Czech national hero Emil Zàtopek, 1948 and 1952 Olympic champion in the marathon and the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, was one of 70 public figures who recently endorsed a statement, "The 2,000 Words," which called for strikes to hasten reform in a Czechoslovakia struggling for national independence and greater internal liberties.
"My wife, Dana," Zàtopek told an English interviewer in a Prague café, "was frightened. She said, 'Please, don't speak so much. If the Russians come it will be bad for everybody who signs this manifesto.' " But Zàtopek, 45, a colonel in the Czech army's sports department who keeps in shape by occasionally running the 2½ miles to his office, says he has always been outspoken and politically "unreliable." He says he hated being the "pinup boy" of the Stalinist regime during his heyday.
"I should be grateful to them, really," he says of the old Czech government. "I traveled the world. I met King George VI and Queen Elizabeth after the Olympic Games in London in 1948. In Finland, after the Helsinki Games in 1952, I met the president. In 1958 in Spain, when I ran my last race, the people carried me shoulder high.
"But everywhere I went I was sad. I knew I was representing the wrong government. I was traveling the world with the wrong background. I never made a secret of my feelings. When they tried to pretend, for example, that South Korea invaded North Korea, I said, 'Are you mad? I've been there. I know what happened.'
"Many times the officials gave me a talking-to. They said, 'You are an example to young people. They look up to you. Be careful what you say.' Friends warned me I could be sent to prison. But I laughed. They used to say everybody here has either been to prison, is in prison or is going there in the future." Later, however, he learned "how horrible prison conditions were," and he wished he had not been so flippant.
"My father, a carpenter, was a Communist," Zàtopek says, "and so am I in my heart. But it must be a Communism created by love of the people and not by might and terror."
In 1963 when Alex Karras, the Detroit Lion defensive tackle, was sitting out a year's suspension for betting on NFL games, his wife, Joan, gave birth to a boy. Karras and NFL Commissioner Alvin (Pete) Rozelle had feuded bitterly over the suspension, and Karras was furious. "I wanted to remember what happened," Karras said, "so I named the boy Pete. I would have named him Alvin, but who wants a kid named Alvin?"
Now Karras is in a far more festive mood, and when his wife gave birth to another son last month he decided to commemorate the man who had made him a significant figure in a best-selling book, Paper Lion, and had gotten him a major role in the movie being made from the book. The boy has been named George Plimpton Karras.
ALWAYS A FIRST TIME
In Olympic basketball the U.S. has never failed to win the gold medal and, in fact, has never even lost a game (it has a perfect 66-0 record). But, judging from the 1968 team's recent European tour, the perfect record and maybe the gold medal, too, are likely to go down the drain in Mexico City come October. Yugoslavia, Russia, Czechoslovakia and Brazil are all capable of beating the U.S.
"I wouldn't say we wouldn't win if we had our best," said Angus Nicoson, basketball coach at Indiana Central College, who made the trip as team manager, "but with what we have available, it is questionable."
The team won six of 10 games abroad—not too bad a showing—but demonstrated, according to Nicoson, lack of defensive ability, poor outside shooting and weak rebounding (which may be at least partly remedied when 6'7" Bill Hosket of Ohio State joins the squad). Without Lew Alcindor, who decided to pass up Mexico, and Elvin Hayes, who signed a pro contract, the U.S. has no one to battle Russia's 7'2" center, who "gets around like a good 6'8" forward."
"I would say we've probably got the roughest, most difficult job any Olympic team ever had," said Nicoson.
The Wall Street Journal recently quoted marriage futures on musclemen. The prospects, the newspaper reported, are not promising. One strong man explained that today's females are not "turned on by muscles. They like the long, lean types. When I ask a girl for a date, she's likely to snicker. And the ones who do go out with you spend the whole time staring at you as though you're a freak."
Another body builder described taking a girl home after a date and being asked to take off his shirt to "flex for Mama, Papa and little sister. They had a good laugh, and then she told me to buzz off."
It turns out that many musclemen can't afford wives anyway. They shun heavy work—it saps their energy—and earn only about $4,000 a year, and as much as $1,500 of that may go for gym fees, protein supplements and vitamins.
THE OLD RAH-RAH
San Francisco State College won the Far Western Conference football title last year, went to the Camellia Bowl and was regarded as one of the nation's best "small college" teams. But there is nothing small-time about State's 18,000 enrollment or the amount of furor the politically oriented student body can stir up when aroused. Now the student legislature, which has attained considerable sway over student affairs, thinks the school's support of athletics is out of proportion. Accordingly, it voted last week to eliminate the athletic department's $48,900 subsidy. (State has a nice little football field that seats 6,000, but it is seldom filled, and gate receipts don't provide enough support.)
"We ran on a slate to support community action programs," said recently elected Student Body President Russell Bass. "The opposition promised not to cut the athletic budget. We won 2-1. We think that for years the money going to athletics has been out of proportion to student interest."
When word of the action got out the student legislature felt pressure and finally offered an alternate plan that would give athletics $30,000—under certain conditions. There would be no restrictions on athletes' appearance (beards and long hair are not to be forbidden). A separate $9,500 reserve fund would be set up to support drama and debate. And the tutorial program for athletes would be revised. Students would have a voice in decision-making, and the program would help specially admitted disadvantaged students, most nonathletes.
The football team seems likely to survive under the new system, but it could lose Coach Vic Rowen, a Columbia Ed.D., who would have little trouble getting a football job elsewhere. "If it weren't for Vic," says a fellow coach, "we would never have won a conference title. He works night and day to keep the team going. You'd think the students would have some pride in the club, but they're too busy demonstrating."
A controversy that erupted at Grenoble last winter over the propriety of trade names appearing on competitors' skis bubbled up again recently at a couple of European track meets. In Paris contestants sported the name Perrier, a popular mineral water, above their numbers despite an International Amateur Athletic Federation rule against such things. In Stockholm athletes carried the initials BP (presumably for British Petroleum) above their numbers, and that could result in the IAAF refusing to recognize the world record set there by Finnish Steeplechaser Jouko Kuha.
IAAF Secretary-treasurer Donald Pain said the Stockholm meet numbers were "clearly an infringement of the rules." But the problem is more complex than that.
The anti-ad rules were put in force a little over a year ago and are still relatively unfamiliar. Commercial sponsors put up the money for many of the track meets in Europe. In other words, no ads could mean no meets. The IAAF will ask for reports and act on them at its next meeting. Significantly, that will be in Mexico City just before the Olympics.
Those ultimate, final, absolute, last Olympic track-and-field trials, to be held in September at Lake Tahoe, may turn out to be a competition between the lame and the halt. Hurdler Richmond Flowers expected his pulled hamstring muscle to be well in six weeks. Those six weeks have come and gone, and he still hasn't been able to get close to a hurdle. Long-jumper Ralph Boston re-injured his knee in the national AAU championships and hasn't jumped since. Middle-distance Runner Preston Davis has not yet been able to do speed work.
The prognosis in other cases lifts the high-altitude gloom slightly. Decathlon men Rick Sloan and Russ Hodge are almost up to maximum workouts again, and Pole Vaulter John Pennel was back in competition last week. The most encouraging report is from Flagstaff, Ariz., where Jim Ryun is alive and well and apparently over a light case of mononucleosis. His blood is almost back to normal. The most important thing now is how he feels, and that is "just fine." By the end of the week he will have run 110 miles, half at high speed. That at least should add a little spring to the team's limp.
IN THE EYES OF TEXAS
The University Interscholastic League, which is the administrative body that governs Texas high school sports, has stirred up all kinds of controversy in its 58 years, but nothing can match its latest move: it has declared that any recipient of a college athletic scholarship is a professional. Having arrived at this philosophically defensible but hardly practical viewpoint, the league courageously took the next logical step by declaring that a boy becomes a professional when he signs his letter of intent to accept a college scholarship, which is usually in the spring of his senior year. Therefore, said the league—charging onward—any boy with high school eligibility-remaining who plays on a team with one of these "pros" in a summer sports program loses his eligibility.
The ruling was made in June, when many of the state's high school athletes were playing American Legion baseball. It caused such alarm—even a debate in the Texas legislature—that the league decided to wait until September 1 to enforce the new rule. But think of all the pro football teams Texans then can see: the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Texas Longhorns, the SMU Mustangs, the Texas Lutheran Bulldogs, the East Texas Lions....
PICK A PIPER
Problems, problems. The Minnesota Muskies of the American Basketball Association recently pulled up stakes and moved to Miami. They were quickly replaced in Minnesota by the Pittsburgh Pipers, who were eager to leave Pennsylvania. The new club will be called the Minnesota Pipers, which seems logical enough, except that Hamline University also plays basketball in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. And guess what medieval town the Pied Piper piped his gig in? Right. Hamelin. And, surprise, surprise, Hamline University calls its teams the Pipers, too. Should be some fascinating headlines around Minnesota this winter.
The presidential race thus far has resembled, at times, a group of young boys vying for the post of team captain on the basis of which one has the best collection of bubble-gum cards. Athletes for Nixon, which includes among its members Wilt Chamberlain, Bart Starr, Ted Williams, Eddie Arcaro and Andy Granatelli, believes that Richard Nixon's election "will put our country's 'first team' on the field." Hubert Humphrey is in formation with O. J. Simpson, on the mound with Dean Chance, down the field with Bob Hayes and in the ring with Jack Dempsey. Y. A. Tittle is working for Ronald Reagan; the late Robert Kennedy had Rafer Johnson and Roosevelt Grier in his camp and Nelson Rockefeller numbers Hank Aaron and Announcer Howard Cosell among the sports personalities stumping for him. Even dour George Wallace, who seems uninterested in fun and games, is being supported by Frank (Pig) House, the old Detroit bonus catcher, and by Dicky Magle, the Rice halfback who scored four touchdowns—including one on which he was tackled from the bench by an Alabama player—in the 1954 Cotton Bowl game. Only Eugene McCarthy is campaigning without active assistance from big name athletes, but he does have Paul Newman, who shot a pretty good game of pool in The Hustler.
In various African nations what might be called the national team spirit is in conflict with one feature of what might be called the sporting look: the miniskirt. "All we want," says the Malawi News, official organ of the president's Malawi Congress Party, "is the nakedness to stop at once."
Malawi outlawed the miniskirt four months ago. "Proper dress," the News says, "is necessary for the moral health of the nation." Similarly, Kenya's defense minister has called miniskirts "an affront to the dignity and purpose of African society."
The Public Morals Commission of South Africa's Dutch Reformed Church urged authorities to prosecute the overexposed. A South African lawyer, however, has argued that common law required proof that a miniskirt wearer was wearing it not merely to keep up with fashion, but with intent to deprave.
In Ethiopia there were demonstrations when a fashion show featured miniskirts, and the demonstrations led to riots. Fifty people were injured, 100 vehicles were destroyed and schools were closed for two weeks. In Zambia miniskirts have been branded un-Zambian, and militants have let down lofty hems with razors in the city streets.
Of course that might be something of a sport in itself.
THEY SAID IT
•Sam Gordon, wealthy Sacramento restaurateur, after saying he'd willingly lose money to get a Pacific Coast League baseball franchise for his city: "I can afford $100,000 a year for 25 years, but no more than that. I don't want to get into a business that's going to lose money permanently."