OTHER TIMES, OTHER CUSTOMS
The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, an event founded in 1829 by a nephew of William Wordsworth, used to generate in England the same excitement as a manned space missile does today. On Boat Race Night there were riotous revels in Piccadilly Circus, followed by a court parade on Monday morning before a magistrate who, if his favorite had won, was not without a twinkle in his eye. Along the Thames the race moved like a majestic pageant between crammed banks. But in recent years the glamour and excitement have declined. This year, only the presence of four Americans in Oxford's victorious crew brought a flagging occasion back to temporary life.
It will survive for a time, say British sporting pundits, but will remain archaic. The common scapegoat is television, but others hold that the Oxford-Cambridge race has had a detrimental effect on British rowing, with its emphasis on a single "private" event over a distance (4 miles 374 yards) that bears no relation to an international course. England invented the sport but won only a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics and merely a fifth place at Rome.
Even in chic circles it is more important today to know the relative positions of Leeds and Chelsea in soccer than to know anything about the boat race. In the old days girls would swoon over pictures of the crew members. Today they have the Beatles. It pays these days, wrote Judy Innes in the London Daily Mail, "to be a puny weakling."
THE FURIOUS FOX
Omologato is Italian for homologated, which is (God help us) officialese for "approved for international auto races." Last week Italy's Enzo Ferrari was informed that his Grand Touring cars could not be omologato, because there is a discrepancy between the cars and the rules specifications. Enzo was irato. He announced that he was withdrawing all his Grand Touring racers but not prototypes from the year's remaining endurance events.
Incomparably the most important among all the world's road races is the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Ferrari's withdrawal means that the American upstarts who beat his GT cars at Daytona and Sebring will be deprived of the chance to do the same at Le Mans. It would seem that Enzo is being angry like a volpe.
FROM PERTH TO POOL
A lot of people have swimming pools in the backyard. That's so-so status. Real status is a heated indoor pool. What might be the utter pinnacle of status is a pool downstairs in the den, with a horse in it. The management of Yonkers Raceway hopes someone will think so. Yonkers is stabling a big, black Australian horse from Perth for the International Pace on April 15. Pacing Lawn, it seems, is accustomed to taking daily dips in the surf at Perth, and Yonkers has obligingly advertised for the use of a heated indoor pool in Westchester County. One fellow said he would be glad to help out but, he added, the camels might get in the way.
REVOLT ON THE TEIFI
In most of Britain cheap salmon fishing is as unattainable for the ordinary mortal as a night out with Claudia Cardinale. Until now the last redoubt has been in southern Wales. In Cardiganshire, on the River Teifi, the 190 members of the Llandyssul Angling Association have been able to take fish of 12 pounds or more for the price of a mere 9-guinea annual fee.
But now the farmers from whom the Llandyssul boys lease the river are learning that they can make much more money from rich businessmen engaged in the seduction of customers. Artie Jones, the association secretary, says the villains are big Welsh steel firms, which began the price escalation by paying "ridiculous" sums for fishing rights and squeezing men like himself out of the market. The situation is considered to be sufficient argument for nationalizing the steel industry forthwith.
Because Wales is a country where patriotism runs a deep, poetic course and the land, water and air are considered every man's privilege and worth fighting for, Cardiganshire is ready to revolt. There is dark talk of throwing old bedsteads into the best pools to spoil the fishing and constant recollection that when the Wye at Rhayader passed into private hands a century ago there were riots. Bailiffs had to be imported from Germany and policemen from Birmingham. Almost every salmon in the river was massacred at night and the fish strung on wires across the town streets and dumped at the doors of magistrates.
Whoever is pushing up the price of fishing in Cardiganshire may yet find that they have bought more than they bargained for.
Since graduating from Wooster College, Roy Bates has coached basketball and baseball at Northwestern High School near Canton, Ohio. His combined record: 419 wins, 81 losses. Sometimes, though, victory has cost him dear.
Each morning last week, for instance, he put on walking shoes when he got up and walked the four and a half miles from his home to school. At night he walked back. Bates had bet his basketball team early last winter that it would not even get to the Ohio high school Class A championships at Ohio State University, let alone win the top trophy. But the boys did, walloping Springboro 55-45 in the final.
It was an old ploy for the coach. He promised his 1958 basketball team that if it won he would hitchhike home the 120 miles from Columbus. They did and he did.
GOLF IS A DESPERATE GAME
For the duffer who habitually pushes his tee shot, the fifth hole at Eastwood Golf Club in Charlotte, N.C. is misery. Hickory trees fringe the right edge of the fairway and guard the green against any shot except one that goes perilously between the tree trunks. For a long time there has been facetious talk of going out on a dark night and chopping down those blasted trees.
The other night some one did it. Four trees were chopped down, leaving a gap for an easy wedge shot to the green. Surveying the damage, Club Manager Jack Horton cheerily declared that all was not lost. He has a magnolia tree at home, and he is going to transplant it to the gap left by the chopper.
FAD FOR THE MAD
Panty raids and goldfish swallowing are Out. So are elephant racing and packing telephone booths. Running in the Boston Marathon on April 19 is In.
The marathon always has attracted a smattering of entries from colleges in the Boston area but interest this year is all but nationwide. Entry applications have been received from 23 colleges, including Iona, Providence, Wesleyan, St. Francis of Philadelphia, North Carolina, and a clutch of Ohio schools—Miami of Ohio, Ohio University, Ohio State and Bowling Green.
The collegians will be stacked up against some of the world's best, among them the three-time winner of the event, Eino Oksanen, a hawk-visaged Helsinki detective; Ontario's Gordon Dickson; and Belgium's Aurele Vandendriessche, who was winner of the past two races.
There are collegians who would rather chase comely coeds than run 26 miles 385 yards for the bowl of beef stew that is served finishers in the Boston Athletic Association clubhouse. They just don't know what fun you can have with a pair of sore feet.
Paul Richards, general manager of the Houston Astros, says the new Astrodome "will be a perfect place to play as well as to watch baseball." Everything is constant—the light, the windless air and, best of all, the flattest infield in all baseball. Unfortunately, the flattest infield in all baseball has run afoul of major league rule 1.04, which reads: "The infield shall be graded so that the baselines and the home plate are level, with a gradual slope from the baselines up to the pitcher's plate...." In a recent meeting in Tampa, a St. Louis Cardinal representative said, more or less kiddingly, "The first time we lose a game in the dome stadium we will appeal the loss."
Now Richards and other Houston officials do not know what to do. "My father, the president, believes that rule 1.04 will be waived," says the Astros' director of publicity, Bill Giles. Could be. Bill's father is Warren Giles, president of the National League.
NOTHING TO BEEP ABOUT
The trend toward mechanized hunting and fishing continues. There is now a well-intended device called the Pool Alarm Electronic Lifeguard, developed by Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation. It is a portable sonar microphone that you suspend in the swimming pool underwater, and it thereupon sounds an alarm—a persistent "beep-beep-beep"—anytime something falls into the pool, like children, dogs, cats, even candy wrappers or cigarette butts or neighbors sneaking over for a midnight swim.
It sounds great. But, predictably, a lazy duck hunter got hold of one and tried it near a duck blind on a shooting-preserve pond in New Jersey. Setting out decoys, he settled down inside his blind and opened up the morning paper. Soon a drake mallard dropped into his decoy stool and set off the alarm. When it beeped the duck took off in panic, the hunter's Labrador retriever cowered in a corner of the blind, and by the time the hunter got unwrapped from his newspaper and had grabbed his gun the duck was well away. Firing only a shell and not a homing missile, the hunter missed him completely.
NOMEN ATQUE OMEN
A boat should be given a name befitting her rank and station, as well as the size of her transom. A 10-foot catboat should no more be named lie de France than should a $750,000 12 meter be named Catnip. Since the 12 meter has the privilege of racing for the ultimate trophy in yachting, the America's Cup, it should bear a noble name. By tradition the names of cup yachts have been symbolic of strength (Reliance, Ranger), or duty (Defender, Vigilant). Names with a seafaring connotation have been successful (Constellation, Weatherly, Columbia), while names implying authority have met with disaster (Sovereign, Sceptre). A recent trend has been to name cup contenders after women, and their fortunes have been predictably capricious. Australia has two competitors for the 1967 challenge, and the Melbourne 12, while still on the drawing board, has already been named. Out of respect for Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies' gracious wife, the boat will be called Dame Pattie. A nice gesture, but it could lead to diplomatic embarrassment. One can imagine the news reports: "Dame Pattie is up on the ways to have her bottom scrubbed." However, the Sydney contender is still unnamed, and one hopes that Sir Frank Packer, the syndicate head, will select something more appropriate. Challenger would be too modest and Victoria too presumptuous. Ideally, the name should represent a constant absolute that can also be applied scientifically to reduce the odds—perhaps Equator, to give the boat an even chance.
WHAT A WAY TO GO
When E. B. Chapman of Sherman, Texas wants to get away from it all in the future he will take a private railroad car—his own—and go nowhere. Chapman has just bought one of the Missouri Pacific Railway's most lavish private cars and established it on the shore of Lake Texoma as a weekend cabin. Such cars would cost as much as $250,000 to build today, but Chapman says he paid no more than $10,000 for his.
The 135,000-pound car has three baths, a dining room with table for eight, thick carpets and solid mahogany paneling. It sleeps nine and has two-way radio equipment as well as telephones and a speedometer that firmly registers zero.
THEY SAID IT
•John Baker, Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive end, on his off-season employment as assistant supervisor of recreation for the North Carolina Department of Prisons: "There are some line athletes in these institutions, but no recruiting is allowed."
•Maury Wills, Los Angeles Dodgers base stealer, on a possible pay hike after he was named team captain: "It would go to the Government anyway. It's like the year I stole 104 bases: I got 54 and Uncle Sam got 50."