TO SKI OR NOT TO SKI
The group of gentlemen who govern world skiing gathered in Barcelona last week to re-do a few of the rules. And a setting like sunny Spain, away from all that snow, seemed to make them more feisty than ever: they set the stage for a direct clash over amateurism with that grand old party, International Olympic Committee chief Avery Brundage.
The FIS World Congress (Fédération Internationale de Ski) voted to liberalize its amateur eligibility rules to a point somewhere just short of open ski racing, √† la tennis. Prodded by the U.S. Association to "clean skiing's house completely" and by FIS President Marc Hodler to enforce "realistic rules," the congress decided that amateur skiers may now obtain direct financial aid from business—and skiers may even endorse products for pay in advertising. The only rein on any of it is a stipulation that permission must come from the ski racer's national board and that any pay goes to his association, not to the individual—a rule that most nations should be able to sidestep nicely. The FIS figures the plan is clean and perfect, except for that one shadow in the starting gate.
Everyone knows Brundage will thunder mightily against it when his IOC meets in Warsaw next week and will promptly seek to throw Alpine skiing right out of the Winter Olympics. But the FIS also is gambling that Brundage will not have total support of his board. After all, the FIS said, what about the millions already spent in Japan setting up the 1972 games, including new ski facilities? To deny Sapporo Alpine skiing might well stir a new world crisis.
And after that action, still full of fight, the FIS voted to endorse Canada's British Columbia as the site for the 1976 Winter Games, cold-shouldering the U.S., which figured it had a lock on the bid since '76 is our 200th anniversary. The final vote comes from IOC, of course, but without FIS endorsement, Denver looks pretty dead.
It may be academic by that time anyway. If Brundage gets his backing, Alpine skiing is out as an Olympic sport. The only sure thing right now is that it is going to be a long, hot summer on the ski slopes.
DOWN UNDER GOES UNDER
Shades of Norman Brookes, Jack Crawford, Adrian Quist, Jack Bromwich, Frank Sedgman, Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Neale Fraser, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver.... Last weekend Australia was eliminated from the Davis Cup competition by Mexico, which means that when the Challenge Round is held later on this year the Aussies, for the first time since 1937, will not be one of the two teams involved.
The first of a series of 16 special pro football films by Ed Sabol was televised last Sunday by CBS and was almost as big a disaster as Baltimore's defeat in the Super Bowl. In fact, the film is about the Super Bowl, but not the one we saw last January. Joe Namath appears (it would be hard to keep him out) but his role is almost a supporting one, and his deft handling of his team is mostly reduced to a series of symbolic, pass-pass-pass sequences. On the other hand, Don Shula, the Baltimore coach, is a major figure. The camera comes back to him time after time to show, first, his exuberance over a good play in the NFL playoff with Cleveland and then, in the Super Bowl, his growing concern, worry, gloom. Shula is so much in evidence because the film, to put it bluntly, is not about the victorious Jets but the losing Colts. And the hero is not Joe Namath but Johnny Unitas.
It is no secret that the sore-armed Unitas, after he took over for Earl Morrall, was able to move Baltimore in the last period principally because the Jets, leading 16-0, were employing a defensive strategy of containment, giving away yardage in exchange for minutes. Yet in the film Unitas is displayed as nothing less than magnificent in defeat, almost the passing genius of old, who has the Jets terrified as he nearly saves the game for Baltimore before the clock inexorably ends the game.
Which is nonsense. In overpraising Unitas, the film cheapens what he did. And in concentrating on one rather pathetic part of a superb game, it all but ignores what Namath and the Jets did. Pro football films—Sabol's NFL work in particular—have been remarkably good in the past. This one is embarrassingly bad.
Before the Kentucky Derby, some critics said that Majestic Prince was either a Man o' War or just another Silky Sullivan. Now that the Prince is beginning to resemble Man o' War, we thought we would bring you up to date on Silky. For those of you who don't know about Silky Sullivan, he was from California, too, and a pre-Derby sensation back in 1958. Silky was a crowd pleaser, a strikingly handsome chestnut colt whose forte was coming from far, far back in the field (he was 30 lengths behind the leaders midway through one race) to win with heartthrobbing stretch drives. At the 1958 Derby he left the gate, one of the favorites, at 2 to 1. Silky ran far, far back in the field, as usual, but this time he stayed there, finishing a dismal 12th, and for all intents and purposes was never heard of again.
But Silky is alive and well in California. At 14 he is a stallion at Kjell Qvale's Green Oaks Stud Farm near Napa in the wine country. His stud fee is only $500 (another Green Oaks stallion, The Scoundrel, who finished an unnoticed third in the 1964 Derby, commands $2,500), but Silky is nonetheless the star of the place. He is the one who attracts visitors to the farm, and he still receives Christmas cards from faithful admirers. Dick Lynch, the stud manager of Green Oaks, says, "Everybody loves him. He's a real stallion, a fine-looking animal, but he doesn't bite or strike and he's as gentle as can be around children." Each year Green Oaks has a party for the employees and their families, and Silky comes over from the stables for the fun. Kids clamor for a ride, and Silky is ready and willing. "Sometimes we put as many as four kids on him at once," Lynch says, "and he walks around just as nice as you please."
Once a year Silky goes to the races again, to Golden Gate on St. Patrick's Day. On that day everybody named Sullivan gets in free, and Silky is the star. Lynch says, "The crowd goes wild when we walk him past the grandstand, and he loves it. You can tell it when he hears the cheers and the applause.
"His get do all right," Lynch adds, which means they aren't terribly good. "We don't expect any Triple Crown winners, but he's sired some of the most beautiful horses I've ever seen. They're grand-looking animals."
HIGH COST OF DRIVING
Andy Granatelli has spelled out how much it costs to enter a racing team at Indianapolis. "A Turbo-Ford engine, with spare parts, will run $40,000," he says, "and a two-car team needs four cars, two as backups. You should have a couple of spare engines, too, for emergencies. So now you have six engines in all, and that's $240,000. Two four-wheel-drive chassis will run $45,000 each. The backups will be two-wheel drive; make it $32,000 for each of them. And your tire bill for the month could run $2,000 per car.
"You'll want the best drivers available, and they get around $50,000 for the season. Salary for the chief mechanic is about $18,000, and for two cars you'll need at least six crew men. They'll split $6,000 for the month. You'll need two station wagons and two trailers—$12,000. Put down another $60,000 to $80,000 for rooms and food for your people, their transportation to and from Indy, shop work, possible overtime, insurance, etc.
"Add it up: you go to the races with about $600,000 invested. Last year's winning car earned $177,523. But the driver gets 50% of his car's earnings, the chief mechanic gets 15% and the crew splits 10%. An owner might get $50,000 as his share of the winning purse, but the chances are he's promised that much in bonuses.
"There are ways to get back part of your investment. Owners can sell sponsorships—although my cars, naturally, are always STP Specials—and a top group can get $100,000 a car. However, most of the front money that was around when the tire and oil companies were battling has dried up.
"And there are other ways a car owner can spend money. Last year I was so anxious for the best operation possible that I somehow managed to promise more than 100% of the purse. That means that if we had won, I would have paid out the entire purse and then reached into my pocket for the rest. But I guarantee you, if we had won I would have done it with the biggest smile you've ever seen."
This may be an oldie, but it's nice. The skipper of a sinking pleasure boat out of Chesapeake Bay radioed repeatedly for help. "We're on our way," the Coast Guard replied. "What is your position? Repeat. What is your position?"
"I'm executive vice president of the First National Bank," answered the yachtsman. "Please hurry."
A couple of months ago (SI, March 31) Whitney Tower criticized the practice followed by many state governors of appointing political allies or old friends to responsible jobs in horse racing. Football coaches, public-relations men and Democratic and Republican wheelhorses were given positions requiring professional knowledge of racing, while experienced, qualified men were passed over.
It is a pleasure, therefore, to report significant progress in this area. In Florida, one of the offending states, a bill was introduced in the legislature last month that requires a person licensed or appointed as a steward either to have been in the horse-racing industry for five years or to have had prior experience as a patrol judge, clerk of the scales, placing judge, harness-racing judge or steward.
In Pennsylvania there was a more immediate and gratifying action. This weekend that state begins its first season of pari-mutuel flat racing with the opening of the 12-week Continental and Eagle Downs meeting at Liberty Bell Park. Track stewards for the meeting are George Palmer and J. Melvin Mackin, both racing veterans, and another new appointee, as patrol judge, is Carl Hanford, who trained Kelso. Most important, the state steward, appointed by Governor Raymond Shafer, is Alex Stokes, who not only has been a paddock judge, a placing judge, a patrol judge and a steward at various leading tracks but who has, in effect, been schooled in racing under such outstanding stewards as Keene Daingerfield, Aidan Roark and Earl Potter. In other words, Stokes is an eminently qualified man whose presence will enhance horse racing in Pennsylvania, which is the way it should be.
Speaking of hiring qualified people, few men have ever come to a job with better credentials for it than the new president of the Western Hockey League. He is Gene Kinasewich, who was a highly skilled and widely publicized All-America hockey player at Harvard several years ago (SI, March 19, 1962 et seq.). His hockey background is valuable, of course, but even more to the point—for a man whose prime duties will include the handling of the volatile, conflicting and often emotional problems besetting the league's players and management—Kinasewich graduated from Harvard magna cum laude after studying, among other things, child and adolescent psychology.
THEY SAID IT
•Walter O'Malley, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers: "Is baseball on the spot? I would say yes, but then religion is on the spot, government is on the spot, the integrity of treaties is on the spot. These are times when people spit on the flag, when priests go over the fence. You have to understand the pattern of things today. There is rebellion against the establishment, and baseball is linked to the establishment."