TWO CREDIBILITY GAPS
The extent to which President Johnson has given up whiskey and taken up golf is as debatable as whether Barry Gold-water really would have cut those television cables. As Goldwater claimed to be, LBJ may just have been kidding.
He actually did go nine holes at Burning Tree Club on Saturday, September 23, but he has not played again. It was the first time he had played at all since the early spring of 1964, and it was the first time that he completed a full nine at the club, where President Eisenhower went around so often.
A fellow who has played with the President was asked what LBJ considered a "gimme" putt. "On the green," he replied, and as for the President's swing: "Like he's killing snakes." But LBJ really can hit the ball a long way. It's just that he doesn't know where it's going. He is also the kind of golfer who will skip holes or play them out of order.
Guessers around Washington estimate that if he ever went a full 18 he could not break 100. Ike shot in the 80s and President Kennedy in the 70s, and neither felt it was necessary to abandon the 19th hole.
Getting back to Goldwater, also a golfer, he and his Phoenix Country Club cronies once planted a little loudspeaker in the cup on the 18th green. When a player leaned over to retrieve his putt, a voice from out of the ground would remark, "Lucky shot" or ask, "How come you three-putted?" And another time, serving with the Arizona Air National Guard, he planted a hose in the bed of his commanding officer, then turned it on when the CO got into bed.
Would a man like that cut TV cables?
Rating of football teams and football players is a tricky business and leads to arguments. Until now there has really been no adequate standard of measurement. But a fellow in Albuquerque has come up with something that he calls "The Retailer Rating and Discounter Desperation Poll."
Last week he poked about in the stores and found that:
The "Johnny Unitas Official Football," which started the season at $7.20, has dropped to a sale price of $3.88.
The "Gale Sayers Football" is holding at $5.79.
The "Don Meredith" tops all at $6.95.
The "Fran Tarkenton" has just been marked down to $1.99.
The "Paul Hornung" can be had for one book of Green Stamps.
POWER CORRUPTS AGAIN
There are those who believe, among them Charles Callison, executive vice-president of the National Audubon Society, that the Hudson River Gorge is "the most beautiful stretch of river scenery in the United States." A while back (SI, April 26, 1965) the Consolidated Edison Company, which supplies New York City and some of its environs with high-priced electricity, proposed to deface the Gorge by setting up a power plant on Storm King Mountain.
Conservationists howled to such effect that last week Con Ed, which has been talking about doing a face-lifting job on its "image" as an air-pollutionist, despoiler of beauty and dispenser of surly service, backed down and said it would modify the Storm King project and relocate its plant a mile and a half downstream, to a site recommended by the Federal Power Commission, a government bureau that seems to think its job is to approve anything a utility might want.
The new site would still be within the Gorge, it would still convert glorious scenery to industrial use, it would still damage the river's fishery, and it would intrude on the Storm King section of Palisades Interstate Park. The proposal is both a piece of clumsiness and insolence.
While we are booting Con Ed's backside, let us give a pat on the back to another utility, Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation, which also had planned to invade the Gorge at Breakneck Ridge, across the river from Storm King Mountain. Central Hudson now has decided to place its new plant outside the Gorge. And another pat to the Georgia-Pacific Corporation, which responded graciously to conservationists' protests and abandoned a proposed site for a gypsum-wallboard plant at Little Stony Point, just across the Gorge from where Con Ed would now create a monstrosity.
Soccer players are apt to be as testy about newspaper comments on their performances as Ted Williams or Bill Hartack. A sportswriter who puts into print even a mild criticism of a soccer star may thereafter be regarded as a deadly enemy by the star and his fans. So there was some surprise when an association of sports editors in Paraguay presented a citation to one of their country's stars, reading: 1) he never challenged the accuracy of a reported quote, 2) he never complained about criticism of play and 3) he greeted even his hardest critics with a smile. Accepting the award with another smile, he let slip the reason for his charming tolerance of the press. "I can't read," he said.
NO KICK COMING
When the NCAA approved college football's new punt-return rule last April—only four men on the kicking team can rush downfield before the punt—coaches from Orono, Me. to San Diego moaned they would end up with more walking wounded than the Marines. The kicking team's ends and backs would be annihilated by open-field and blind-side blocks, they said. But now three weeks and 2,000 punts have passed, and there has hardly been an ankle sprain. What has become apparent—and what the coaches perhaps feared all along—is that the new rule is forcing coaches to devote a great deal of time to what was previously a fairly simple aspect of the game.
"Now," says Marv Levy of William and Mary, "you have to do a lot more coaching on a part of the game that most of us used to ignore. It's a fine chance for any coach to outcoach the other guy."
"We honestly spent more time with the punt return last spring than any other offensive play," admits Bob Gibson of Bowling Green. "We figure it can be a great weapon. It can be an equalizer."
Nobody felt the sting of the new rule quicker than highly ranked Alabama and Miami a week ago. In 23 years of coaching, Bear Bryant had only one punt returned against him for a touchdown—until Florida State's Walt Sumner ran one back 75 yards to help the Seminoles tie Alabama 37-37. And Miami's Hank Collins, trying to aim a punt out of bounds from his nine-yard line, fumbled on fourth down to set up North-western's winning touchdown in a 12-7 upset.
Regardless of what coaches say about it, the new punt rule has opened up college football. Punts are being run back an average of 73 yards per game, the most in 19 years and 57% more than last year. Just ask Arkansas' Frank Broyles, who hates the rule. "I hold my breath every time we kick," he says.
So does the crowd, and nobody can say that hurts football.
The first few hours of the Placer County, California deer-hunting season established once more that the safest thing to be when the rifles start barking is a deer. On opening day, just at Lake Tahoe, seven cars were wrecked, two people were treated for injuries and three for gunshot wounds. The wrecks and injuries occurred expectedly at deer crossings, but two of the gunshot wounds were on the rare side. (The third was routine. The hunter got hit because he looked like a deer.)
•Dannie Myers, 17, lay on the ground to rest. He propped his weary feet up on a log. Then he spotted a beautiful buck, just standing there waiting to be shot. Dannie raised his rifle and fired. He missed the deer but he did see the sole of one of his shoes flying through the air. He was treated for loss of part of his big toe.
•Robert E. Wise, 27, fell asleep on a ridge because he had been up most of the night repairing his car. He dreamed he had a big buck in the sights of his rifle. With steady hand, he squeezed off a shot. Unfortunately the dream rifle and his real rifle happened to be one and the same. Only the buck was a dream. The bullet grazed the instep of his right foot.
Wise works as a hunting safety instructor for the California Department of Fish and Game. But only when he is awake.
SERVICE BREAK BY THE PROS
A development of considerable significance in tennis appears to be looming. An organization called World Championship Tennis has been formed, with Dave Dixon, New Orleans sports promoter, as president and Lamar Hunt, Texas multimillionaire, as secretary-treasurer. The plan is, immediately after the Davis Cup matches in December, to sign John Newcombe, Tony Roche and Cliff Drysdale, three of the world's leading tennis players, as professionals. They cannot, of course, sign before the cup matches. Dennis Ralston, Earl Buchholz and Mike Davies of Britain are expected to join the group, too, in a touring team which will travel with its own synthetic grass court on a nine months' junket starting in Kansas City in February and ending up, nine months later, in South Africa.
The plan, if successful, might well create such a shortage of good amateurs that open tennis would become a necessity.
LOW MEN ON THE TOTEM POLE
It is a cliché, but a true one, that the unsung heroes of football are those who labor between the ends on the offensive lines—centers, tackles and, most especially, guards. Nobody knows this better than Dick Bestwick, offensive line coach at Georgia Tech, who learned the facts of life in the interior line while playing running guard in Carl Snavely's old North Carolina single wing.
As one of their kind, Bestwick enjoys a special camaraderie with the Tech guards. And he is very frank in advising them of their position in life.
"Let's face it," he tells his blockers. "The reason that you're playing offense is because you aren't good enough to play defense. When you play guard, it's because you aren't smart enough to be a quarterback, not fast enough to be a halfback, not rugged enough to be a fullback, not big enough to be a tackle, and don't have the hands to be an end."
But he makes up for this bluntness by his indignation at the fact that the guards never do get adequate credit for their contributions to the game.
"There is no justice," says Bestwick. "If a halfback makes a great run, it's all him. If he's thrown for a loss, it's all because the blockers broke down. If a quarterback throws a touchdown pass, you know what they say about that. When a quarterback gets clobbered, you know who gets the blame."
To reward his guards, whom he calls "root hogs," the coach has invented a "Super Sow Award," which he bestows weekly. It's a plastic pig.
SPORT: JUNIOR DIVISION
At age 3, Peter David Stoneham, grandson of Horace Stoneham, owner of the San Francisco Giants, already knows his baseball. At Stuart Hall School, the teacher held up one finger of her left hand. "That's one," she said, then held up one finger of her right hand.
"Can anyone tell me what this adds up to?" she asked.
Peter David's hand popped up.
"A ball and a strike," he said.
THEY SAID IT
•Roger Bannister, the first man to break the four-minute-mile barrier with his 3:59.4: "Jim Ryun is an incredible runner, capable I think of doing a 3:45 mile. The ultimate? I think one day it will be run in 3:30."
•Bill Wallace, Rice University basketball scorer, explaining why he sailed the Atlantic to England in a 22-foot boat: "I'm short, uncoordinated, have bad eyes and bad knees and always wanted to be a great athlete."
•Lou Rymkus, coach of the defunct Akron Vulcans, asked when he knew his team was in financial trouble: "When we couldn't get our uniforms out of the cleaners."