MR. MERGER GOES TO WASHINGTON
Now that the National and American Basketball Associations have decided to trust each other and work together, the only hurdle to complete merger is Congress, which must pass an antitrust waiver. It will take a lot of backscratching and elbowing, but there are several good reasons why Congress can be expected to grant such a dispensation in time for a common draft next spring.
First, there is the matter of precedent. The NFL got its waiver, and baseball has Supreme Court immunity. Can anyone seriously doubt that basketball is entitled to the same sort of protection? Besides, Congress is going to get a lot of heat to permit a merger from—of all places—the colleges. If peace comes to pro basketball, raids on college teams will end.
Supposedly, the NBA Players Association is hell-bent to halt the merger, but in fact many of the players are closet doves. "Look, we don't want to stop the merger," one player rep says. "We just want to use it to get concessions." A more liberal option/reserve clause and better pensions are what the players really want out of this.
Finally, the NBA-ABA owners have already talked to the man who is obviously the best candidate to plead their case in Washington, Lawyer Thomas Kuchel, the former Senator from California and Republican minority whip. If Kuchel does associate himself with the merger effort, it is difficult to imagine his former colleagues turning him down. He is respected on both sides of the aisle, and it is very shrewd of the NBA-ABA to make him their first draft choice.
THE BETTER HALF
Watson T. Yoshimoto, president of the Oahu Construction Company in Honolulu, is one of 35 men under federal indictment in California for hunting desert bighorn sheep, a legally protected vanishing species.
In July a fashion show will be held in Honolulu as a benefit for the Hawaiian Humane Society. It has been arranged by a member of the board of the society, Mrs. Watson T. Yoshimoto.
TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE
Because their territories overlap and they compete directly for players and spectators, the Big Eight and Missouri Valley Conference are bitter basketball rivals. When Maury John, the Drake University coach, resigned recently to accept the head coaching job at Iowa State, Drake's president, Dr. Paul Sharp, talked about presenting John with an alarm clock "to keep him awake while sitting on the bench at those dull Big Eight games." Those words should interest the athletic department at Oklahoma, in the Big Eight. Dr. Sharp has just been named president of Oklahoma.
An NCAA survey has revealed that the leading jock school in the country, the only one that offers 21 different undergraduate sports, is that famous old football factory, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
CHALLENGE TO EXCELLENCE
One of the most unfair and archaic systems in sport appears to be on its way out. The informed consensus is that when the Davis Cup nations meet in London on July 1 they will at last vote to abolish the Challenge Round, which has been the order of the cup since 1902. The Challenge Round permits the defending champion to sit out the months of arduous competition that the other tennis nations must endure—then come out of hibernation long enough only to defend its title against the worn and weary survivor. Also, the defender (presently the U.S.) always earns the right to play the Challenge Round at home. It is no wonder that only four nations have ever won the cup and only the U.S. or Australia since 1937.
Sadly, the Davis Cup committee, studying other possible changes in the rules, is not disposed to recommend that the ban on contract professionals be overturned. With the cup pooh-bahs, a contract professional is one who signs a contract with Lamar Hunt, and these include most of the best players in the world and all of the great Australians—Laver, Newcombe, Rosewall, Roche, Emerson, Stolle. Australia is the champion tennis nation in the world but is essentially disenfranchised in the Davis Cup. The Aussie pickup team of leftovers has already been eliminated this year by Japan. While the abolishment of the Challenge Round is a step forward, the sad truth is that the Davis Cup will remain in the international bush leagues until it accepts the best players in the world.
FUNNY, YOU DON'T LOOK DUCK
In a society dominated by whites, even our athletic mascots have appeared to be white—that is, all the cute little lions, bears, wildcats, hawks. With blacks being accepted as quarterbacks, coaches and cheerleaders, about the last barrier for the blacks in athletics to crash was the mascot barrier.
In the last few years at the University of Oregon several teams have had their own symbol, all featuring the school's Disneylike duck mascot. This spring the members of the track team, white and black, ordered their duck in black, with a very snappy Afro. Now everybody can sing that old campfire ditty this way: "Be kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck may be somebody's soul brother."
...IS WHAT YOU GET
Golfers have often taken a cavalier attitude toward the tournaments that provide them with their handsome livelihood. Players have their names removed from so-called "commitment" lists willy-nilly; quitting when things go bad—euphemistically known as "withdrawing"—is more or less accepted behavior. When Billy Casper and Lee Trevino pulled out of the recent Greater New Orleans Open, it left the $125,000 tournament without a single strong drawing card, but with the guarantee of a $25,000 first prize.
Tournament sponsors have long railed at this ridiculous situation, but now one New Orleans official, Henry Thomas, a past president of the American Golf Sponsors Association, is ready to add some bite to the bark. Essentially, he is ready to tell the PGA that, as Flip Wilson says, what you see is what you get. If you don't produce Palmer-Nicklaus, you don't get Palmer-Nicklaus prize money. "It's really very simple," Thomas says. "We sign a contract guaranteeing the PGA a purse of $125,000. They sign the same contract guaranteeing us a representative field." That is, a $125,000 field.
For an average tournament, Thomas thinks it should work this way: a $75,000 base pot and a purse increase of $5,000 for every one of the top five participating money winners from the previous year, increased by $2,500 for each of the second five, and $1,000 for each of the next 20. A more sophisticated arrangement would be to set the biggest bounties on the biggest drawing cards, whatever their formal money-winning rank happens to be, but the general idea is fascinating.
Joe Frazier and the Knockouts, with a $5,000 guarantee and another $5,000 in expenses, played a date last week at Winterland, an auditorium in the heart of the San Francisco black community. Less than 100 people paid their way in to see the heavyweight champ sing and, more embarrassing even than that, only eight of 30 people with free passes cared enough to come.
The Winterland management wanted to cancel the show, but Frazier refused, so then Winterland canceled its scheduled May 22 appearance of Muhammad Ali—on the questionable theory that if the winner can't draw, then certainly the loser can't. Incidentally, 2,000 of the 37,000 shares in Cloverlay, the management company that steers Frazier, are presently up for sale.
BALTIMORE GOES TOPLESS
May Day ended what must be a record municipal streak. On that day, for the first time in more than a year—370 days—Baltimoreans awoke without at least one of their three major league teams in first place. When the Orioles lost to Kansas City and fell to second, it marked the first time since April 26, 1970 that either the Bullets, Colts or Orioles were not leading their division. Baltimore's other major league entry, Blaze Starr, still remains at the top of her league.
NEW KNEES NEWS
Ashley Montagu, the famous anthropologist, noted last week in a speech that, except for brute strength, "the female of the human species is naturally superior to the male in all respects whatever." He further suggested that nowadays, in a sedentary, cerebral world, brute strength is no more than "a nuisance" anyway.
The observation is particularly relevant because a German surgical specialist, Professor Franz Baumgartl, estimates that better than a third of all people do not have knees strong enough to support their bulk in sports, or even in shop work. It is implicit from his study that U.S. pro teams could immediately improve their scouting assessments by a full 33% merely by requiring careful knee examinations of prospects—especially those who are being paid at the rate of about $50,000 a knee in bonus money.
Furthermore, a Texas neurosurgeon, Dr. Harry W. Slade, says that misplaced male pride is one of the big problems with knees—and no, this has nothing to do with hot pants. Dr. Slade points out that when players are injured they always try to hobble off the field to show how brave they are. In the process, he says, many of them turn a minor knee injury into a major one. "A mandatory stretcher rule would remove those hangups," he recommends. "It would just become the routine thing. If a player is hurt, he's carried away on a stretcher."
At the conclusion of the recent St. Petersburg, Florida-to-Isla Mujeres, Mexico yacht race, spectators observed Huey Long's magnificent 73' Oudine II with awe. A crewman explained that there was even a sauna bath aboard the ketch. "You have to be worth at least a million to be able to use it," the sailor said.
Said a reporter: "I guess that makes me per sauna non grata."
Things have been very lively lately in the animal world. For one thing, it turns out that Canonero II, the Kentucky Derby winner, is not named after a racehorse, Canonero I, but after a certain type of folksinging group that goes by that name in Venezuela.
Taking advantage of the new diplomatic thaw with China, the Cincinnati zoo has written Chou En-lai in an effort to obtain the first panda bear in the U.S. since 1953. Although Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas might offer a rebuttal, Ed Maruska, director of the zoo, maintains that a giant panda would have an "excellent" chance of surviving in Cincinnati.
Closed-circuit TV of live bullfights featuring El Cordobés have been scheduled for about 50 theaters in the U.S. on June 13, but the TV corrida has been knocked out of San Francisco and San Jose by efforts of the local ASPCA.
Meanwhile, Cutty Sark Scotch has offered a $2,400,000 bounty for the capture—alive and unharmed—of a Loch Ness monster. In the event of a tie, the behemoth with the earliest postmark will win.
That's All, Folks.
THEY SAID IT
•E. B. Benjamin, breeder of Canonero II, on the triumph of the colt he sold to a Venezuelan for a mere $1,200: "It was just like National Velvet—but no Liz Taylor."
•Joe DiMaggio at Willie Mays' 40th birthday party: "Of course Willie will make the Hall of Fame, but I don't know if I'll be around to see it. You know, the rules require a five-year wait after retirement to become eligible, and who knows when this man will ever retire?"
•Bones McKinney, CBS commentator, watching two basketball teams trade intentional fouls: "It reminds me of the little girl who changed a dollar in one store, then changed it back into a bill in another. Somebody got around to asking her what she was doing, and she said, 'Well, someone is finally going to make a mistake if I keep this up, and it won't be me.' "