Political pundits are a varied breed, but what they have in common is that they take themselves more seriously than ordinary mortals, or even sportswriters. When they turn to sport, as they all occasionally do, it often is with a heavy hand—sometimes with ponderous humor, sometimes to make labored analogies between a world they do not understand and the world they possibly may not understand as well as they think they do.
This week we have C. L. Sulzberger lamenting in The New York Times that "as usual, the United States has sent a team of amateurs to the Olympic Games to compete, as usual, against a team of Soviet professionals." This naiveté, says Mr. Sulzberger, costs us heavily on the international scene. He would have his readers think that the U.S. has a clutter of superstars immobilized by their professional status. The fact is, of course, that we could not find anyone to run the mile faster than Dyrol Burleson or Tom O'Hara if we paid him money to do so.
It is no secret that Communist athletes are only technical amateurs, since they are given sinecures in civil or military services that allow them to work full time on their sport. But let's not get too sanctimonious. What is so different about a young American who goes through college on an athletic scholarship and emerges with a degree in physical education?
As generally conceived, integration has come to be understood as the introduction of Negroes to facilities hitherto reserved for whites. But it can mean just the reverse, too, as in the case of Barry Moore, freshman halfback on the Kentucky State College football team.
Barry is white. All his teammates and coaches are Negroes. Only 5% of Kentucky State's 1,004 full-time students are white.
An excellent high school athlete who could have won an athletic scholarship elsewhere, Moore chose Kentucky State because his home is in Frankfort, where the college is situated.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a little uneasy feeling in our first game at Nashville against Fisk University," Moore said. "It was an entirely new experience being the only white player in a game where almost all the spectators were Negro. However, I lost most of my self-consciousness as the game moved along."
Jackie Robinson would understand.
HOW ABOUT THAT?
Mellow and persimmony at the same time, the voice of Mel Allen has been familiar to World Series TV and radio listeners for 18 years and to New York Yankee fans for 25. By decision of Ford Frick, baseball commissioner, it was not heard during this year's World Series, and by rumor it may not be heard from Yankee Stadium next year.
To most of the nation this meant very little, but all New York, with some exceptions, is divided into those who passively tolerate Mel and those who actively resent him. The latter are mostly blind Yankee haters but quite a few are redundancy haters. If you picked up Allen by his ears he would bay something like: "International Falls is the coldest spot in the U.S. Temperature-wise, that is."
There was some astonishment at Frick's decision, presumably inspired by the Yankees themselves, since team owners recommend the broadcasters and Frick is not about to buck team owners at this stage. There was surprisingly little protest. One shot for Allen was fired by Eric Sevareid, the CBS news essayist, but it had the effect of something coming out of a puffed-rice cannon. Sevareid did not seem to mind losing Allen so much as gaining Phil Rizzuto in his stead. It was a clear case, he said, of "creeping Rizzutoism," a situation in which professional talkers and writers are displaced by members of the professions they talk and write about.
"In the last war," he recalled, holding tongue firmly in cheek, "retired generals became war correspondents, taking the caviar right out of the mouths of the deserving.... Senator Goldwater muscled in on our racket and became a syndicated columnist."
Professional writers and talkers who heard Rizzuto and Joe Garagiola team up in an impressive display of expertise during the Series could not, even in jest, agree with Sevareid. The ex-performers talked too much, to be sure, but they talked good baseball sense, with scarcely ever a professional malapropism.
BIRDS OF A WEATHER
A number of radar installations about the country are manned by the U.S. Weather Bureau to check on rampaging cloud formations that could turn into tornadoes or other varieties of foul weather. Sometimes things get dull, and when that happens the weather bureau fellows turn to studying blips that denote flocks of birds. Then, each week, the bureau dispatches a packet of radar-observation pictures to Frank Bellrose, wildlife specialist for the Illinois Natural History Survey. Over the past four years Bellrose has reached some interesting conclusions from his radar pictures. Among them:
Waterfowl migrate ahead of a cold front. Small land birds fly behind it.
Birds can analyze wind shear, a situation that can produce clear air turbulence strong enough to destroy airplanes.
Ninety percent of migratory flying is done at night, with the birds taking advantage of the stars for celestial navigation. When an overcast obscures sun or moon or stars, they sometimes get lost.
There are clear indications that the birds seek out favorable winds. They correct their flights for sideways wind drift, avoid strong headwinds.
Hawks, eagles and vultures are especially hazardous to aircraft because they are not afraid of planes.
At the National Field Archery Association championships at Watkins Glen, N.Y. this year, Clifford Necessary of Richmond, Va. set a record for an archer shooting without a bow sight. He scored 2,537 points in five rounds. His high round was 513. In Hunters Harbor, a small community on the Magothy River in Maryland, 14-year-old Mike Lindemon has shot as high as 516 in a round. Hunters Harbor is just an arrow's flight from Sherwood Forest, Md.
Mike, who has been shooting the bow and arrow for little more than a year, has scored over 500 on three occasions. He believes he could do even better with a sight but does not want to bother with one just yet. And anyway, he says, "sight shooters only shoot around 500."
In addition to his competitive achievements, Mike has one other notable distinction. He has shot what bowmen call a "Robin Hood."
He did this by shooting one arrow into a target. Then he shot a second arrow, which split the first, fused and formed a single shaft almost twice the length of a normal arrow, with two sets of feathers.
Which is quite enough to make a veteran archer turn forest green.
MUSKIE BOOM AT ROCKY FORK
As infuriating as any fish that swims is the muskellunge—wily and stubbornly reluctant to strike. Men have dedicated entire vacations to his pursuit without success. But out at Rocky Fork Lake in the gentle hills of southwestern Ohio this past month strange things have been happening. Planted 11 years ago as fry, muskies by the score have been hitting lures and baits with abandon.
In one day's fishing Joe Plotnick, a muskie specialist who operates a tackle shop in Columbus, and his friend Phillip McGinnis caught 10 at Rocky Fork and threw back several they considered too small. McGinnis, who hooked an 11-pounder, declared: "This is the best muskie fishing I've ever known and I've fished waters throughout the United States and Canada." Plotnick, however, disagrees. He thinks it was better a couple of years ago at Dillon Dam, near Zanesville.
As for explanations, there are only guesses. One is that a hot spell drove the muskies off the bottom and to the surface, where most strikes have been made. This theory was scotched by a cold spell, after which the fish continued to hit in shallow water. To Joe Plotnick, the answer lies in persistence, good casting, a knowledge of muskie habits, mixing up the lures and using gut instead of wire leaders. But many an angler has tried all these in lakes known to be full of muskies and stopped off at the fish market on the way home.
For the shortest and most poignant football dispatch of the year we nominate the following Associated Press story as it appeared in The Albuquerque Tribune. In its entirety: "UNIVERSITY PARK, Oct. 8 (AP)—New Mexico State University Coach Warren Woodson, whose team has surrendered 112 points in their first three games, is stressing defense."
Every working day two flags fly above the Nevada state capitol dome in Carson City—the American flag on top, the blue and gold Nevada state flag beneath it. For the past 16 years, running up those flags has been the day's first business for Cyrus Meacham. Then, one day recently, he added a third flag—the bright-red St. Louis Cardinals banner. Gloriously, in recognition of the Cards' National League victory, it flew all day, and Cy Meacham felt that this was the climax of his career as a Cards' fan. But the best was yet to come.
Now 54, Cy was born in Joplin, Missouri, where he learned to root for the St. Louis Cards. He came to Nevada to live in 1930 but he remained loyal to the Cards. Year in and year out, indoors and outdoors, he has worn a Cards' baseball cap every day. He wears out one a year, buys an annual replacement in San Francisco, where he goes every time the Cards come in to play the Giants.
On the day he flew the banner, Cy was summoned to Governor Grant Sawyer's office. Something to do with the capital's water supply, he was told.
The governor harrumphed and made an announcement.
"Nevada has to have a representative at the World Series," he said. "In checking around to find the man who was the least busy and who could be spared, I came up with the name of Cy Meacham. And so I am going to order Cy to go to the World Series."
Cy's usual greeting to friends is: "Isn't this a beautiful day?" This time he changed it. "This is the most beautiful day of all," he said.
THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST
When an even-money national favorite (Le Fabuleux) finishes 14th and a 16-to-1 shot (Prince Royal II) wins Europe's richest horse race, the $300,000 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, there are bound to be Gallic shouts of "We wuz robbed," especially since three million Frenchmen bet a record sum of more than $11 million on it. The American-owned, English-bred, French-mounted Italian horse Prince Royal II had only three weeks earlier finished sixth in a six-horse race, the Prix Royal Oak, at the same track.
"What happened?" demanded France-Soir. "Certainly something not normal."
Something quite normal, actually. Rex Ellsworth had bought Prince Royal for $400,000 two days before the Royal Oak, in which he was ridden by Enrico Camici, crack Italian jockey. Previously he had won two major races, including the Gran Premio di Milano, films of which disclosed that he had been ridden under restraint to save him for a smashing finish. Camici tried the tactic in the Royal Oak but the pace was very slow and without rhythm and Prince Royal could not bring it off. Ellsworth's trainer then discovered that the Prince could start fast, stay with the front pack until the stretch, then pull ahead to win. That would be the strategy for the Arc, they decided, and, with a leading French jockey up, that is what Prince Royal did.
Nothing abnormal in that. Just horsemanship.
THEY SAID IT
•Johnny Callison, Philadelphia outfielder, when asked if he had any plans for the winter: "Well, the first thing I'm going to do is hide."
•Bill Pellington, Baltimore Colts' linebacker, on why he will retire after this season: "I'm 37 years old and I've got enough water in my knees to carry me across the Sahara."