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Thomas Hart Benton, who at 80 acts more like the good old boy than the grand old man of American painting, has become a pro football fan and is considering doing a high relief of the action "to keep me busy through the winter." Benton played football himself in high school but has paid the game scant attention since. Team sports lacked individuality, and pro football players almost managed anonymity, clad, as they seemed to him, like "men in armor. You can't see them behind those bars, those masks." However, last year Benton started going to Kansas City Chiefs' home games, and Coach Hank Stram invited him down to the sidelines. "Being so close to the players has opened up a whole new dimension of the game," he says. "For the first time I really appreciate the action. The magic moment in football is the second the ball is released for a pass with a blitz on. And the color and spectacle of the game knock me out." Fearful that he would be literally as well as esthetically knocked out, Chiefs' officials recently begged Benton to return to the stands. "They were afraid those big buckaroos might trample me when they went out of bounds," he observed cheerfully, "but, hell, I can move out of the way fast enough."

The British royal family is in somewhat of a financial bind. Just the other day Prince Philip said lightly that he might have to give up polo—a statement not taken lightly by regulars of the Fellmongers Pub in the Bermondsey section of London. "We're not raving monarchists," said one of the dock-workers who frequents the pub, "but in our book the Duke ain't a bad geezer." Another regular added, "He's a bit of a sportsman like us, and everyone's entitled to his sport." To enable the Duke to continue playing polo the lads started a fund to buy him a little something. "We can't just send the money to him," one said. "It wouldn't be right, so we will buy him...perhaps a pony or a saddle or at least a new stick. We'll label it, 'A Present from Bermondsey' and put it in a cab to the palace." All well and good, but Pub Owner Neville Axford has noticed that since this decision there have been more TV cameras about the Fellmongers than contributions. "It looks," he says, "as though it might have to be just a pair of socks."

"Heaven only knows what he's going to do with those baseballs," says Mrs. Fred Haney, the wife of the former baseball executive, and heaven probably does know, "he" being Pope Paul VI. The Haneys went off to Rome recently with a letter from Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles and four autographed baseballs for His Holiness. Upon their arrival at the Vatican they were flabbergasted to learn that they were to have a private audience. Haney is a non-Catholic whose principal qualifications for the honor would seem to be that he was at one time a Cardinal as well as general manager of a band of Angels, but, according to Mrs. Haney, he was "just wonderful. He talked to His Holiness and told him all about baseball." The Pope did not seem to know all that much about the game, but when it was explained that the four baseballs—still in their box—had been autographed by Joe Cronin, Warren Giles, Bowie Kuhn and Joe DiMaggio, His Holiness beamed. "Ah," he said. "DiMaggio!"

The smash Mick Taylor is essaying here in Los Angeles may not have come off, but never mind, the Rolling Stones' current U.S. tour is proving smash enough. Taylor is the newest member of the group, replacing the late Brian Jones. A mere pebble of 20, Taylor is somewhat of a sports enthusiast—for a guitarist. Besides playing a fair game of tennis, he was the center on his school's soccer team and has a proper fondness for cricket. In L.A. all of the Stones—Mick Jagger (whose father teaches physical education in Kent), Keith Richard, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman—played tennis, but it was Taylor who most often picked up his racket when interviews, not the Stones' bag anyway, had him uptight.

Rat, a barely aboveground New York City biweekly that gained national notoriety last week as the employer of a young woman charged with complicity in the bombing of office buildings, not long ago blasted pro football in an interview with Linebacker Dave Meggyesy and Guard Rick Sortun of the St. Louis Cardinals. Meggyesy was quoted as saying: "Somewhere along the line, the guy has to get infused with this whole ethic of football, which is a militaristic, competitive ethic...the structure of the game is very reactionary. We live in a military camp, completely authoritarian...guys talking about 'throwing the bomb'—now what the hell does that mean?—or 'running the blitz.' " Why do Meggyesy and Sortun stay in the game? "It's a job," Rat says Sortun remarxed. "Even though highly paid, you are a worker with respect to the means of production." And, again, Meggyesy: "I justify football by saying it's nonexploitative of other people, but in thinking it through, you find you're exploiting other people symbolically and vicariously—your activity supports the system. People who come to see the game have all this pent-up hostility.... On Sunday they can do a vicarious trip with their favorite team or player. They really become the heroes and winners in the game—just for two hours on Sunday. Then they are going to be passive for six more days. And we are the paid beef."