THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE
The other day a banner was unfurled at Yankee Stadium which read MIKE BURKE IS THE GREATEST. Now why would anyone do a swell thing like that? Burke doesn't even play for the Yanks. He's their president. We don't know the story behind this poignant banner, but we suspect that the two chaps who held it up were trying to get on TV. In New York you don't go to ball parks to watch ball games anymore. You go to get on TV. And one way is by bringing banners. Ostensibly, these are supposed to exhort the players. But, for the most part, the players couldn't read them if they wanted to. They're held up for the TV cameras and can't be read from the field.
The fact that New York has two terrible ball clubs doesn't entirely explain this...this thing. When a class event like a pro golf tournament hits town it's just the same. For instance, Arnold Palmer hits his second shot into the gallery. There he is, about to try a tricky wedge. Is anybody watching him? No, everybody's waving at the camera.
The way we see it, TV's wasting good money paying for baseball and golf rights. Why not rent a stadium, open the gates and televise spectators for three hours? Or hire an assistant pro and let him hit a few buckets of balls while the gallery waves to all the gang down at the Green Shamrock Tap.
Better yet, tape these great shows so those talented performers can wave to themselves on TV. Perhaps that way the fans who want to see a ball game or a little golf can do so in peace.
OUT OF THE RUNNING
In a recent issue of The Blood-Horse, a weekly devoted to Thoroughbred racing and breeding, Jimmy Kilroe, vice-president and racing secretary at Santa Anita, has a mournful piece about racing's failure to grow with the times. He says that for years the sport "has been beguiled by statistics which assured us that we had never had it so good." For instance, a record 40,558,460 people went to the races in 1966 compared to 40,540,199 in 1965. But, Kilroe points out, the average daily attendance was down from 9,110 in 1965 to 9,075 in 1966—and from 11,176 in 1946. Obviously, what's up is the number of racing days. But not, we might add, the quality of the races.
It's Kilroe's theory that attendance is hurting because the sport is too intricate for the general public—that "a day at the races, as engrossing as it might be to the cognoscenti of the sport, is an exercise in utter tedium to the uninformed." He cites a survey called the Stanford Research Report which found that 47% of racegoers felt they knew less than the average about racing, 41% guessed they knew about as much as their fellow bettors while only 12% thought they knew more.
Kilroe argues that in order to prosper racing has to "fill the intelligibility gap for the 80% of our players who have no clear idea of whatever is going on out there—more than half the people interviewed at Garden State Park could not name one famous horse."
This says something, but perhaps not quite what Kilroe intended. In the same issue of The Blood-Horse there is a table of racing's 50 leading money-winners. Only two—Buckpasser and Native Diver—are still going to the post, and the latter has never won out of California.
While it's true that racing has failed to educate its patrons, there's more to it than that. Sport, like show biz, needs stars, and racing doesn't have them. As soon as a horse makes a name for itself it breaks down and/or is retired for breeding. Why? Because, as we have stated before (SI, June 8, 1964), there is an overemphasis on the quick buck—most big purses are for 2-or 3-year-olds, so these young horses are often overraced and frequently turn up sore. And if they do stay sound, few owners are willing to accept the heavy imposts and, as a possible consequence, the losses which depress stud fees.
If racing put its house in order, perhaps it wouldn't have as hard a time filling it.
CHANGE OF ADDRESS
Our man in San Francisco vouches for it: as a cable car approached Clay Street one afternoon last week, the gripman called out: "Muhammad Alley."
It's coming up summer again, which, as we all know, is the scientific silly season and, right on cue, here are these researchers who've been testing athletes under stress. And who do you think behaves best? If you answer with the obvious, like Joe Namath stepping back into the pocket to throw a bomb, you've got one wrong.
The athletes with a fantastically high threshold for stress, a low level of anxiety, a high level of aggression and a real need to achieve are auto-racing drivers. They are more durable than distance runners and their craving for success exceeds that of football, baseball and basketball players. At least so say Drs. Keith Johnsgard and Bruce Ogilvie, who did the study at San Jose State.
The race driver, often regarded as some kind of nut, "is actually a pretty sound person," says Dr. Johnsgard, who found drivers bright and creative, if reserved and ill at ease in a crowd.
"We really liked these guys," says Dr. Ogilvie, "but I feel sorry for the girls who marry them. Since they are so independent, they don't lean on anyone for moral support and thus cannot understand why they should give affection when they don't need it themselves."
There's your secret, Doc. Look at all that practice stress they get at home.
If there is any doubt that the preservation of natural resources is no longer solely the concern of bird watchers or hikers gushing over sunsets, consider the fact that Humble Oil ads now ask if you are interested in doing business with a company that spends millions of dollars each year on conservation. If you are, says Humble, "stop in and fill up with High-energy Esso Extra."
Some companies ignore conservation, others pay it lip service, but as far as we can tell, Humble is one of those genuinely disturbed by the spoliation of our resources, and is doing something about it.
For example, in a lovely TV commercial, Humble points out that Avery Island in Louisiana is a noted bird sanctuary but few realize that for the past two decades Humble has produced oil and gas under the bills of all those egrets and ibis, because, as the announcer says, "roads have been carefully plotted to avoid cutting down the majestic oaks, and the production facilities have been discreetly located and carefully maintained to avoid disturbing the birds and other wildlife."
One of Humble's print ads is devoted to Yvette, a goldfish. According to the copy block, she is a "full-time employee at Humble's Baton Rouge Refinery. Her job is to swim around in the waste water from the refinery before it goes into the Mississippi River, to make sure it won't harm the fish that live in the river."
Actually, it would make more sense if Humble fired Yvette and hired, say, Basil the bass, for goldfish aren't indigenous to the Mississippi and are about the hardiest fish afloat. But why carp? Two and a half cheers for Humble, and, of course, vive Yvette!
HITTING ON ALL 20
Bill Harrah, who owns Harrah's Club in Reno, is not one to let perfection stand in the way of improvement. Last year his Tahoe Miss won the national unlimited hydroplane championship. So this year he's rather lyrically renamed her The Harrah's Club. Then there's the turbocharger on the boat's Allison V-12 engine. Since it had a habit of going on the fritz, it was never used in competition. The trouble was that it ran on the Allison's exhaust fumes. This was fine at 160 mph and up, when there was all kinds of exhaust, but when Tahoe Miss wallowed around a buoy at 40 mph she wasn't putting out enough exhaust to keep the turbocharger going, which meant it would conk out, which meant Tahoe Miss would stall.
So Harry Volpi, Harrah's boat and airplane manager, said why not run the turbocharger with a second engine? O.K., Harry, said Harrah, why not? Volpi got a 225-cu.-in. Buick V-8—the same baby that's in your Wildcat—tuned it up and put it forward of the 1,710-cu.-in. Allison model 113, which, when we were all younger, took the P-38 aloft. Of course, the whole 3,100-hp, four-ton shebang has to be in some sort of synch. If the Buick shoots more air into the Allison than the Allison is ready for—blooey. Likewise, if the Buick doesn't shoot as much air into the Allison as the Allison needs—reverse blooey.
How'd you solve that one, Harry? "Rather not talk about it, if you don't mind," says Harry, "except the driver doesn't have to worry about a thing."
That's a fact. In six days of test runs on Lake Tahoe (which, as we went to press, hadn't yet been renamed Lake Harrah's Club) she ran like, well, a dreamboat, and at higher speeds than are needed for the unlimited season, which opens in Tampa next week.
Moreover, as Volpi says: "Even if it doesn't work, we've still probably got the only 20-cylinder racing boat in the world."
A few weeks ago we told you about J. F. Jones, who was calling a turkey near McComb, Miss. when a fox jumped on his back, and how it was Jones's supposition that the fox thought Jones was a turkey. Well, you ain't read nothin' yet.
One rainy morning last month Roger Latham, the outdoors editor of The Pittsburgh Press, was turkey hunting near Marlinton, W. Va. when, as he wrote in his column, "I decided to try the caller.... My first series of yelps, designed to sound like a love-sick hen, brought an immediate response. Down below me, perhaps 300 yards away, I heard the rolling gobble of a turkey tom.... The next gobble was appreciably nearer and I knew he was on his way. As he came on, apparently now on the dead run, his rolling response changed to a short gobble of perhaps three or four notes, repeated every few seconds. I kept answering every little bit just to keep him 'on course....'
"Then he suddenly was no more than 50 yards away and I raised the old 12-gauge to my shoulder. Seconds later, I caught a flash of movement, there was another short gobble and around a clump of laurel it came into full view.
"No, it wasn't the big bearded gobbler I expected but a red fox—a wet, bedraggled, smelly red fox."
Added Latham last week: "The gobble was so clear so many times it couldn't have been raindrops on leaves or anything like that. The darn fox had figured out that if he made the right kind of noises he was going to have a turkey dinner. What I didn't say in my column, because some readers always complain, is that I put an end to his turkey-catching activities."
What we didn't say is that Roger Latham isn't a man to be hearing things. Before joining the Press, he was research director for the Pennsylvania Game Commission; his doctoral thesis at Penn State was Factors Affecting Wild Turkey in Pennsylvania, and he is the author of the Complete Book of Wild Turkey.
THEY SAID IT
•Don Richman, general manager of the Seattle Supersonics, replying to a rookie's demand for a no-cut contract: "Listen, my wife was a great prospect, but she didn't get a no-cut contract."
•Joseph Louie, member of the Nook-sack Tribal Council, at a hearing on the North Cascades National Park bill: "If this land that we gave the white man is such a problem, why don't you give it back to us Indians?"
•Dave Stockton, winner of the Colonial Invitational: "It's always hard to sleep when you've got a big early lead. You just lay there and smile at the ceiling all night."
•Raymond Johnson, sports editor of The Nashville Tennessean, after $630 was stolen from his Baltimore hotel room on Preakness eve: "They left my selections on the dresser. That's adding insult to injury."
•Joe Azcue, Cleveland catcher: "Baseball takes more skill than soccer. For soccer all you got to have is big feet and be able to run a lot."