FANS ARE FOR FLEECING
Fans of the Chicago Black Hawks have a low regard for Owners Arthur Wirtz and Jim Norris. They call them the Chicken Hawks. Ticket-sellers at Chicago stadium have been arrested for scalping—right at the box office. A newspaper photographer had his seat sold right out from under him. Last week there was a new outburst of wrath against the Chicken Hawks. The crowds came to the final home game of the regular season chanting, "Norris is a fink," and passed out leaflets urging a boycott. In an 18-minute barrage they showered the rink with overshoes, hats, flasks, pieces of seating and toilet paper, and cheered the visiting New York Rangers to victory. Rowdyism is never defensible, but in this case the provocation was extreme.
Wirtz and Norris had just announced price lists for Stanley Cup playoff tickets. Tops would be $9 (against $6 at Montreal and Toronto and $6.50 at Detroit)—but that was just a light blow compared to the next: instead of free home TV for the road games, there would be closed-circuit telecasts at the stadium ($4 tops). In order to get their regular seats for both home games and televised games in the second series of the playoffs, season-ticket holders would have to buy both live and TV tickets for the first series. And if they try to buy only home-game or only TV tickets for the second series, they will discover they must also buy tickets to the first series.
Naturally, the Chicken Hawks will get away with it, because the league does not control admission prices and the team is in great enough demand to keep the suckers fast to the ticket lines. Since one cannot be sure the Hawks will ever be a loser again—and until some other reprisal is available—Owners Wirtz and Norris deserve the fans' wrath.
FRANK AND TOM MEET AT THE I
Frank Howard, Clemson's football coach, announced the other day that he would use the I formation this fall. What makes this an attention-grabber is that Tom Nugent of Maryland invented—or claims to have invented—the I formation when he was coaching at VMI in 1950 and has been using it ever since. And what makes that pertinent is that Howard and Nugent never miss a chance to tell the world how little they respect one another.
Howard, for instance, is all the time saying how he's going to dot Nugent's I. That is one of the kinder things he is all the time saying. But in the six games they have met, Nugent's Maryland team has won four times, last year by 34-0, and when he heard Howard was going to try the I, Nugent was ecstatic. "The I formation," he said, when he had gotten down to a clinical mood, "is so good even Howard can't spoil it."
Replied Howard in his studied back-country drawl: "Nugent has no copyright on that fo'mation. I 'spect he's copied some, too."
Would Howard admit that he borrowed the formation from Nugent?
"Hail no. I copied thet from Jim Hickey ovah at No'f Cahlina. I jest copy offa good coaches."
CHEAPENED BY THE DOZEN
Competitive swimming has improved to a point where the first six finishers in any major event are only marginally superior to the second six, and for that compelling reason a generous new point system was instituted in the NCAA championships at Ames, Iowa last week. The gratitude for it has not begun to compare with the cries against it.
Under the old system, points were awarded from first place to sixth on a 7-5-4-3-2-1 basis, with double points for relay events. Under the new system, 12 swimmers score: 14 points for first, 12 for second, then 11, 10, 9, 8 and from 6 to 1 for the last six finishers. Again, double for relays. Yale Coach Philip E. Moriarty deplored the new system in a paper he had printed—"Some Thought-Provoking Remarks About Our NCAA Rules"—to distribute at the meet. USC's Peter Daland said it was a give-away program. First place used to be worth seven times as much as sixth place but now is worth less than twice as much, and a team can score as many points for taking sixth and seventh places as another team gets for a first.
Moriarty points out how wild the difference can be: under the old system, USC won last year over Indiana 96-91. Under the new system, Indiana, with great depth, would have won by 99½ points, and that is no typographical error. Funny thing, though. This year, with all that depth, Indiana still finished second to USC, by 6½ points.
HOME IS LIKE NO PLACE
Gone, but not far, are the days when basketball courts had some character. There was a time when stoves kept the gyms warm and were near enough to courtside to sizzle the daredevils. Posts smack-dab in the middle of the floor were a convenience to fancy dribblers and clever screens. And in some gyms beams overhead increased the home player's advantage because he knew just how much loft to put in his loft shots, but the other guy didn't.
The gym at Lykens, a town of 2,527 in a mined-out anthracite region of southeastern Pennsylvania, is not all that interesting, perhaps, but it does have its fine points. The Lykens High basketball floor is 64 feet long. Out-of-bounds lines at either end of the court are the walls. Coach Ron Wetzel's team got to be magicians at driving in for lay-ups with one arm out to brace for the collision. Opponents, on the other hand, were daunted. Said Wetzel, "They didn't drive very much on us."
Lykens High got so good at home, in fact, that it advanced all the way to the finals of the recent Class C state championship tournament. There, on a regulation court at Bucknell, their special skills were as pearls before swine and they lost. Understanding Lykens townspeople welcomed them home with pealing church bells.
DIAL O FOR THE ROAD
The Touring Club of Switzerland cannot prevent motorists from doing their business in a bar rather than a bank, but it has come up with a device to keep the plungers off the highway when they have invested too heavily. It is an insidiously simple plastic key holder that closes over the ignition key and can be opened only when a small combination lock is properly dialed. The insidious part takes over when the would-be driver tries to handle the delicate dialing. If his friend is equally foggy, he could not handle it either; nor would he know the combination. A clearheaded bystander, it is assumed, would have better sense than to be a party to manslaughter. Of course a farsighted driver, who contemplates losing his wits, could leave the key in the ignition. Then, when his car is stolen, he could sober up on the walk home.
POLLUTION IS PROGRESS
Apparently the Pasco Packing Company of Dade City, Fla. does not know what it can get away with in this country. By accident, Pasco recently dumped a quantity of citrus waste into the With-lacoochee River, polluting a 16-mile stretch. Contrite Pasco executives immediately offered to pay the costs—$17,500—for purifying and restocking the stream. Too bad, but that kind of hoary sentimentality will never qualify Pasco for the mainstream of American thinking. In Maine, for example, a bill has been pushed through the state legislature reclassifying the Prestile Stream in Aroostook County to permit a proposed $14 million sugar-beet refinery to pollute to its heart's content. Governor John H. Reed read a special message to the legislature to help the company win its rights. A million-dollar soil conservation plan for the stream, as well as a recreation program, will now be abandoned.
Last week in Pennsylvania the state fish commission confirmed that Slippery Rock Creek, once proudly brimming with trout, was polluted by acid mine drainage. A commission executive said Slippery Rock would not be restocked, because a "continued potential for fish kill exists there." A bill to restrict such reckless drainage is now in a life-and-death struggle in the state legislature.
One other heartening thought. As liberal Folk Singer Joan Baez plaintively asks: "What have they done to the rain?" The answer: plenty. The conservative American Medical Association says that the rain now carries industrial dusts and pesticides and is radioactive in traces. Man, says the AMA, has not learned how to purify as fast as he can pollute.
THE SAGA OF CICERO MURPHY
Cicero Murphy is a Negro. He could blame his grandfather for the Cicero. He grew up in the tough Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, one of eight children. His mother is on welfare and his father doesn't live at home anymore. At 15 he was a high school dropout. One summer he learned to play pool in a PAL program and, except for short-term jobs, he has been playing pool ever since. His wife says he should quit hanging around poolrooms and get something regular, something permanent.
At 29, Cicero plays pool very well. He is good enough to challenge the old pros, the durables such as three-time world champion Irving Crane and two-time world champion Luther Lassiter. Good enough to challenge? Good enough to beat them. Last month he became the first of his race to play in the California "world championship of pocket billiards." He won. He was third among 150 in the hustlers' tournament in Johnston City, Ill. But don't call Cicero Murphy a hustler, because he doesn't like it. "Who's gonna play you?" he asks. He will, however, partake of an "exhibition game" now and then.
And then last week there he was, Cicero Murphy, the Brooklyn kid, playing in the New York "world championship." In a tuxedo. In a hotel ballroom. Under crystal chandeliers. And watched by hundreds of button-down Brooks Brothers types. In a blue-chip field of 15, Cicero finished fourth, losing only five games. He won $900. And he probably never will get a steady job, Mrs. Murphy.
FAT UNDER FIRE
For 15 years, or ever since they closed the House of Commons gymnasium for repairs and did not bother to reopen it, the way for a convening member of Parliament to exercise was to take a sharp stroll through nearby St. James's Park. So it was that as the British Empire shrank, British ministerial waistlines expanded (not just a coincidence, some suspect). In view of the facts, a move is underfoot to reopen the Commons gym. Says Sir Hamilton Kerr, a Tory M.P.: "The general level of fitness in the House is extraordinarily low."
Sir Hamilton is one of those few who did not go the fleshy way of his brethren; he runs every morning, plays tennis, takes cold showers, practices yoga and has, for the cause, allowed himself to be photographed standing on his head. Liberal Eric Lubbock, who once boxed for Oxford, keeps a skipping rope at the ready and steals off now and then for a sparring session with Vic Andreetti, a British lightweight. Lubbock is so fit he recently set a record in Kent by downing 2½ pints of beer in 18 seconds.
Customarily, politicians do not agree that it would be entirely a good thing to reopen the gym. "The problem would be clothes," says Sir Hamilton. "If a division bell rings, you've got six minutes to reach the division lobby before the doors shut. It would be rather a sensation if people arrived in shorts, and not very desirable for the dignity of Parliament."
On the contrary, says Labor M.P. Norman Dodds, who once weighed 156 pounds when he was running marathons but is now up to 198. A gym, he argues, is essential to a Member of Parliament who wants to be "on his toes and ready to shoot it out. Whether you're watching a play, attending the cinema or making love," he says, "it just gives you that edge."
THEY SAID IT
•Abe Martin, TCU football coach, on next fall's prospects: "I'm expecting a good season; I don't know why. Just ignorance, I guess."
•Vinnie Smith, National League umpire, maintaining that players are better educated than in the old days: "But the language they use is the same."
•Minnesota Twins Manager Sam Mele, when asked if his players would be excused from a workout to watch Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus play golf in Orlando: "No, I don't think so. If Palmer loses he'll be back next year. I can't say the same for Sam Mele."