The NCAA is becoming ridiculous. Once the popular favorite in its duel with the stodgy old AAU, its persistent stance of self-defeating stupidity is eroding its support everywhere. The suspension of Oregon State basketball player Gary Freeman (SCORECARD, Sept. 15) was a bureaucratic inanity that had to be reversed, and the failure to sanction basketball competition in the Maccabiah Games—because of the continuing squabble with the AAU—was petty, shortsighted and cruel. Its suspension of Yale for two years (for not forbidding a Yale player to go to the Maccabiah Games and then for letting him play varsity basketball this season) is a prime example of NCAA overkill.
Even more peculiar is the one-year suspension of San Jose State's track team, the defending NCAA outdoor champions. San Jose was barred from competing in either the indoor or outdoor national championships this year because several of its athletes took part last season in two "uncertified" meets. Athletes from other colleges (the NCAA refuses to name them) appeared in at least one uncertified meet, but their schools were' 'chastised" rather than suspended. San Jose ostensibly received the sterner punishment because its athletes had competed in two such meets.
San Jose claims that it had assumed the meets its athletes entered were O.K., because both had been sanctioned by the U.S. Track and Field Federation, the group the NCAA helped organize in opposition to the AAU. It tried to appeal the ruling, but the NCAA refused the appeal. Last week San Jose's acting president, Hobert W. Burns, said, "At the very least, we believe we are entitled to know why San Jose State College...was singled out for punishment and why the punishment was so severe." Then he tossed a strong accusation. "This action against San Jose State," he said, "may have been in part a prejudicial reaction to John Carlos' raised-fist gesture at the Olympic Games."
Carlos is the controversial sprinter who, with his San Jose teammate Tommie Smith, appeared on the victory stand in Mexico and made the Black Power gesture that aroused so much animosity. To ascribe the NCAA action against San Jose to its personal feelings against Carlos would seem terribly farfetched if it were not for a double-page spread that appeared on pages 2 and 3 of the December issue of NCAA News. An oversimplified and one-sided editorial on campus unrest among black athletes is accompanied by an abridged report of a speech by an FBI official that, in juxtaposition with the editorial, seems to lump all black student activists with the extreme left. If the NCAA wanted to support the argument of San Jose's acting president, it could not have done it more effectively.
Someone once said, "As long as one cockroach suffers the pangs of unrequited love, this is not the best of all possible worlds." By that criterion, the National Football League, in its realignment, created something a good deal less. There are some unhappy cockroaches among the 13 reshuffled clubs, and the one suffering most from unrequited love is Minnesota.
The Vikings, who remain in the frostbite division with Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay, were the orphans of the realignment storm, beloved by no one. You would think other teams would be eager to be in the same division with the 1969 NFL champions, but no. To the club owners, being in the same division with the Vikings means you are committed to playing against a tough, bruising football team in the coldest and most northern town in the league in a stadium that is small by pro football standards. That was why Pete Rozelle finally had to have his secretary draw realignment out of a hat. Of the five plans put in the hat, only one—the one that the lady picked—kept Minnesota in the Central Division.
That one made everybody but the Lions, the Bears and the Packers happy. The old Coastal Division, which earlier had lost Baltimore to the AFL, picked up desirable New Orleans (big park, warm weather, no contender). The old Capitol Division added St. Louis, the only club left from the Century Division, what with New Orleans shifted and Cleveland and Pittsburgh gone on to the AFL—oops, American Conference.
So old NFL rivalries remain virtually undisturbed, and realignment was accomplished with the least possible disruption. Except that the Vikings must feel as unwelcome as their namesakes did landing on the coasts of Western Europe a thousand years ago.
TAXES AND THOROUGHBREDS
Grasping for sources of revenue to meet transit deficits in New York City, Louis DeSalvio, a New York State Assemblyman from Manhattan, has introduced a bill that would add 50 thoroughbred racing days to the already overlong New York racing season. He called it a "painless" way to raise extra money to keep down subway fares. It gives us a pain.
The proposal would mean practically year-round racing. As it is, the New York season begins early in March and runs into December. In 1968 the temperature on the last day of so-called racing was 9°. The fans had to watch on closed-circuit television, the jockeys were blowing on their hands and wearing as much added weight as they dared and the horses were the bad residue of those stables that had not yet gone south. To start such racing again a few weeks later would reduce the sport in the Sport of Kings to the status of another number on a Bingo card.
IF YOU PHONE ONE
President Nixon's popular espousal of football (his trip to see the Texas-Arkansas game, his naming Texas No. 1, his phone call to Len Dawson in the clubhouse after the Super Bowl) may be fraying a little around the edges. It was not at all surprising that Ralph Nader should say that the President had given far less attention to the consumer movement than he had to the University of Texas football team, but what could really hurt a guy was the reaction of Mrs. Connie McCready, a life-long Republican who is a state representative in Oregon. Mrs. McCready is one of those nuts, a seeker after steelhead trout. The other day, after 20 years of frustrated effort, she finally succeeded in hooking and landing a splendid 12-pound steelhead. She should have been utterly delighted, but a day or so after the event she confessed to an element of disappointment. "President Nixon hasn't even called," she complained.
HANGING IN THERE
We print in its entirety this admirably succinct letter from Mr. Robert E. O'Quinn Jr. of The Leelanau Schools, Glen Arbor, Mich.
Tonight, Jan. 6, 1970, the Leelanau Indian Junior Varsity basketball team of Glen Arbor, Mich. ended a 113-game losing streak by defeating the Leland Comets 30-19.
Maybe the thieves thought they were getting a bonanza of expensive watches. After all, here were 102 cartons from Switzerland, all loaded on a big truck parked at Kennedy International Airport, and the driver had gone home to bed. So they stole the whole shipment and vanished—and found that they had 1,189 pairs of ski boots.
That was back on Dec. 2, just when the ski shops needed the boots most, and in the weeks since, the ski-boot caper has become one of the great mysteries of the sport world. The FBI is in on the case now, and little, enticing leads keep popping up. But so far, no boots.
"We had a couple of tips," says Heinz Herzog of Henke Overseas Inc., the boot-makers. "The stolen boots were offered to three New York ski shops. But the thieves suggested only 15% below the regular dealer price—and a big-volume buyer can get practically the same deal from us. The hijackers just want too much money for the boots." Canada, Herzog figures, will be the next stop.
Meanwhile, newly equipped skiers can bet that the stranger sitting next to them on the chair lift is a G-man. "Nice boots you have there, fella. Henke Competition model PC135, retail for about $135, don't they? Have you got the receipt on you?"
A Detroit sportswriter recently called his regular bookie. "He isn't here now," said the voice on the other end of the phone. "This is his bowling night. He bowls in the Bookmakers' League."
EVERYTHING'S UP TO DATE
When the Chiefs played the Vikings in the Super Bowl local involvement in Kansas City was almost total. A patient about to undergo open-heart surgery had her operation scheduled so that she would be lucid for the telecast of the game. The power company reported an increase of 15 million watts over normal Sunday usage of electricity. Streets were virtually deserted, and downtown movie theaters reported an 85% drop in patronage. Reports of crime declined from a normal of 360 to 96. Nobody murdered anyone during the game, and police put off questioning a suspect in the only major crime that did occur until the end of the first half. A note in The Kansas City Star's Sunday art column observed, "The lecture by Ralph T. Coe on 'Roy Lichtenstein, painter of the derived image,' scheduled to have been presented this afternoon at the Nelson Gallery, has been postponed because of the Chiefs' game."
There was impromptu jubilation when the Chiefs won (a merchandising director of a large department store and a theater-chain owner agreed that winning would' 'do great things for Kansas City," though neither could say just what), but the full import was not felt until the next day. The Kansas City Times, noted for its conservative typography, ran not one but two immense scare headlines across the top of the front page. The afternoon Star, promoting a forthcoming special section on the Chiefs, proclaimed that it would be "among your souvenirs concerning people and things that are on the number one list of all that is worth remembering."
When the team flew home Monday afternoon a crowd of 160,000 lined the street or gleefully showered streamers and waste paper from office buildings. A master of ceremonies screamed introductions of Coach Hank Stram and the players to the crowd gathered on the mall of the city's World War I memorial, and Stram made a speech.
It was a glorious afternoon. For a while the citizenry could look around with confidence, secure in the knowledge that, perhaps for the first time, everything was really up to date in Kansas City. Never mind that the 1969 homicide rate was the highest ever or that the downtown business district was struggling for its life. Never mind that for all its Jets and Mets, New York City appeared scarcely better off than it had before its teams had won their championships. Right now, the invincibility of Hank Stram and his 40 young men had infected the people they play for. Kansas City, too, was invincible; it could do anything.
The rain in New Orleans on Super Bowl Sunday looked like sunshine to Judge Roy Hofheinz, the Astrodome man, who is trying to get the NFL to play next season's version of the big game in Houston. But, it was pointed out, the Astrodome seats only 55,000, compared to 80,000 or so available in Miami or New Orleans. "A $20 seat in the Astrodome would be a far better seat than a $15 one in the Orange Bowl or the Sugar Bowl," Hofheinz argues. "Besides, the game that decides pro football's championship should be played on a dry field where the temperature is 72° and the wind is one mile per hour."
IN THE BALANCE
Seattle came very close to losing its one-year-old major league baseball franchise last autumn, and all reports then indicated that because of various inadequacies the franchise would be transferred to Milwaukee (which had lost its own National League franchise to Atlanta in 1966). Fred Danz, a local man, saved the situation when he agreed to buy the club and keep it in Seattle. Then, this month, the simmering pot began to boil again when it became known that the Bank of California, which had made a substantial loan to the original Seattle owners, had called in that loan. Danz, rather suddenly, was faced with an acute problem. To meet the terms of the agreement with the American League that kept the club in Seattle, he had to make satisfactory financial arrangements of his own with the banks—in this era of tight money—and he had to show, beyond that, that he had sufficient working capital in hand.
Seattle fans had bought $250,000 worth of tickets on a three-year plan that Danz had instituted, but this evidence of local support was not enough. The pot continued to bubble, while off to one side, being careful not to say or do anything that could be construed as an attempt to "steal" a ball club, was the city of Milwaukee, moneyed and ready, but almost afraid to hope.
Baseball may be Seattle's woe, but pro football could be its delight. The Boston Patriots, pushed from pillar to post (well, from little Fenway Park to smaller Alumni Stadium at Boston College), had their hopes of moving into more spacious Harvard Stadium dampened by Harvard's new athletic director, Robert B. Watson. "We have been pressured to let the Patriots move into the stadium," said Watson. "I don't see why we should have to. It was given to us by the Harvard alumni to be used by Harvard athletes."
And since there isn't a Harvard man on the Patriot roster it's up, up and away from Boston for the team. Seattle, be ready.
THEY SAID IT
•Wes Unseld, Baltimore Bullets' center, asked just how tall Lew Alcindor is: "I would say he's 7'3½"—conservatively."
•Charles Conrad, Apollo 12 astronaut, explaining why it will be fun to play golf on the moon someday: "Not only will you be able to hit the ball a mile, but because there's no atmosphere, you won't have a slice or a hook."
•Mrs. Henry Finkel, whose husband had to replace a legend at center for the Boston Celtics: "We know we're not Bill Russell. We can tell every first and 15th when we open our paycheck."