FOOT IN THE DOOR
Two recent fights in Madison Square Garden drew so well and were so stirring that there has been good reason to hope for a revival of prize fighting now that it is free of television's insatiable demands. The networks, presenting as many as three fights a week, saturated the market, destroyed the small clubs where fighters learn the trade and then walked away from the sport. Now it is five months since the last of the networks stopped presenting weekly bouts. During that period evidence has grown that shrewd matchmaking plus the fans' hunger pains could bring back the good old days. The Floyd Patterson-George Chuvalo fight drew 19,100, packing the Garden. The Luis Rodriguez-Rubin Carter bout drew a very respectable 10,806.
But stay. Let us not be too hopeful. The Patterson-Chuvalo go was so exciting that CBS-TV bought the rights to present all 12 rounds of it on video tape last Sunday afternoon. If boxing revives, can television, which all but killed it, be far behind? Will fight promoters, who know the recent history of their sport better than anyone, be so greedy and shortsighted as to let the networks back into the game? Chances are they will.
THE SIX EYES HAVE IT
After a season of experimentation, Ed Norris, basketball coach at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas, is convinced that three heads are better than two in officiating basketball games.
As far back as 1952 Norris wrote a master's degree thesis on the three-official system. And this year he has used three officials at most St. Edward's home games. He feels he has now exploded some old myths about the system.
One objection has been that three officials would slow the game by calling too many fouls, but Norris has found that actually fewer fouls are called.
"When a player realizes that an official has a good view of every play," he explained, "he's more careful, leaving more daylight between him and his man."
Further, he believes that older and thereby more experienced officials will be able to stand the pace of the game better under the three-official system and so contribute the benefit of their proficiency for years longer.
During his thesis research Norris experimented with a system of "three men officiating but with two-man mechanics." With only one official on the court, the other two manned platforms at each end. It provided fine officiating, he contends, but fans complained that the platforms, nine feet high, obscured their view. Norris suspects that their real objection may have been elimination of many excuses for booing officials.
"After all," he noted, "that put the officials in at least as good a vantage point as the spectators."
THE PRICE IS WRONG
Within the past few weeks several sealed envelopes from baseball club owners have arrived in the New York office of Commissioner Ford Frick, each containing the name of his possible successor. Although everyone is sworn to secrecy, rumors are circulating that among those nominated are Bill Shea, the man given credit for returning National League baseball to New York, Anthony Celebrezze, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Richard Nixon, Kenneth Keating and Byron (Whizzer) White.
One of the next commissioner's first functions will be to negotiate a new television contract for the World Series and All-Star Game. Baseball's current five-year, $4 million-a-year contract for both the Series and the All-Star Game expires in 1966 and some owners have long thought that Frick sold those rights too cheaply. (The NFL playoff game, for instance, recently sold for $1.8 million.) Television ratings for major sporting events during 1964 indicate that the World Series drew five of the top six audiences as estimated by A. C. Nielsen. The final game of the Series topped everything and that game was played on a Thursday afternoon—certainly not prime TV time.
The new commissioner will have some pretty good arguments. The top 15 rated sports shows in millions of homes reached during 1964 were: 1) seventh game of World Series 24.3, 2) fourth game 23.4, 3) Rose Bowl 22.4, 4) third game 21.4, 5) sixth game 21.4, 6) fifth game 19.4, 7) Pro Bowl 19.2, 8) Orange Bowl 18.3, 9) first Series game 18.3, 10) Sugar Bowl 18.2, 11) Runnerup Bowl 17.9, 12) second Series game 17.6, 13) NFL Thanksgiving Game, Green Bay vs. Detroit 17.6, 14) Cotton Bowl 17.0, 15) East-West football 16.8.
The NFL playoff game, for some reason, was not included in the Nielsen ratings as released, but it probably ranked high in the first five.
A MOVEABLE FLEECE
Legendary Atlantis was a Utopian island of peace and plenty. It disappeared into the sea. New Atlantis was, at last sighting, still afloat. The Caribbean's latest island republic, new nation of the week, is dedicated to pleasure and profit and plans to finance itself by the sale of postage stamps. Its monetary unit is the Scruple, because people with scruples are nice. Citizens are required to be gregarious because New Atlantis measures 8 feet by 30. Population: seven.
"We can stand up, walk around and salute the flag, all of which we do periodically," reports President Leicester Hemingway, who was elected by unanimous vote. The vice-president, Lady Pamela Bird (yes, New Atlantis has a Lady Bird), is a British subject, holding dual citizenship. President Hemingway claims recognition from the U.S. After dedicating the nation's first postage stamp to "Lyndon Baines Johnson, protector of the entire free world," he got a thank-you note from the White House, and it was addressed to him in care of the Republic of New Atlantis.
Hemingway not only founded the nation, he built it. It is constructed of bamboo and moored to a promontory on the ocean floor by 50 feet of cable, the axle and wheels of a railroad car, an old Ford motor block and some scrap metal. It floats 6½ miles south of Jamaica on what Hemingway hopes is the open sea. After building it he claimed the northern halt of the island for the U.S.
An outdoorsman and writer, Hemingway financed his island out of the proceeds of his latest book, a biography entitled My Brother, Ernest Hemingway.
EYES RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT
The trouble with being a stock-car racing fan is that you may develop lateral nystagmus, according to Dr. A. A. Monaco, chief physician at the Daytona International Speedway. Nystagmus is a constant involuntary movement of the eyeball.
It develops, says Dr. Monaco, because the fan stays in one place and moves his eyes to pick up a car coming down the track, then follows it from one side to the other of his visual field. After he does this for three hours or so the eyes get into a rut and the next thing he knows they are going from side to side whether a car is coming or not.
The treatment? Well, a sedative helps, and so do blinders.
As most duck shooters know, the future of North America's waterfowl populations depends largely on preserving the natural wetlands where ducks nest and raise their broods. Ducks and wetlands have suffered mightily over the years from drought and from agricultural drainage. Waterfowl conservationists can do little about drought, but they can save ducks by saving their breeding grounds. With this in mind, Congress four years ago authorized a seven-year loan of $105 million to the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife to acquire prime breeding grounds in the U.S.—mostly in the Dakotas and in Minnesota—as well as refuges along the four U.S. flyways. But because of loopholes in the act, only $25 million has so far been appropriated and only 12½% of the proposed 2.5 million "duckland" acres has been acquired.
Neither under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 nor any act since has Congress authorized the spending of federal funds for waterfowl conservation outside the nation's borders, though up to 80% of the continent's waterfowl population breeds in Canada.
The obvious solution, says Senator Roman L. Hruska of Nebraska, is to spend some of the government's emergency wetlands acquisition funds in Canada, "where they will do the most good," and where they would supplement funds that Canada itself and Ducks Unlimited are spending to acquire and improve wetlands. It is not a new idea, but the important thing is that Senator Hruska has gone so far as to introduce the proposal in bill form in the U.S. Senate. The return on such an investment would be, ultimately, more ducks for American shooters, which is exactly what the government has been trying to get, with little success, for a long time.
REQUIEM FOR THE RAINCHECK
There has been apprehension that baseball, as it will be played in Houston's new domed and air-conditioned stadium, may be affected radically by being played under too-perfect, unvarying conditions. Be assured that nothing will change. The curve will still curve, the knuckler will knuckle, the slider will slide. All this was established at a batting and pitching preview last week.
In late afternoon twilight, players did have trouble following the flight of the ball against the dome's steel struts and plastic skylights. "But when the lights come on," said Outfielder Rusty Staub, "it's better than hitting outside."
Last season the Astros—then the Colt .45s—were the weakest hitting team in the National League. After Outfielder Al Spangler, first to swing a bat during the preview, popped up, Publicity Director Bill Giles explained that it was the first time in four months that the players had swung a bat.
"I can't tell the difference," an observer said.
DAY AT THE RACES
An all-round average fellow who plays a bit of friendly poker one night a week and has been known to place modest wagers on dogs and horses, Dick Drysdale never has been much of a winner. On the other hand, he never has lost much. He bets little. But on a sunny afternoon last week at Sunshine Park, near Tampa, Drysdale walked off with $1,222.20. All he had done was pick the winners of all 10 races, including the daily double and twin double.
More astute and daring gamblers cringed when they heard of Drysdale's luck, since it warranted his winning tens of thousands. But, except for the final race, on which he plunged a wild $20 bill, he never bet more than $10. His $2 on the daily double paid him $106.20. The same sum on the twin double brought him $833. The rest he ground out on $5 and $10 bets, with his highest price, on Kelly Jeanne, just 7-1. He picked Kelly Jeanne because a friend had a daughter of that name. For that matter he picked Mr. Bubbles, who paid even money, because his daughter likes a TV commercial about bathing a baby in a bubble bath.
Driving out to the track, Drysdale joked to his wife that if he won the first race he would let the money ride straight through on the rest of the card. If he had, let's see now...Oh, its astronomical.
APACHES RESCUE CUTTHROATS
Over the years since the white man landed on these shores, the Indian has watched the decimation of the buffalo and the extermination of the passenger pigeon, not to mention a certain attrition of the Indian population. Only recently has the paleface begun to do anything effective about saving threatened species. He generally comes late upon the scene.
So, with no reason for confidence in the white man's ability to preserve any species, including perhaps his own, the White Mountain Apache Indians of Arizona are taking it upon themselves to rescue from race suicide a rare variety of cutthroat trout on their reservation. This trout hybridizes all too easily with rainbow trout when they come upstream on spawning runs and thereby has been rapidly losing its identity. Now the tribal council has voted to spend its own meager funds to block several streams and thus head the rainbows off at the bend, so to speak. It is possible that the new Job Corps or other federal works programs will provide aid, but the Indians are not standing around waiting for it.
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Piersall, Los Angeles Angel outfielder, on his teammates: "The Angels are the first team I've ever been on where I feel I belong. They're all nuts, too."
•Louis Bejou, Fair Grounds groom, asked if he bet on a horse he admitted doping: "No, sir. I didn't know if it would make him stop or go."