When Walter J. Hickel was appointed Secretary of the Interior, there was widespread dismay among conservationists who assumed he would be prone to yield to the wishes of the country's oil and industrial interests. Instead, in two years in Washington he has proved to be an impressive and resolute figure. Among his accomplishments: at his insistence, the Government has taken unprecedented steps to regulate offshore oil drilling and to punish the offenders who pollute. But the Secretary has also aroused opposition in and out of Government with his outspoken comments, and his name is on the list of Cabinet members likely to be replaced Jan. 1. Wally won't go without a fight, but survival is a tough business. How does that endangered-species list go again—the whooping crane, the black-footed ferret, the Walter J. Hickel....
Jerry Colangelo, the energetic young manager of the Phoenix Suns, is worried about team standings in the NBA. He noted last week that his club had a 10-9 record and, at the moment, was in last place in the league's Midwest Division. He had a game scheduled that night with the Baltimore Bullets, who at 11-8, only one game better than the Suns, were in first place in the Central Division—and by 4½ games. Some other things caught Colangelo's attention: the Midwest Division had an overall record of 45-23, while the Central Division was 22-51. The Atlantic Division was 41-34. Only the Pacific Division was at a theoretically normal 45-45.
Armed with these figures, Colangelo went to a meeting of the NBA's Board of Governors and suggested that the eight-team postseason playoff be altered. Right now, the first-and second-place teams in each division qualify for the playoffs. Colangelo agreed that the division champions should go into the playoffs regardless of their won-lost records, but he argued that the other four places should be filled by the four teams with the best winning percentages among the also-rans, regardless of division. His suggestion was briskly rejected.
"I think the owners should have rectified the situation," Colangelo said later. "It is obvious that realignment isn't working out. There's no balance of power at all. One team can play .375 ball and get into the playoffs, and another can be over .500 and not make it."
WHATCHA DOIN', FELLAS?
Gilbert and Jim Hagford were hunting in the Minnesota woods when they heard a cowbell clanking. They patiently waited for Old Bossy to appear, but what came through the brush was a deer, wearing a cowbell fastened to a bright orange ribbon. Realizing the deer was a pet, they left it alone. But the deer did not want to be left alone. When the brothers Hagford moved off, it ambled along after them, its bell ringing away.
"It got to be a nuisance," Gilbert said. "We couldn't hunt deer. We never even saw any other deer. Not much chance of that with this dingaling around."
OUT OF THE MOUTH
Howard Cosell was loose in Dallas last week, where he fielded questions at an I Hate Howard luncheon. After receiving a standing ovation, Cosell gave his usual wishy-washy answers.
How did he rate Bud Wilkinson and Darrell Royal?
"Of the two, Darrell is less boring."
Is Johnny Unitas over the hill?
"Yes, and he knows it."
How good are the New York Giants?
"They have the second easiest schedule in the NFL. They have such stars as Matt Hazeltine, a 37-year-old linebacker coming out of two years' retirement."
What do you think of the Heisman Trophy contest?
"A palpable fraud."
Would the Dallas Cowboys be better if they replaced Tom Landry as coach?
"I'm convinced that in pro football, as we know it today, the coach is not that important."
GRAND OLD GAME
Here is a little more detail about the decor of the new Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia (SCORECARD, July 27), which is surely going to open in 1971. When a Phillie player hits a home run a 15-foot figure called Philadelphia Phil, dressed in Revolutionary War garb, will swing a baseball bat against a 20-foot replica of the Liberty Bell. The clapper hanging from the bell will strike, a bong will resound over the public-address system and a crack will appear in the bell. Several feet to the right, a second 15-foot figure, this one a Revolutionary lady called Philadelphia Phyllis, will pull a lanyard on a cannon aimed toward right field. Noise, smoke and flashes will come from the cannon and an explosion will appear on the huge message board in right. A Colonial flag will unfurl between Phil and Phyllis. Beyond the center-field fence a fountain will spurt 30 feet into the air. A picture of the player who hit the homer will appear on the message board, and the P.A. system will blare The Star and Stripes Forever.
That's for a home run. A triple with the bases loaded will pass unnoticed.
In this era of extreme praise and extreme criticism for football, it is refreshing to hear the reasoned pros and cons of Tim Oesterling, UCLA's 260-pound defensive left tackle, as abridged from The UCLA Monthly. "One day I was in the cafeteria with some of the other players getting a Coke," says Oesterling, "when some kid said, 'What are you guys, some kind of animals or something?' That really upset me, because that's the stereotyped way a lot of people think of football players. About the only thing some people will ask me is, 'How is the team going to do next Saturday?' or 'Will so-and-so be ready for the such-and-such game?' I figure there are two reasons for this. People want to confine the discussion to what they assume is the scope of my consciousness, but they also want to know what it's like to be a football player. Football, you see, acts as a catharsis for the masses. All it is is a relatively civilized Circus Maximus."
Oesterling, an outstanding high school player, dropped out of football for a time in college. "During one game as a freshman," he says, "I discovered I had a real desire to kill the man across from me. That's just not my style of morality, so I decided to get out. I go along with the idea of a natural ego drive to compete, but I can't agree with the stab-your-buddy-in-the-back-to-get-ahead philosophy. I can't find that hostility—to kill—in me anymore, which will probably hinder me somewhat as a player. But that's the way it goes."
The question of whether or not to try pro football bothers him, too.
"I can get by on my physical qualities—size, strength, a certain amount of quickness—but the denominator is the mind. I'm very tempted to hang it up after this season. At 260, clothes don't fit comfortably, there's no bounce in your step, you seem to age more quickly. I feel that any vestige of youth I have is slipping.
"The problem is, it's very difficult to turn down the bread. And it would get me out of the 9 to 5 hassle, which everybody is trying to avoid these days; nobody wants to be an organization man. We all want to find a niche we can fit into and be creatively productive. The only trouble is, that's awfully hard to do."
The announcement by NBA Commissioner Walter Kennedy that his league had decided to abandon attempts to achieve a merger with the ABA coincided with the receipt of attendance figures for the two leagues. The ABA was heartened by a report that in games played during a seven-day period between Nov. 3 and Nov. 9, the new league had almost achieved parity with the older one: ABA average attendance per game that week was 5,396 compared to the NBA's 6,353. And figures for the entire season to that point showed that three ABA teams (Indiana, Kentucky and Utah) had moved into the Top Ten (of 28 pro clubs) in average attendance.
However, the NBA's New York Knicks had averaged 17,427, the Los Angeles Lakers 12,469 and the Milwaukee Bucks 10,099, whereas the ABA's Indiana Pacers, best in that league, had drawn only 7,900. And while 13 of the top 16 in attendance were from the NBA, the bottom six and eight of the bottom 11 were from the 11-team ABA.
You've come a long way, baby, but you've still got a long way to go.
It was uneconomical and impractical for Northwestern High School of Darlington, Pa. to build a press box at its athletic field. So Northwestern took an old school bus and built a nifty wooden press box (complete with P.A. system) on its roof. When a game is scheduled the bus box is rolled out and parked opposite the 50-yard line. Afterward it is driven off and stored away till next time.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has approved a $16 million bond issue for the improvement of Candlestick Park, the oldest young stadium in the country. The reported reason for the improvements is to accommodate the San Francisco 49ers, who are dissatisfied with ancient Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park. The supervisors were apparently impressed by the 49ers' argument that people simply would not attend games at Kezar, and that this was the reason why the 49ers' attendance had fallen off so badly (to about 33,000 a game in 1969). But last year the 49ers lost eight games. This year they have been a first-place team in the NFC's Western Division, and the attendance in dilapidated old Kezar has been rewarding. A capacity crowd of 59,335 watched San Francisco beat Green Bay, and 8,000 more were turned away. And the stadium has long been sold out for the 49ers' game with the Los Angeles Rams this Sunday. Perhaps there is something to the old theory that it is the quality of the play rather than the quality of the stadium that brings folks out to the ball park.
The baseball Giants are against the stadium improvements—not as such, but because of a 50¢ surcharge the city plans to impose on each ticket to help defray the cost. The Giants are having enough trouble drawing fans as it is. They sued the city, claiming the surcharge was a breach of the contract the Giants signed with San Francisco when the club moved west from New York. The Giants lost their case in Superior Court but plan to appeal. Horace Stoneham, owner of the Giants, commented, "We want the public to be aware that we opposed the additional 506 charge. We think now they'll know it's the city's charge, not ours." Asked if he would move the Giants, Stoneham said, "No, I've never thought of moving our club to another city. But I still don't think the Giants' customers should be asked to pay for football improvements."
THEY SAID IT
•Harvey Johnson, director of player personnel for the Buffalo Bills, on a player he drafted who turned out to be a flop: "He had size, speed, agility. He could do it all. But I knew I should never have drafted him when he came out of the dressing room and I saw his mother comb his hair."
•Ermal Allen, Dallas Cowboys assistant, giving a scouting report on the Philadelphia punting game: "Bill Bradley kicks them so high and so short you can't run 'em back. You have to fair-catch every one. Us coaches call that the punt of no return."
•Ni Chih-Chin of Communist China, whose 7'6" high jump is best in the world: "When I read the thoughts of Chairman Mao, I feel I could jump higher than a fireman's ladder."
•Dr. Daniel Hanley, U.S. Olympic team physician, on athletic skills: "By itself, practice does not make perfect. Those of us with a 10-year-old son practicing the trumpet may understand that."
•Bob Plager, blithe spirit of hockey's St. Louis Blues: "My big problem now is that I roomed with Al Arbour. It's not fair that they should make him coach after all I taught him."