It may only be coincidence, but it is interesting to note that the two governors who told their boxing commissions they didn't know their business and then peremptorily killed the Muhammad Ali-Floyd Patterson rematch are members of the Republican Governors Association and advocates of free enterprise.
Governor Paul Laxalt of Nevada said Clay couldn't lose, so it was a mismatch, but if Clay lost it would be a fix, and either way it would stink up Nevada—which may be some kind of tautology. If Laxalt was truly concerned about Nevada's reputation, he wouldn't have waited six days to rush to its defense. By then Promoter Al Bolan had received authorization from the Nevada commission to print tickets and sell them in seven locations. What took Laxalt so long? Who knows? But the timing was beautiful. The day he decided the fight would give Nevada "a black eye," a state-hospital scandal broke and he signed a bill increasing the sales tax. Guess what made the headlines?
Governor Raymond P. Shafer of Pennsylvania, after talking to Laxalt on the phone for "about five minutes," said, "If the fight isn't good enough for Nevada, it certainly isn't good enough for Pennsylvania." Which tells Laxalt where Nevada stands in the Union.
A prizefight is unlike any other sporting event. It doesn't owe its existence to the little old schedule. A fight comes into being because promoters believe people will buy it. And the people of Nevada or Pennsylvania should have had the right to stay away.
But the match made sense. Both the sale of tickets in Vegas and blasts at both governors in the local press indicated it. Patterson is a valid and honorable challenger, and as Charley Powell, who fought both Patterson and Ali, says: "Of all the heavyweights, Patterson has the best chance of beating Ali." This doesn't mean it's a very good chance, but Patterson deserves the opportunity to try as long as he isn't preempting any other worthy contender—and, at the moment, he isn't. And, although Muhammad Ali is a superfighter, he isn't a superman. By Laxalt's logic, Ali mustn't fight anyone until he slows up, the Mets shouldn't be allowed to play baseball, Jim Grelle can't run against Jim Ryun and the 1967 Masters field should have been limited to Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
What with all the fuss over the Ali-Patterson rematch, nary a word has been said about the Dick Tiger-José Torres rematch at Madison Square Garden on May 16. After Torres lost his light-heavyweight title to Tiger last year, the New York State Athletic Commission put Torres on its "ill and unavailable" list because of his wholly lackluster performance (SI, Jan. 2). Since then there has been 1) no word that Torres was, indeed, ill, and 2) no word that, if such was the case, Torres is better. But—presto changeo—Torres is available.
Unlike Governor Laxalt, we do not presume to be a soothsayer, and the Tiger-Torres match may well be a hell of a fight, for they seem to be fairly well matched. Yet, the sport is not served by rewarding a fighter for not trying, or so it appeared—which, incidentally, can never be said about Patterson. If it had the interests of boxing at heart, the commission would have demanded that before Torres could fight again for the title, he first have another bout to determine whether he is willing and able.
The PGA has more than a few rusty parts in its administrative machinery, but none as creaky as its method for determining which 10 touring pros make up the Ryder Cup team, the nearest thing to an all-star team in pro golf.
We find no fault with the requirement that each player must earn his way onto the team by accumulating points based on tournament performances over a two-year period. What strikes us as unjust and antiquated is that every candidate must have been a pro for a minimum of four years before he can even begin to win Ryder Cup points.
The most recent competition for these points ended at the Masters, and four of the top 10 money winners of 1966, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Rodgers, R. H. Sikes and Frank Beard, will be missing from the team that plays the biennial match with Great Britain in Houston this October.
Can you imagine Richie Allen or Gale Sayers being similarly deprived in baseball or football? As for Nicklaus, who for five years has ranked with Arnold Palmer as the finest player in golf, don't look for him to play a Ryder Cup match until 1969, a full seven years after he turned pro. And he may even have retired by then.
Since San Jose State is renowned for its law enforcement and administration department, it is not surprising that Track Coach Bud Winter should turn out to be something of a Sherlock Holmes.
The other night, when Winter was coming home, he heard a prowler in his house. Winter returned to his car for his starter's gun, but when he went after the prowler, Winter found he had fled across a muddy orchard.
When the police arrived, Winter told them: "His stride is about 56 inches long. Note, too, that his left toe points out and that the depth of his footprints is about five inches at the heel. That can mean only one thing: he's not a sprinter. The man has to be exceptionally short, probably heavyset and he runs on his heels. Since he cleared a seven-foot fence to get away, he has to be agile, but he can't run, even considering he was moving on a heavy track. Another thing, he can't be very smart. He was obviously after money, so why should he pick on a track coach?"
For South Africa's whites, sport amounts to a national obsession. But because of apartheid, the time may come when they can no longer enjoy international competition. Indeed, the prospect is almost as disturbing as having to sit next to a Kaffir in a movie. So last week Prime Minister Balthazar Vorster made what appeared to be a calculated bid for South Africa's continuing participation in world sport.
Vorster announced that racially mixed teams could play against white South African teams provided they were traditional opponents—i.e., Britain and New Zealand. He excluded the West Indies, Fiji, India and Pakistan, which have nonwhite world-class cricket and Rugby teams. Serving notice that apartheid would be maintained in domestic sport, Vorster declared that although his government would not prescribe to the selectors of overseas teams whom they could pick ("provided people do not seek to make political capital out of the matter"), other countries must not dictate to South Africa what the composition of its teams should be.
And, furthering his bid to gain South Africa's readmission to the Olympics, Vorster also said that henceforth Olympic teams would be integrated and would compete under the same flag.
Helen Suzman, the lone representative of the liberal Progressive Party, retorted in parliament that the "slight concessions have not been made for the benefit of nonwhites and certainly not for overseas sportsmen. The concessions are anyway conditional, one of them being that the subject should not be dragged into politics. What nonsense! Why is the matter being discussed in the first place if it is not an acute political matter?"
In fact, the pro-government Die Vaderland, sending up a trial balloon, suggested that South Africa will ease its sports apartheid only if it is allowed to take part in the Olympics. If this is the case, Vorster's gestures seem doomed, for the IOC has stated that South Africa can compete only if it renounces all racial discrimination in sport. In his cake-and-eat-it attempt to soothe white voters and convince the sporting world that it can coexist with apartheid, Prime Minister Vorster looks very much like an also-ran even before he reaches the starting gate.
HOW LOW CAN YOU GET?
The three-second rule, widening the lanes, the no-dunk rule. Forget about it. The only way to keep the big man from dominating basketball is to keep him off the court. Which is what's going to happen in Barcelona on June 17-22 when the U.S., Spain, Brazil, France and the Philippines compete in the first 1.80 Meters Championships. This is a basketball tournament in which those over 1.80 meters, or 5'11", aren't allowed to play. The U.S. team hasn't been chosen yet, but among the 75 candidates are Calvin Murphy, 5'10", Niagara; Russ Critchfield, 5'10", California; Vern Benson, 5'10", Akron Goodyears; Mike Carson, 5'9", San Francisco; and Jim Coleman, 5'9", Jamaco Saints.
So how are you going to stop the 5'11" center?
SCORING THE SCORING
Last week we reported how CBS is altering, however slightly, the venerable game of soccer so it can squeeze in the commercials. But that ain't all. Now we learn that the National Professional Soccer League has changed the traditional way of determining league standings.
Throughout the world a team gets two points for winning, one for tying and none for losing, as in ice hockey. But the NPSL, fearing this would stimulate stalling and thereby bore American fans, has devised a 6-3-0 system, plus a bonus point for each of the first three goals a team makes, win, lose or draw.
Not only does this cockamamie idea appall us, it even appalls Sir George Graham of Scotland, the executive secretary of the NPSL. "It will never work in this world," says Sir George. "The Americans can change football and baseball rules to suit themselves. Those are American games. But soccer's universal. One hundred and thirty countries play it. Now America takes up the sport as the 131st country and has to Americanize it. Although these new rules were set up to make the matches more even, the strong team will almost always be the one to get the bonus points and the league winner could be decided by the end of June. For example, in a 3-2 game, the winner will get nine points, the loser two. Once the stronger team got its three goals, it would spend the rest of the game stalling, thereby defeating one of the main reasons for changing the rule. Or, just as bad, in a match between two weak teams with poor defenses, the score could be 3-3 or six points each, whereas with two strong teams playing with good defenses, the game might end 0-0 or three points apiece."
Well scored, Sir George.
Last month we deplored Kennecott Copper's intention to mine its claim in Washington's North Cascades. Since then, Secretary of Agriculture Orville L. Freeman, speaking at the Sierra Club Wilderness Conference in San Francisco, appealed to Kennecott to abandon its plans.
However, last week C. D. Michaelson, vice-president in charge of mining for Kennecott, told The Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the company will begin work "as soon as the snows melt." Michaelson said that Freeman had never asked Kennecott not to mine. "He may have told the Sierra Club, but that's not telling us," Michaelson said. "Of course we're going to go ahead and mine. You can't desert property."
The annual meeting of the Kennecott Copper Corp. will be held in New York on May 2. At that time, a stockholder, Dr. Fred T. Darvill of Mt. Vernon, Wash., will add his voice to those protesting against the mine. Hopefully, Kennecott, which is not an unenlightened company, will listen. As Freeman said, its choice is one of "economics, of choosing alternatives; of balancing a priceless, yet intangible national treasure against ledger sheets and profits."
THEY SAID IT
•George Weiss, former Met general manager, on the team's chances this year: "Fifty-fifty. Some days they're terrible, others they're bad."
•Dave Newmark, Columbia's 7-foot center, asked how the no-dunking rule made him feel: "Smaller."
•Ronald Reagan: "We're looking forward to a great season at the University of California—if we can find a way to put cleats on their sandals."