HORSEPLAY WITH THE PURSES
Desperate for money to fill potholes in its streets and collect the garbage that piles up in them, New York City is on the verge of turning to legalized off-track betting as a source of funds. It is a move that is deeply disturbing to most of the horse racing fraternity, who fear that reduced attendance at the tracks, and therefore lower purses, will result.
Stable owners have been talking about this informally (and angrily, because they have not been consulted). Better horses, attracted by better purses, they feel, will run at Maryland and New Jersey tracks, and the quality of New York racing will thereby deteriorate. They have not been officially told what percentage, if any, of the city's take will be fed back to the tracks, already gouged heavily by the state, to maintain attractive racing, and they have about as much confidence in political promises to give the horsemen a fair shake as they have in political promises to reduce spending and cut taxes.
In all fairness to a fine sport, Mayor John V. Lindsay should consider his moral obligation to contribute substantially to the game he wants to tax. In the long run, taking and not giving will prove to be bad business as well as unjust.
THE SPORT OF POLITICS
Everyone expects anti-apartheid demonstrations to take place in the United Kingdom this summer, when the South African cricket team begins its tour on June 6. Now, on a news interview TV program, Prime Minister Harold Wilson has endorsed the demonstrations—though cautioning against violence or such sneaky practices as shining a mirror in a South African batsman's eyes.
Well, a general election is coming up soon and Conservative opponents of Wilson's Labor government were quick to respond. Said Peter Hordern, Conservative M.P., "Is this not as near incitement to trouble and interference with the peaceful enjoyment of millions of people as it is possible to find?"
And Ronald Bell, Conservative M.P., had this to say: "I do not question his sincerity for a moment but I question his sanity."
POLICE ON THE PISTE
When the world's first teleferic, the Aiguille du Midi, was finished in 1924 a French writer named Bourseiller reflected the opinion of his day when he declared that "ordinary people are very cautious and they'll never launch themselves down icy slopes at 30 miles an hour, off balance on two wooden planks. Man is not a chamois!"
Neither was Bourseiller a prophet. Less than half a century later there are so many human chamois on the pistes that Alpine experts talk seriously of installing traffic signals, stop signs and speed limits. And "off balance" skiers are provoking so many accidents that there's even more serious talk about having gendarmes police the piste.
Indeed, the Italians are already doing that. Their ski police give skiers tickets for "traffic violations."
The Italians may have grown accustomed to being policed in the two millennia between Caesar and Mussolini, but if there's one thing 50 million Frenchmen agree on, it's their hatred of cops.
"When I hear the words 'ski traffic code,' " says Paul Moranne, head of the law committee of the International Ski Federation, "I always shudder. I see in the distance the kepi of the gendarme, and I hear his whistle. Ah, non, pas cela!"
Dominique Delafon, a 28-year-old Grenoble lawyer and crack skier, studied 300 cases involving ski accidents for his doctoral thesis and has just published Ski, Law and Liability.
"I discovered that from the beginning of skiing until around 1960," says Delafon, "the courts felt anyone who went skiing accepted the risks. Very rarely did judges convict a skier for bumping into another skier." One judge referred to crowded skiing conditions as "the most amiable of anarchies."
All that has been reversed in the past decade, Delafon says. French courts have decided that the skier higher up on the slope has a responsibility to avoid a skier lower down. They take into consideration such questions as whether a skier was tackling a slope beyond his competence, and so on. All French cops can do at the moment is take notes and interview eyewitnesses but, adds Delafon, "The day gendarmes are permitted to give skiers tickets, there's going to be trouble on French slopes.
"In five or ten years," he concluded, "there will be so many skiers on the piste that we'll have to have a ski traffic code. And how can you enforce it without gendarmes?"
ONE HIT, PLENTY ERRORS
An inquiring reporter for The Barringtonian, a student publication of Barrington (R.I.) College, circulated among girl students on campus asking questions about baseball. Answers were enlightening:
Q. What is a balk?
A. The ball taps the bat.
Q. What is the cleanup man?
A. He sweeps the plate.
Q. What is a passed ball?
A. In the outfield when the ball goes over your head.
Q. What is the infield fly rule?
A. Catcher has to catch a ball hit into the infield.
Q. What is a full count?
A. The attendance in the stadium.
Q. Who won the World Series last year?
And, by George (Herman Ruth, that is), a whopping 43% of the girls knew it was the Mets.
SISTERSVILLE BLOWS ITS MIND
The fourth annual Tootenanny, which is a kind of exercise in the appreciation of steam whistles, will be held this year on June 6 at Sistersville, W. Va., under auspices of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen and with the cooperation of Union Carbide's Sistersville plant, which will supply the steam. Some whistles require 80 to 300 pounds of pressure.
The whistles come from collectors and museums around the country. Last year's whistle blow attracted more than 500 fans from 19 states and Canada. Largest whistle ever blown at a Tootenanny once adorned the Sprague, the biggest towboat ever to operate on the Western River system. The Sprague's whistle weighs 480 pounds, and the boat itself was 285 feet long and 65 feet wide. The Lunkenheimer Company of Cincinnati, which still makes steam whistles, promises to send one this year that will "strip the leaves from trees a half mile away."
One of the more prominent collectors, John Hedge of Plainview, Texas, has agreed to bring 15 whistles, 12 of them from riverboats and ships, the rest from locomotives. One of his prizes is a whistle from a locomotive used to help build the Panama Canal. Another, a mill whistle from Greenwood, Miss., was so loud that townspeople demanded it be silenced.
TAX AND DESTROY
The Canadian government has made public some proposals dealing with tax reforms, among them a government crackdown on expense-account entertainment. The owners of the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs thereupon warned a startled Canadian Senate committee that such a crackdown could destroy the two Canadian-based members of the National Hockey League. To deny entertainment expenses as an income-tax deduction for businesses, they observed, would cut drastically into season-ticket sales, reduce profits and probably force the clubs to sell out to U.S. interests.
In fact, said George Mara, president of Maple Leaf Gardens, Ltd. (Toronto), not just NHL hockey but organized amateur hockey as well would disappear.
Season-ticket purchases by corporations, Mara said, account for 55% of Gardens revenue, or $2,440,000. Season tickets to an eight-seat box in the Gardens cost $6,000.
J. D. Molson, president of Canadian Arena Co. of Montreal, owner of the Forum and the Canadiens, said all but 1,000 of the Forum's 16,500 seats are held by season subscribers.
"On balance," he said, "it would seem to be questionable whether equity would really be served if hockey, in particular, and the sports industry, in general, were destroyed."
SERMON ON THE THAMES
Commander Gerald Forsberg, who keeps an eye on such matters, reports in The Swimming Times, a British publication, that 15 persons swam the English Channel last year, then adds:
"Be warned! The London School of Physics team insisted on swimming in May. Water 48°F. First man completed his hour—on which congratulations. Second man swam for 47 minutes and collapsed. Tragedy averted by the official observer (Peter Frayne) going overboard fully booted and spurred. Swim was to raise money for unmarried mothers. Note that it was not successful. Virtue still remains the best course—as it ever will be."
THE FOXBORO PATRIOTS?!?
The pretty little town of Foxboro, Mass. clearly reveals its colonial background. At its center is an oval-shaped common, complete with bandstand. There is a graveyard in front of the Historical Society's building.
Foxboro held a town meeting the other night. As a result, it is now on its way to becoming the smallest town in the National Football League, as home of the Boston Patriots, who have been trying frantically to find a stadium site in Boston while making do with totally inadequate Fenway Park and Boston College's Alumni Field. Green Bay's population is 84,000, Foxboro's 14,800.
E. M. Loew, Boston theater owner and president of a harness track (Bay State Raceway) that will abut the new stadium, donated a 30-acre site for the Patriots' home-to-be.
The town meeting, called when Billy Sullivan, Patriot president, declared that Foxboro was his first choice, attracted 1,936 of the town's 5,300 registered voters, plus 400 nonvoters. Previous high for a town meeting: 900. The crowd filled the high school gym and overflowed into the auditorium and cafeteria. It cheered all favorable speeches, scarcely listened to anything else.
On the favorable side was the fact that Loew's land had been assessed at $6,000, taxed at $252 yearly. The Patriots, would give Foxboro 25¢ for each ticket sold, with a minimum of $25,000 yearly up to a maximum of $100,000. New England Yankees understand that kind of proposition.
One rather prim-looking woman did caution against "this glitter that looks like gold" and a white-haired gentleman in dark plaid shirt and tie warned that the stadium might someday be used for jazz festivals, "making it a hippie haven." But that was about all. The stadium carried, 1,852 to 84.
Foxboro looks like a good choice for a site. It is just a 30-minute drive from Boston, 25 minutes from Providence, and 40 from Worcester. The bowl-shaped stadium will seat 57,000, have artificial turf, be used for football only and might be ready for the 1971 season. Foxboro will be ready, too.
THEY SAID IT
•Bill Veeck, president of New England's Suffolk Downs racetrack, on his ill-fated attempt to admit minors to the track: "Don't get me wrong. I don't want school kids skipping school and bringing their lunch money to bet. I'd just like them to take a look at what we've got to offer, judge it and if they don't like it, move on to something else—baseball, maybe?"
•Chi Chi Rodriguez, during the first round of the Masters: "I have 13 dependents. All of them have 140 IQ or better except me. I'm under 100 and I support them all."
•Vince Lombardi, coach of the Washington Redskins, asked what he would do if the Women's Liberation Movement made pro football demands for equal treatment: "With today's football, they'd have to be 6'4" and weigh over 260. I don't see any women admitting to that."