but the government takes a large bite, leaving him relatively little to bank against the future.
A Canadian tax commission is currently weighing a brief submitted on behalf of the hockey men of the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The evidence shows that the hockey player's income drops sharply after his competitive years and, although he may end his working life earning no more than ordinary Canadians, he often pays $10,000 more in taxes. The brief proposes that the inequity be eliminated by a few simple adjustments that, in effect, spread some of the player's hockey salary beyond his playing years. By coincidence, Senator Russell Long (D., La.) is now pushing an amendment to the current tax reform bill that would give U.S. pro athletes the same sort of justice.
THEY SAID IT
•Alabama Coach Paul (Bear) Bryant, comparing his 1963 team (7-2-0) with his undefeated 1961 team that won in the Sugar Bowl: "This is a much more exciting type of team; that 1961 team couldn't do anything but win."
•Paul Richards, general manager of the Houston Colts, protesting the decision to ban the outsize catcher's mitt he fathered: "Since Christopher Columbus, it has been traditional to give catchers all the protection and equipment they can take on. Without a catcher who can catch the ball, baseball is about as entertaining as mumbly-peg."