THE FIGHT THAT FAILED
It may be all over by the time you read this, but that confusing affair known as the NFL Players' Strike merits attention for several reasons. Perhaps the record—if there is one—could be printed up in pamphlet form as a guide on how not to negotiate contracts. Last weekend's developments found both parties relatively content except for one final point: the owners' 1970 payments into the pension fund. Over that issue the players threatened to stay away from preseason training camp. This is known as a strike. The owners, in retaliation, said never mind, because they were going to close the camps anyway. This is known as a lockout.
Even the attorneys for both sides were having trouble following the action, especially since some of them seemed to be rookies at the game, too. Finally, Football Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who had been suited up for weeks hoping that somebody would ask, was called in as conciliation quarterback.
There is one obvious change to be made before it all breaks out again next year—and break out it certainly will: more responsible, knowledgeable negotiations. If the players are going to organize, they should get expert help. Sandlot labor relations are no better than sandlot football. As for the owners, there is no excuse for them to behave like public-be-damned union busters.
The U.S. has been through all of this before. There are hundreds of precedents for peaceful, orderly settlements of such matters. Why try to blaze a new trail through 1968, especially if it looks like a 1910 design?
NO SHORT SCHOLARS
In the light of our continuing concern with the exploitation of Negroes—Part 3 of our Black Athlete series starts on page 28—it seems pertinent to consider Creighton University in Omaha. It recently set up a new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Scholarship for underprivileged Negroes and began looking for the first worthy recipient.
Apparently there were no needy Negroes in the vicinity, so the grant went to Cyril Baptiste of faraway Miami, who, somehow, seemed just right. Cyril wanted to go to college, but his high school grades weren't good enough to qualify him for the usual grant-in-aid. And several other people wanted Cyril to go to college, too: but they didn't think of this special scholarship thing as quickly as Creighton did. Cyril, by the way, is almost 7 feet tall and plays basketball like crazy.
With Mexico City next up, it may seem a bit soon to be thinking about Munich, which will be host to the 1972 Summer Games. Still, you will be pleased to know that things are under way already: German technicians and engineers have been carefully going over the 740-acre Olympic site. So far they have found two unexploded 1,000-pound bombs, two unexploded 500-pound bombs, 1,000 pounds of unexploded incendiary and small-detonation bombs of varying sizes, 750 pounds of various shells and five napalm bomb containers.
The second trading of Philadelphia 76er Wilt Chamberlain—to Los Angeles—raises a few pertinent questions.
Is Chamberlain really a superstar?
Do superstars get traded? Unitas, Starr, Jimmy Brown? Mantle, Mays, Williams? Russell, Robertson, Baylor?
What did Chamberlain bring in trade the first time? (Answer: essentially, Paul Neumann.) What did Wilt bring in trade the second time? (Answer: essentially, one first-line player, Archie Clark.)
What would Bill Russell have brought in trade when he was 31? (Answer: a whole franchise full of first-line players.) How about Robertson or Baylor? (Answer: about the same as Russell.)
What about all the money Chamberlain is supposed to have brought in trade? (Answer: Money? What money?)
Well, then. Final question. So what exactly is Wilt Chamberlain? (Answer: A Super Duper.)
HOOK, LINE AND SHOTGUN
If there has ever been anything good and clean and American and true that one could always count on, it has been the catfish. Yes sir, that solid citizen of the Mississippi, that reminder of innocent boyhood days with line and hook. They'll never get to the honest old catfish, right? Well, guess what?
The crisis started in Florida a couple of weeks ago when a lady called a game warden to report that a catfish was out in the yard fighting her dog. She was right. Then a night watchman found another one in Boca Raton, more than half a mile from the nearest water. In the past 30 days or so Biologist Robert Goodrick of Florida's Game and Freshwater Fish Commission has found seven more ambulatory catfish. "The population has just exploded," he said.
Near as anyone can figure out, the pugnacious critters are in the Clariidae family, originally African or Asian, probably imported by tropical fish dealers for home aquariums. Evidently some got away, somewhere, sometime, and now they're loose and multiplying. Fishery Biologist Vern Ogilvie says it is possible this fish won't get over 16 or 18 inches long—"but then there are members of the Clariidae that get five feet long and weigh 50 or 60 pounds."
The creeping catfish comes with dual breathing equipment and can stay away from water for extended periods of time. It then moves around eating snails, frogs and, presumably, anything else that gets in its way.
Ogilvie knows a monster when he sees one. Because the fish are so mobile, he warns, they cannot be controlled by present methods. Dump fish toxin into the water—and they can crawl away from it. "It's unbelievable," he said. "I've got two at home in an aquarium. But they jump out of it if I give them an opportunity. They will come into the living room. They move like men on their elbows, like you're trained to creep in combat. You get a net after them and they avoid the net."
Ogilvie and Goodrick are rushing a report recommending a ban on importation of the fish to Florida. It may be too late already; it may be time to head for the hills.
THE FADING IMAGE
As the Kentucky Derby drugging case drifts deeper into legalistic limbo, two new developments make it even less likely that the public will ever know what really happened to Dancer's Image. And no one in authority appears to be making any serious effort to halt the drift before Thoroughbred racing's stature is irreparably damaged.
First, there has been a clear shift in emphasis on the part of Peter Fuller, owner of Dancer's Image. Fuller's original objective had been to find out what occurred in Barn 24 in the days before the Derby. Was his horse drugged? If so, who did it? Now he seems chiefly concerned with having Dancer's Image reinstated as the winner. Toward that end, his lawyers are questioning the testing procedures used at every racetrack in the country, and the effect of this maneuver has been to set up a growing chain reaction of subpoenas, hearings and appeals that could drag on for years before any light is shed on the mystery.
Second, Trainers Lou Cavalaris and Robert Barnard have filed a motion in the Kentucky Court of Appeals that may kill any further meaningful investigation of the case. The motion contends that any hearing by the Kentucky State Racing Commission would be, in effect, trying Cavalaris and Barnard twice for the same alleged incident, since the Churchill Downs stewards have already held a hearing and penalized them for what happened. (They received 30-day suspensions.) If the Court of Appeals rules in favor of this move by the trainers, any subsequent look at the case by the commission would have to ignore the roles of Cavalaris and Barnard—though what they saw and did has already been shown to be critically important to an evaluation of the whole affair.
Barring a change in official attitudes, from now on the most important horse race in the U.S. will be run under a cloud of suspicion.
MISTER MAJOR LEAGUE
This may come as a shock to certified hero-worshipers, but big-league baseball players are just like people. That is, they drink about as much, smoke about as much, stay married about as long, pay about the same attention to world-news events and suffer the same degree of job dissatisfaction as anybody you know.
This composite profile comes on good authority: a painstaking, three-year study conducted by Harold Charnofsky, a former minor league infielder now a sociologist at California State College. Charnofsky's findings make up his doctoral thesis and cover three American League and two National League clubs—with only the names changed to protect the innocent.
Researcher Charnofsky spent one summer gathering facts in dressing rooms, hotel lobbies, on team buses and benches—and recently wound it all up with a recheck of 73 players, plus several coaches and managers.
The statistical man who emerges from all this is 26.3 years old, realizes he is a celebrity, but tends to regard himself otherwise as "just plain folks." Major leaguers consider themselves above average in athletic talent but just like everybody else in such matters as values, intelligence and personality. Tastes in reading, TV and live entertainment tend to be lowbrow, as are tastes in drinking—most prefer beer to hard liquor. Most players (95%) are still married to the same wife they started out with, and the average player (48%) considers himself middle class.
And then comes Charnofsky's clincher, the one finding that ought to make him a doctor of sociology in any league. Why do ballplayers play ball? "Heroic considerations, such as service to the public, fierce love of the game and the importance of competition and challenge," said the professor, "are clearly beneath the matter of personal gain in the players' list of values." Which makes them just like people.
THE ARTY OLYMPICS
That long-awaited Claude Lelouch film on the Grenoble Olympics is out—Thirteen Days in France, he calls it—and Paris is pretty confused. "Masterpiece," said the newspaper L'Aurore. "Depressing," said Combat. Then the France-Soir, biggest-circulation daily, sent both its film critics and Olympics sports reporter to review it—and they took both views.
Such shouting is usual for Lelouch's work, but this time the French feel more national prestige is at stake than in, say, Lelouch's mystical A Man and A Woman. This film is about the Olympics—so they will see the Olympics, yes? Well, not exactly. The first hour is devoted to shots of soldiers sliding down the Alpe d'Huez bobsled run on their shovels, of Racer Marielle Goitschel explaining to teammates how to run the downhill and of General de Gaulle at the opening rites, sniffing deeply at a rose. It is a paper rose, by the way.
When the action starts there are some splendid shots of skiing. But this is followed by men figure skaters jumping and whirling to—uh huh—the tune of clattering computers and typewriters. Then there is as much footage of Peggy Fleming crying while waiting for her gold medal as there is of her winning it.
Thirteen Days is playing at five Paris theaters now, packing them in, and will come to the U.S. in late summer. Its overall effect is one of winter vignettes rather than Winter Games, and Lelouch steers strictly away from the Great Slalom Controversy, in which Austria feels it was Schranzed out of a medal.
If the French had expected something on the order of the lyrical, touching Japanese Olympic film or Leni Riefenstahl's powerful picture of the 1936 Berlin Games, they did not get it. What they did get is lots and lots of Lelouch, which, we suspect, is just about what Claude had in mind.
THEY SAID IT
•José Cardenal, Cleveland Indians wiry (151 pounds) outfielder, on working with the team's 6-foot, 195-pound bat boy: "I look at him and I feel weak. It is bad psychologically when you have to reach up and get the bat from the bat boy."