BRINKLEY vs. THE BRONTOSAURUS
"Promoters of dubious enterprises often defend them by saying their history is long," began David Brinkley's Journal Special on boxing released by NBC-TV this week. The documentary continued: "Many think boxing is an ugly brontosaurus that has somehow survived beyond its time."
One of the many is David Brinkley, though he did admit that boxing is one way out of the slums and "into a purple Cadillac." But that was just a feint. "The same is true of purse-snatching or pushing marijuana," Brinkley added.
He landed a lot of punches around the belt. Referring to "the spectacle of a longtime criminal being defeated by a Black Muslim," he defined the opponents as Sonny Liston, "the only fighter we know of who's been arrested more times than he's fought," and Cassius Clay, "world champion in two divisions—heavyweight, and loudmouth." Liston got it again when Brinkley quoted George Katz, Sonny's old manager, as saying: "Liston has a lot of good qualities. It's his bad qualities that are not so good."
The arguments against prizefighting are old, though they seldom have been presented so entertainingly. Its imminent death has been predicted often, but it survives, and by no means because television for so long and so profitably drenched the nation's screens with the blood NBC now deplores. TV came closer to killing boxing than any other force that ever opposed it. But men do like to contend against each other with their fists, for fun as well as for money. Like many other disciplines (including TV commentary), boxing has an element of risk. That risk is less than most people think. Boxing will continue.
ICI ON PARLE FRAN√áAIS
French, the language of diplomats, courtesans and cooks, has been invaded over the years by sporting terminology, much of it derived from English, and all of it resented deeply by Professor Rene Etiemble and the Académie Fran√ßaise. "My language, the blood of my spirit, is being destroyed," says Etiemble with a sob.
So, with the assistance of the French Sportswriters' Union, he has begun a campaign to de-Anglicize French in all aspects, including the sporting. Hereafter sober yachtsmen are to become gay plaisanciers, and blue jeans will be dignified as pantalon de treillis bleu. Football must be le ballon rond if it is soccer, or ballon ovale if it is Rugby.
We must doubt that Etiemble will be successful. In the speed and excitement of playing or reporting a game, few will have the patience to enunciate le ballon rond. Other languages gladly accept the currency of modern lingo. In English we have taken from the French such words as epee, en garde, touché, lacrosse. Tennis' "love" is, by tradition, attributed to the French l'oeuf. Literature can be subjected to academic censure, perhaps, but the language of sport is common parlance. It is for people, not pedants.
The Italian film The Grand Olympics, once more available to theaters around the country, would have been here three years ago if it had not been for a difference of opinion about its worth. The filmmakers held that it was wonderful, and so demanded a high fee for distribution rights. The American distributors held that it was a sports movie and who goes to sports movies? They would not meet the price. The film went back to Europe.
Well, here it is again, and this time you may have a chance to see it. You should, because it puts you in the middle of Rome during the 1960 Olympics, where you will see Herb Elliott winning the best race a man ever ran, and run the marathon with Abebe Bikila against a background of the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine and the Appian Way. The editing has re-created to perfection the pace and excitement and holiday atmosphere of the Olympics. It is in color, of course, with a superb musical background.
The only thing wrong with the film is the narration, which is often fatuous, misleading and full of errors. But that is a minor cavil. The movie is great.
When stout Cortez conquered the Aztec empire in 1519 he found Montezuma and his subjects playing a game the Spaniards did not think worthy of taking back to Europe. Today it barely survives in a much degenerated form in a few towns in western Mexico.
The game was called ollamaliztli, and archeologists from the University of California at Los Angeles have just unearthed in Itapaluca Viejo, a small town in the Valley of Mexico, an ancient and elaborate arena where it was played centuries ago. Containingelements of basketball, soccer and handball (though hands or feel could not be used), it was played on a large, I-shaped masonry court. Players flailed away with hips, knees and elbows at a solid rubber ball the size of a modern volleyball. The object was to drive it through any of a series of stone rings projecting vertically from the wall on the enemy's side of the court. Though the athletes were permitted to wear leather pads on hips, knees and elbows, the action must have been bloody, if not murderous.
Goals seem to have been scored infrequently. A good thing, too, because the player who succeeded in putting the ball through a stone ring was there and then entitled to all the clothing of the spectators behind the ring.
FUN FOR RENT
The car-rental business has now got around to the sports car. Hertz has organized its own Sports Car Club, the members of which may display a gold-embossed credit card. Admission to the club is not too easy. Members have to pass a road test, because many applicants who learned to drive since automatic transmissions came in have trouble with the stick shift and clutch, and others arc unfamiliar with four-speed shifts.
The sports cars are priced for rental on much the same basis as ordinary automobiles. The original cost of the car determines the rental. Thus, a Jaguar XK-E costs $17 a day and 17¢ a mile, same as a Cadillac. The Corvette goes for $14 and 14¢, like the Thunderbird. Volvos and TR-4s are also available, and some Mustangs are on order.
A few years ago the fisher, a voracious little animal that closely resembles the marten, appeared to be on its way to extinction in Maine. Antitrapping laws were passed and now the fisher has begun to pop up in all parts of the state. He has become an export item.
The average porcupine can destroy 5,000 board feet of lumber in its lifetime. But one fisher can destroy 500 porcupines. Nova Scotia, which has lots of lumber and lots of porcupines, has therefore just imported 20 Maine fishers. Over the past four years some 70 fishers have been shipped to Vermont for the same reason.
The fisher's ability to eat porcupines is something of a mystery. Naturalists think the fisher bewilders the porcupine with rapid movements, then flips him over on his back and slashes the unprotected belly. Kenneth W. Hodgdon, chief of Maine's game research and management, has found fishers with their intestines full of quills, quite unharmed by the diet. Furthermore, quills stuck in a fisher's hide do not cause festering as they do in other animals. There is an old wives' tale that the fisher's fat dissolves the quills. Naturalists sneer at this but so far have not produced an alternative explanation.
THE .400 CLUB
Anyone who believes that Willie Mays will maintain his current pace against National League pitchers is invited to inspect this bridge we have for sale, a magnificent structure running between Manhattan and Brooklyn. On the other hand, Willie just might hit .400 this year for the first time since Ted Williams did it in 1941 with a .406. One who thinks he might is Ted Williams, now dedicated to fishing and philosophy. Williams also mentions Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Vada Pinson and Carl Yastrzemski—all of whom, he feels, have the qualities essential for a .400 hitter.
The qualities? In order, he lists them as opportunity, desire and ability, with the latter a distant third.
"The opportunity has to be there," he once said. "You never see a great hockey player from Alabama, and you don't see great hitters from Quebec."
As for "desire," Williams sees little sign of it in today's players.
"Maybe they have too much to do besides play baseball," he speculated. "When I was young I was the first one into a clubhouse before a game and the last one out afterward."
All of which sounds like an ancient bewailing the ways of youth, but it brings us around again to Willie Mays, a fellow impassioned with hunger. He has the opportunity, certainly, and the desire, for sure, and who would doubt his ability?
MOUNTAIN COMES TO MUHAMMAD ALI
There is a good chance that Muhammad Ali will defend his title against Sonny Liston in September. Only one difficulty now intervenes. After Muhammad—then known as Cassius Clay—humiliated Liston at Miami Beach, the World Boxing Association seemed briefly of a mind to disbar both of them and finally settled on loser Liston as the victim of its cautious wrath. Sonny was taken off the list of eligible challengers, for reasons that have more to do with his inability to get along with cops than with his ability in the ring. That situation was apparent before he lost the title, but it seems not to have been so important until then.
Now the WBA is faced once more with the dilemma of its inconsistencies. The rematch seems about to be arranged. A condition is that Liston be restored to status as a contender. The WBA never has dared refuse to sanction a big fight.
Assume that the fight were held without WBA approval, a likely assumption. Suppose that Liston won, which is not wildly implausible. We would then have an unrecognized contender beating the champion in an unrecognized match. If the WBA were to stick to its wooden guns all future champions and championships to the final trumpet would be unrecognized. By the WBA, that is.
But the WBA, bless it, is not quite that stupid. WBA President Ed Lassman puts it this way:
"If the public demands a Clay-Liston light we would probably sanction it. My guess is that we would."
A lopsided view of college sports holds that most students get their exercise waving pennants in the stadium and running from campus police after pantie raids. Critics maintain that the only beneficiaries of costly athletic plants and programs are the varsity performers.
Not true, says the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which counts more than a million male students engaged in 59 different intramural sports, as against 143,788 athletes engaged in 32 different intercollegiate sports. The intramuralists represents 85.7% of the undergraduates in 536 NCAA member institutions.
Furthermore, says Ellis Mendelsohn of the University of Louisville, the trend is toward more intramural play.
"Intramurals and club activity are coming fast," asserts Mendelsohn, who is an associate professor in the physical education department. "There's a great boom in the construction of facilities, buildings and other things."
Most popular intramural sports: basketball, softball, touch football, volleyball and tennis, in that order.
THE CONSERVATIVE PROS
At age 65, when they retire from whatever professional football players turn to after they can no longer play football. National Football League players who have completed five years in the game can look forward to a pension of at least $487 a month.
But, says Pete Rozelle, league president, "our investment program in the stock market could make it as high as $850 in the estimation of many financial experts who say we are too conservative in our expectation."
THEY SAID IT
•Joseph A. W. Iglehart, chairman of the board of the Baltimore Orioles, on the suggestion of ABC TV President Thomas W. Moore that sports change their traditional patterns to better suit TV: "In the league he is in, there are only three teams and he is in last place."