Someone asked a yippie what he thought of the Indianapolis 500 and the yippie said, "They're all innocent."
HOW BIG IS BIG?
The poor old Denver Rockets of the American Basketball Association (SCORECARD, Sept. 28 and Oct. 19) keep having trouble. Now Spencer Haywood, first of the undergraduate basketball stars Denver signed out of college before their eligibility was up, has been fined and suspended by the club. Haywood's trouble is a disinclination to play (he missed three practices and one game last week before he was suspended), brought about to some extent by a broken finger incurred during the exhibition season and to a greater extent by disenchantment with the six-year contract he signed last year for a total of $1.9 million. That figure supposedly included all elements of his contract, of course; his actual salary was only $35,000, although it was to escalate to $75,000.
That was last year. This year Haywood apparently decided that he was not sure he was getting all that he had been promised and asked that his contract be renegotiated. Ben Gibson, a Denver banker who was Haywood's legal guardian before the player reached his 21st birthday last April, said, "I'm sure some other players have bugged him about not being treated right. They tell him they're getting $85,000 a year, and he wonders why he isn't. Of course, these guys are always lying but Spencer doesn't know this. With that injury, I guess he had nothing else to do but listen to these ding-a-lings and it began to fester. He's a good kid, but now he feels people aren't treating him right and there are plenty of guys around who want him to believe that."
Including, perhaps, the rival NBA, where money seems to be no object. Here is a rundown on the Philadelphia 76ers' salaries ("some precise, some estimated from reliable information"), as published a couple of weeks ago in the Philadelphia Bulletin:
Billy Cunningham, $235,000
Archie Clark, $125,000
Luke Jackson, $100,000
Hal Greer, $100,000
Bailey Howell, $62,500
Wally Jones, $40,000
Jim Washington, $30,000
Mat Guokas (since traded), $30,000
Bud Ogden, Dave Scholz, Dennis Awtrey, Al Henry (combined), $110,000
Total: $832,500, or almost $70,000 a man.
Some of these figures certainly must include benefits beyond basic salaries. Even so, somebody is kidding somebody, either in Philadelphia or Denver.
HUNT FOR THE BEST
Recruiting football players is a subtle art. Among the things that Mississippi State likes to let its prospects know about is its athletic dormitory, which includes a game and fish cleaning room, complete with "stainless steel sink and disposal can in a Formica-covered counter."
Professional football's No. 1 minor league, the Atlantic Coast Football League, is in deep financial trouble and may have difficulty finishing the season. The Orlando Panthers (which tried to revive interest early this season by hiring Pat Palinkas, the lady placekick holder) are near the bottom of the barrel; the Panthers agreed to play last Saturday only because the gate receipts might be enough to pay their salaries. The Jersey Jays have already been taken over by the league. The Richmond Saints postponed a game because of "injuries and other problems," even though there were enough players on hand to play. The "other problems" were not spelled out, but only 1,500 had attended Richmond's game a week earlier.
Commissioner Cosmo Iacovazzi, uncle of the former Princeton All-America, insisted last week that reports of the league's imminent demise were without foundation. Yet every team is losing money. Most used to receive both players and money from NFL teams, but the NFL withdrew its financial support this season. Iacovazzi has talked with Pete Rozelle in the hopes of establishing a new working agreement, but unless the NFL decides a minor affiliate is needed, there will be no Atlantic Coast Football League in 1971.
ALL YOU NEED TO WIN
Some of the magic of coaching is clearly delineated in a report from Portugal, where a chap named Joaquim Meirim is trying to revolutionize traditional training concepts in soccer. Meirim took over a team called Belenenses, which finished seventh last year, fired the team's two acknowledged stars and began training a new group of 25 men on a team-spirit, everybody-is-equal basis. Nude bathing, mud massages and tree chopping were emphasized, and Portuguese sports pages had fun running photos of Belenenses players chopping down eucalyptus trees and being massaged in mud pools in their free moments away from au naturel swimming. "I have them swim naked," explained Meirim, "to help them achieve a complete state of relaxation and get rid of inner psychological conflicts." The team won its opening game impressively, but was only so-so in an exhibition game the coach scheduled for his players the very next day in order to "measure their capacity under strain." Nevertheless, one goal of this modern approach appears to have been reached early: fans are filling the stadium to see Meirim's wonders in action. Which moved a veteran, cynical Belenenses fan to say, "That's exactly what we want from Meirim: money. Then we can buy some really good players and hire a new coach."
SOURCES OF SUPPLY
The extravagant salaries in pro basketball and the death struggles of minor league football seem related to two other bits of information. One concerns the University of Miami, where a committee has recommended that Miami drop basketball after the 1970-71 season. The reason? It's too expensive. The school does not have a field house and the team does not draw in arenas around Miami (only 94 students showed up at one game last year).
The second concerns the National Hockey League, which will distribute more than $1 million to amateur hockey this year in recompense for amateur players that NHL clubs drafted last June. The NHL has a complex system of payments that can reach a maximum of $10,000 for each player drafted. Amateur hockey in Canada is, of course, a widespread activity that depends to a great extent on the financial support it receives from the professionals, who in turn depend on the amateurs for a constant flow of young players. Football and basketball and—to a lesser extent—baseball also depend on amateur organizations for their player supply—if you can call big-time collegiate sports amateur. Yet when the professionals draft a player, they pay nothing to the college that finds and develops him.
With college athletics in an increasing financial bind, perhaps it is time for the other big professional sports to adopt a system similar to hockey's, maybe something as simple as funding one scholarship for each draft choice. It never hurts to take care of a golden goose.
TEST FOR THE BEST
John Jacobs, trainer of Personality, who won the 1970 Preakness, and High Echelon, who won the 1970 Belmont, recently proposed a radical change in the qualifications for horses entered in the Kentucky Derby. Right now any thoroughbred can be nominated for the race and, assuming that the rather substantial series of nomination fees are paid, can run for the roses. As a result the fields are usually large, sometimes dangerously so. "Some people put their horses in just to see their colors in the Derby," says Jacobs. "We're producing 25,000 foals a year now, and it's conceivable that in another 15 or 20 years we might be producing 50,000. It could reach the stage where 40 or 50 horses would be ready to enter the Derby."
Jacobs thinks the field should be limited to no more than 14 and that these should be top horses. First, he would eliminate all who have never won a race. Then he would eliminate those who have not won two races and then those who have not placed in a stakes race with a value of $20,000 or more. If the field were still too bulky, he would continue to eliminate horses step by step until only winners of at least one $100,000 race remained.
The trainer argues that such an elimination process is only logical. "Can you imagine," he asks, "a U.S. Open or an Indianapolis 500 if the field were opened to anyone who wanted to enter?"
Those wishing to support or rebut Mr. Jacobs can begin by mentioning Brokers Tip and Sir Barton. Both were maidens when they started in the Derby; both won it. For Brokers Tip, it was the only victory in an otherwise undistinguished career. For Sir Barton, it was an essential step on his way to becoming America's first Triple Crown winner.
Utah State's football team had turned in its gear after a rather dismal 1969 season and Coach Chuck Mills felt troubled, looking back at the 3-7 record. More than that, he was disturbed because football was becoming more and more embroiled in social problems and politics. Utah State's football program had been involved in the problems to the point where it might have cost the Aggies a loss or two. But even his team's plight was of less concern to Mills than the criticism his favorite sport was receiving from the mouths of athletes and outsiders alike. Mills was anxious to develop something to impress on his players that it was a privilege to get an education through the American sport of football. He designed a red, white and blue American flag decal for Aggie helmets. He had the decals produced himself, and before the first home game, without the players' knowledge, he stuck one on each playing helmet. Mills then told his troops: "This decal means football is the great American game. It is a game where you sacrifice, respect each other and yourself, work together regardless of backgrounds and political, social or religious beliefs for a common goal; suffer, cry, laugh, wonder...together. Football is a microform of the American Adventure. Too many individuals, including athletes, are speaking against this sport and professing to speak for all athletes. Actually, they speak only for themselves. And there have always been talented athletes who would not pay a price or see the value of being a team man." Mills also read a prayer to his players. It said: "Our Lord, we thank You for the body, mind and spirit to play this game. We ask Your help to understand, respect and love our fellow man. We ask You to keep in Your care all who play this game."
THERE'S ALWAYS HAMBURGER
Dr. Keith Jolles of Birmingham, England spends a fair amount of time analyzing the psyches and sexual drives of motorists (pronounced "mertrists" in England). He says, "The average American driver is very much an unimaginative, conditioned type. He displays little competitive spirit. He regards his car as an extension of his home. It is a mobile room." What about Italy, land of romance and exotic automobiles? "Italians don't mix sex with motoring," Dr. Jolles says. "They are more interested in engine power." And Great Britain? Ah. The British driver is best at appreciating both his motor and what it can do to win a lady. But he goes overboard. "The Englishman," says the doctor, "spends so much money on his car that he cannot afford, generally, a decent meal for his girl or a fancy flat."
THEY SAID IT
•Dave McNally, Baltimore Orioles' pitcher, who has been a 20-game winner for three straight seasons: "One of these years I may ask for $100,000—and that might be next January."
•Bob Ferry, Baltimore Bullet assistant basketball coach, referring to the heating pad used by Earl Monroe and the heat lamp used by Eddie Miles to aid their sore knees: "This is the only club in the league that plugs itself in."
•Giacomo Agostini, world motorcycle champion and Italian idol, who is handsome and a bachelor: "I often receive calls at the most impossible hours from women who just want to let me hear the sound of a kiss."