STRANGE TALK FROM CALI
If Avery Brundage had his way, the U.S. team would win fewer medals at the Pan-Am Games. We field too many of our top stars, the president of the International Olympic Committee believes.
"It doesn't look good for the U.S. to be collaring three-quarters of the Pan-Am medals," he said at Cali, Colombia, before the games began. "Purely as a personal observer, I don't think this looks good for sports, the Pan-Am Games or the U.S. There has to be some resentment by the other countries."
What Brundage overlooks is that it would be an act of condescension to send second-class material to any international meet. And, according to Arthur Lentz, executive director of the U.S. Olympic Committee, there is already resentment abroad "that we have kissed off the Pan-Am Games with makeshift teams, like basketball or even track, in the past games.
"The Colombian Organizing Committee," he says, "was upset because our swimming squad lacks a number of world-class collegiate stars, particularly from Indiana University, who passed up Cali to prepare for the national AAU outdoor in August."
One of the purposes of sport is the achievement of excellence. Pursuit of the second-rate has no part in it.
THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
There is good in everything in this best of all possible worlds, an optimist would say, and now Candide has found something nice to report about the high incidence of mercury in such game fish as marlin and swordfish. It has begun to discourage the long-liners—mostly Japanese and some Norwegian commercial fishermen—whose technique of fishing has threatened to destroy the sport of big-game fishing (SI, Jan. 31, 1966). Since the big fish have lately become unmarketable for food in some parts of the world the long-liners have reduced their operations.
Frozen black marlin, shipped from Japan to Honolulu, have been returned to Japan by federal authorities. Hawaii's state government has forbidden the use of marlin in fish cakes, though it is considered to be a delicacy.
At the annual Billfish Tournament off Kona, in Hawaii, 45 marlin were caught. They were turned over to the National Marine Fisheries to determine their mercury content. One participant was Harold Biaggini, a member of the MexiCal team, who scoffed at the fish mercury scare as nonsense.
"Someday," he said, "there'll be a man walking down the streets of Los Angeles and he'll drop dead because of a lack of mercury. Mercury is in everything you eat. It doesn't hurt you."
Biaggini is president of one of the largest individually owned mercury mines in the world.
SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES HIM
It is the firm conviction of Steve Young, who once studied for the Catholic priesthood, that he has a golfing "partner" upstairs, and he has the scores to prove it. Out on the course, Young has frequent talks with Him, mostly to complain about his game.
At Denver's Meadow Hills Country Club a while back, Young put together the most extraordinary nine holes of golf ever played over a par-36 stretch by an amateur in the U.S. The 27 strokes he took on the front nine included a double eagle, two eagles, two birdies, four pars and just nine putts, two of them wasted on one hole. The 27 has been bettered only twice, both times outside the U.S. Peter Butler once carded a 26 at Old Course in Sunnydale, England. Closer to home, Max Bandury shot a 26 at Woodstock Golf Club in Woodstock, Ontario. In 1962 Homero Blancas, then an amateur, shot a 27-28—55—on a par-70 course in Longview, Texas. The only professional golfer to equal the feat in America is Mike Souchak, playing in the 1960 Texas Open. His 27, however, like Blancas', was over a par-35 nine. Meadow Hills is the longest course in Colorado. It carries a PGA rating of 71.9 over its 7,183-yard championship course. Young shot from the white tees, but even these stretch over 6,766 yards.
"The Lord and I have long talks out there on the course," Young said, "and I knew He was doing everything possible to help me out there on that front nine."
He double-bogeyed on No. 10 but finished with an 18-hole score of 63, nine under par.
There is a 50-year-old poker sharpie operating in Buena Park, Calif. He is so good that if you play his variation of the game you'll lose 95% of your bets.
The sharpie is a Japanese koi, which is a kind of carp, and he learned the game from D. Leon Smith, a psychologist who has two years at the University of Texas toward his Ph.D. in learning theory. "If we play 100 hands," says Smith, "Old Gold wins 95."
Old Gold's estimated age is 50, and he could live to be 70. Smith paid $700 for him two years ago, which is not too unusual a price. Some carp fanciers pay as much as $95 per inch for good breeders. A Tokyo champion—whatever that means—sold for $50,000 this year, Smith said, and he couldn't even play blackjack.
Out of a deck containing all the face cards plus the aces and 10s, Old Gold is given first pick. There is always an ace or a 10 among the first three cards. Almost invariably, he goes for the ace and continues thereafter to pick the cards most likely to fill out a winning hand.
"It's a discrimination learning cycle," Smith explains. "It's condition teaching. We started out with two cards. Let's say they were the ace and king. If he picked the king he got nothing. If he picked the ace he got a morsel of plain ordinary goldfish food."
Smith's tests have convinced him that a carp's intelligence is equal to that of a dog. But how many dogs have you seen lately who were big winners at poker?
TRUTH IN MARKETING
It has long been known that when a boxing promoter puts out those "Tale of the Tape" figures, listing such factors as reach, biceps circumference and the like, he is relying more on the imagination of his press agent than on a measuring tape. Now comes Paul Wiggin, line coach of the San Francisco 49ers, to scoff at the weights listed for linemen in pro football programs.
"All these years," he said, "I believed the weights listed for outstanding linemen, and then I found out they were farfetched.
"Carl Eller weighs only 245, Alan Page 238, Deacon Jones 238, Claude Humphrey 240. Mobility and quickness are more important than a lot of weight."
MELANCHOLIA FROM DENMARK
It's been a dismal summer for Atlantic salmon fishing on the Restigouche, that famed Canadian river to which sportsmen have been flocking for generations. Canadian government fisheries biologists estimate that by the time the season ends on Aug. 31, the river will have yielded only about 800 fish. A few years ago catches of 5,000 and 6,000 salmon were not uncommon. Some fishing lodges have already given up and closed for the season.
There is little doubt as to what has brought about the salmon scarcity (SI, Dec. 15, 1969): a booming commercial fishery which threatens not only the Restigouche but salmon streams on both sides of the Atlantic. Particularly devastated is the high-seas fishery off Greenland, where commercial fishermen, mostly Danes and Greenlanders, are taking vast catches. Canadian biologists say that as much as half of the Restigouche salmon are being taken on the high seas. At a meeting of the 15-member International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries, the Canadians sought to have the Danes reduce their catch by 20%, but the motion failed to get a necessary two-thirds agreement. Subsequently the Danes did agree to hold their catch to the 1969 level. But since that catch amounted to 600 metric tons of salmon (1,320,000 pounds), the Canadians were left less than satisfied.
"All along people have thought there was no end to the salmon in the ocean," said a distressed Restigouche lodge operator. "Now we're finding out that there's an end to everything, including salmon."
A MODEST PROPOSAL
Presidents of the eight colleges and universities of the Big Sky Athletic Conference met recently at the University of Montana to consider ways of financing athletics with the more limited resources they now have.
They decided to reduce from 44 to 40 the number of varsity football players that conference teams can suit up for out-of-town games and to limit the number of players for home games to 50. They also voted to reduce from 12 to 10 the number of varsity basketball players who can suit up for road games and limit to 15 the number for home games.
Athletes' grants-in-aid also would be reduced to 98 from the present 110. No more than 58 of these can be in football and 15 in basketball. Other sports are limited to a total of 25 grants-in-aid. And this fall the presidents will give serious consideration to the costs of recruiting athletes within the conference and how those costs can be reduced.
The Big Sky is not the only conference counting its pennies these days. Charlie McClendon, Louisiana State football coach, and Darrell Royal of Texas have an idea they think might help some schools. They believe that the NCAA should divide its membership into big schools and smaller ones and let each group mind its own store.
One further thought on the subject: why shouldn't professional football and basketball teams, which long have used the colleges as minor league trainers of professional material, be induced to kick in to a college's sports program when they draft one of its players?
Its position in West Germany's Federal League had fallen so low that the Offenbach Kickers soccer team was threatened with expulsion from the league. So, to oblige—and for a consideration—players on other teams agreed to help the Kickers out. They not only lost to Offenbach by arrangement, they played extra hard against Offenbach rivals.
The result is that three players have been suspended—two of them for life, one for 10 years. The latter is of such an age that a 10-year suspension is equivalent to life. None of the teams in the 140 countries represented in the World Soccer Association will be permitted to hire them.
Soccer is rugged. So are its commissioners.
Elsewhere the fading fad is for Polish or Italian jokes, but in Texas the genre almost always has to do with Texas A&M students. So there's the one about the Aggie preparing for a fishing trip who went into a bait shop and was told he could purchase all the worms he wanted for $1.
"Great," the Aggie said. "Gimme two bucks' worth."
When the New Orleans Saints opened training, one of the first rules laid down by Coach J. B. Roberts was that any player reporting for a meal in sandals or without socks would be fined $1,000.
So far, no player has checked to see if he means it.
THEY SAID IT
•Maurice H. Stans, Secretary of Commerce, on exempting sports measurements from his proposal to put the U.S. on the metric system: "I don't think you would ever hear a sports announcer say, The Washington Redskins have the ball third down and 9.144 meters to go.' "
•Virgil Carter, Cincinnati Bengal quarterback, who broke in with the Chicago Bears, explaining the complicated play-calling method of George Halas: "The quarterback called almost everything for almost every player on every play. For example, I'd call 'Split near North Len, fake 25, M Hunch, pass zip nine M, Grace, post, fake angle Z.' All it is, really, is a bootleg by the quarterback who throws the ball to the end."