NOT ALL OF THE TIME
CBS came within a few seconds—in fact, exactly 30 seconds—of earning our qualified praise last week. Then.... Listen, it could be worse. On April 16 CBS will televise its first National Professional Soccer League game. Soccer, of course, is a game in which there are no time-outs except for injuries, so there was this problem about how to do the commercials. The way we heard it there were going to be five 30-second commercials per half before goal kicks, which occur when the ball is kicked above or wide of the goal and over the end line. In these instances, the referee would take his sweet time about getting the ball back into play.
Shucks, it seems we weren't getting the picture. For 30-second commercials read one-minute commercials. According to CBS, it takes an average of 30 seconds for the ball to be put back in play in a real game, so they'll only be stalling for 30 seconds. If you concede that commercials are the price that has to be paid for televised soccer, this still seems to be the least objectionable scheme, since it hardly interferes with the natural flow of the game.
Hockey is another story. Just the other day a game between the Rangers and the Black Hawks took 2 hours and 35 minutes, largely because of time-outs for commercials. Each time play was stopped, an official had to fake doing something. Once Linesman Matt Pavelich seemed to be tying his laces. He was doubled over with laughter.
However, we have little sympathy for those college basketball coaches—invariably losing coaches—who gripe about "officials' time-outs" killing their momentum. If they want to keep their momentum they shouldn't play in televised games. Admittedly, the present way of doing commercials in basketball is far from ideal, but instead of beefing about momentum, the coaches would be better advised to suggest an alternative method.
But we do feel that in hockey and basketball, as well as in football, and now soccer, the viewers should be apprised that "officials' time-outs," or whatever they want to call them, are being taken for the sole purpose of doing commercials. What is most insulting about TV is its smug assumption that it can always fool the viewer.
OUT OF THE RACE
Sammy Smith, who trains horses for a living, was talking about racing. "Sure, this is a sporting game," he said. "Only trouble is most of the sports haven't got so much money anymore." Which sums up the horsemen's side in their strike against the state of New York that closed down Aqueduct for five days.
Owning racehorses has never been a venture taken solely, or even for the most part, in hope of profit. It's a rich man's game in which 95% of the people who support it take a bath. But racing is no longer exclusively for the extremely wealthy. It is now peopled by many who are simply well-to-do, who understand the odds against them, but who also want something approaching a fair chance to break even.
And they're not getting it in New York. In 1965, the last year for which complete figures are available, only 2.26% of the handle went into purses at Aqueduct—a lower percentage than at any one of the other 20 big Thoroughbred tracks. Fifteen years ago the minimum purse in New York was $3,500, and it cost about $8 a day to train and feed a horse. Now it costs about $18 a day—and the minimum purse is $3,500.
On February 1 Governor Nelson Rockefeller recommended a bill that would have given the New York Racing Association, a nonprofit organization that operates the tracks in the state, .5% more of the handle to use for purses. It wasn't the 1% the horsemen wanted, but they agreed to accept it. Then, on April 2, the bill was buried in the Rules Committee of the State Assembly.
The next day the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (composed of owners and trainers) voted not to race in New York. The settlement of the strike on Monday may indicate something of a social upheaval in racing: horsemen with big public stables and struggling trainers with one horse have suddenly discovered they've got muscle. As Trainer Bill Hicks said last week: "Somebody better explain to those politicians that we're not asking them to dip into the till and give us anything. We'd just like them to put their hands a little less far into our pockets."
Roger Conklin, a naturalist at the Miami Seaquarium, says he doubts we will ever be able to talk with the dolphin. Explains Conklin: "Dolphins are smart enough to know they have nothing to gain by conversation with man."
On more than one occasion we have had the pleasure of relating the fortunes of what is, or was, the country's newest college—the College of Artesia of (where else?) Artesia, N. Mex. (SI, Oct. 24, 1966 et seq.).
The most recent tiding is that Athletic Director Charles Solberg couldn't afford $220 for a foam-rubber pit pad for his high jumpers and pole vaulters. He tried sand, sawdust and cotton, but, at bottom, they didn't work. Finally Solberg called the jumpers and vaulters together and told them: "It's your problem. Go out and find a solution."
The athletes trudged off, eyes downcast. Ah, but one, Manuel Rodriguez, looked heavenward and found the solution: a huge, plastic weather balloon was drifting to earth. Rodriguez and his teammates piled into two pickup trucks and sped after it. The balloon was collapsed over high wires and guarded by cops, who said the students could have it if they could get it down safely.
Which they did, and we hear that, stuffed inside a big nylon netting bag, you couldn't have a happier landing.
A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE
Last week Detroit and Baltimore, the two last-place teams in the NBA, flipped a $10 gold piece to see which would get first pick in the draft. Baltimore Coach Gene Shue advised Owner Earl Foreman to call heads. Shue had read here (SI, March 20) that in a penny-flipping experiment at Northwestern heads turned up 50.2% of the time, possibly because the back of the penny has slightly more metal, and this extra weight makes the penny land tails down more often.
So it turned up tails. But don't go away. Last year New York called heads, won and drafted Cazzie Russell, while the Pistons were stuck with Dave Bing, who was just voted NBA Rookie of the Year.
SAY IT AIN'T SO, RUFUS
Right now it's a shadow no bigger than a man's crash helmet, but here is this two-foot-high turbojet racing car sort of sneaking around test tracks at incredible speeds. Next thing you know they're liable to have the thing in the Indianapolis 500, and another tradition will be blooey and you might as well take your fried chicken and beer and go to a picture show.
The thing is called the STP-Paxton Turbocar. It has four-wheel drive, a Pratt-Whitney 550-hp turbine engine to the left of the driver, it will run on kerosene—or a splash of Arpege—and it doesn't make any noise. It just swishes down the straightaway at 220 mph with a high, deadly whine that everybody insists is the sound of the space age.
Don't laugh. Jimmy Clark, the 1963 and 1965 world champion, test-drove it at 163.2 mph and oohed. Worse, Rufus Parnell (Parnelli) Jones, of Indy's old guard, hit 162.4 mph and ahed: "She really goes through the short curves—like whoosh!"
Indy watchers say it looks like Studebaker's STP division might just ease the car past the United States Auto Club technical committee, a band of men who grew up in Celluloid collars and are our last hope. A turbine car was accepted last year but didn't run well enough to make the final lineup. If the new car does, you know how Indy is—everybody will want one, and there goes the last of the two-fisted racetracks.
Half the fun of Indy is in the gas fumes and the hammering vroom, vroom, vroom of cars with real engines to identify with. You can have whiny Indy. Give us cars that roar and rattle and pistons that break and drivers who limp home with oil all over their faces.
Sometimes it seems that hard work doesn't pay. Take Walter A. Wodarczak of Chicago, who was running a gin mill and small bowling alley—and booking race bets on the side. He had six phones to take bets, but the trouble was he had them on three different floors. When one of the phones in the basement would ring, Walter would race downstairs to answer it. As soon as he got there a phone on the first floor would start ringing, so he would run upstairs, open a trap door and bolt into the bar to pick up the phone. Then the phone on the second floor would ring and he'd bound up more stairs to answer it—only to hear one of the phones in the basement ring again.
The other day the cops walked in and pinched him. Said Walter: "And I had just about saved up enough cash to start thinking about putting in an elevator."
UNDER AND ABOVE
Although we have heretofore been ignorant of the fact, over the past few years the record for marathon games of Monopoly has risen from a measly game of 132 hours played by members of a University of Pittsburgh fraternity (1961) to a game of 600 hours played by 24 McLean, Va. high school students (1966).
Now it seems Monopoly addicts are looking for new worlds to conquer. For example, on April 18, in a swimming pool in Beverly, Mass., scuba divers will attempt to play underwater. To make their game feasible, Parker Brothers, Inc. spent three weeks and $500 devising and fashioning a special Monopoly set. The board is laminated with cellophane and backed with two layers of magnetic rubber and a steel sheet. Each playing piece is filled with lead wool and has a small magnet at its base, and the 240 pieces of money and the Chance, Community Chest and deed cards are laminated and weighted just enough to "drift to the bottom of the pool."
In addition, at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., the largest Monopoly game ever played is scheduled for April 29. William Dills, Chairman, Monopoly Committee, has written Parker Brothers as follows: "We are using as our board college streets and sidewalks, enclosing an area slightly larger than a city block. The dice shall be carton boxes or styrofoam blocks and shall be cast from the third floor fire escape of our academic building. Walkie-talkies and messengers on bicycles shall be used to inform the players of their moves. The only expense we expect to incur is about $30 for whitewash to lay out our playing board. We are expecting a grant from Student Government to help defray the cost."
ON THE LEVEL
One night last week a correspondent for the Memphis Commercial Appeal was phoning in the results of a high school track meet held at Woodstock, Tenn.
When he gave the outcome of the 120-yard high hurdles, he concluded: "Time, 13 flat."
"Hey, wait a minute," the rewrite man said. "You've got a national record there. Are you sure about that time?"
"The time's right," the correspondent said, "but we didn't have any hurdles."
No joke. Woodstock Training School is a poor country Negro school, and there were no hurdles in the race because the school has no hurdles. The reason the race was run at all is that it is a customary event in Tennessee high school meets, and hurdlers, not dash-men, competed.
THEY SAID IT
•Melvin (Sunshine) Calvert, trainer of Florida Derby winner In Reality, explaining why he races his horses sparingly: "To me a horse is like a bar of soap. Every time you wash your hands you take a little of the bar away. That's why I don't race my horses too much and never have. If you do, no soap."
•Don Chargin, Oakland promoter, on Wilt Chamberlain's chances against Muhammad AH: "How could a guy who misses a stationary free-throw target 489 times in one season hit a man who moves as fast as Clay?"