SUPER SEVEN WEST
Miami is gone for the moment as a Super Bowl site, and New Orleans is going. Next locale is likely to be Palo Alto, of all places. Stanford's stadium holds 90,000 people, but that's incidental. What is more important to the Super Bowl picture is the plenitude of motel and hotel space (if you're willing to drive a few miles) and the liberal number of places to dine and drink. There is a tax matter to solve, since Stanford, a private institution, gets certain tax advantages which might not hold for a Super Bowl game. And Al Davis, the Oakland Raiders' professional curmudgeon, says he is against the Super Bowl coming into his area. But these are minor problems, apparently. The main thing is: Pete Rozelle wants Palo Alto.
FRUITS OF VICTORY
While everyone is wondering whether the Dallas Cowboys will indeed opt for conformity and unload the sphinxlike Duane Thomas, a much more startling personnel change is likely to come out of Miami. Joe Robbie, the controversial managing general partner of the ascendant Dolphins, has been annoyed by the credit his executive assistant, Joe Thomas, received (SI, Dec. 13, 1971) for the club's remarkably fast climb to Super Bowl status. Thomas, in turn, is unhappy with the entire situation, and in particular with Robbie's attitude. Unless Robbie abruptly reverses his field and, say, substantially increases his assistant's relatively modest salary the odds are Thomas will leave the Dolphins after the NFL draft, which will be Miami's loss and some other club's signal gain.
OPEN AND CLOSED
The Frazier-Daniels heavyweight championship fight created only a minor wave in the ocean of sport, coming as it did the night before the Super Bowl, but one of its more interesting aspects was that it was on home television, plain TV, right there next to All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. First time in five years that a heavyweight championship fight has been on the tube for stay-at-home sports fans.
It may have been a historical moment, a last-fling throwback to the good old days of living-room sports. The future seems more and more apt to be geared to closed-circuit, high-priced theater or cable TV. An interested Congressman, Les Aspin of Wisconsin, recently wrote to the commissioners of all the major sports asking them for their ideas on the prospects for television and sport in the years to come. The answers he received, carefully couched though they were, led him to the feeling that "there will be a mass exodus of sports events from home TV and radio onto closed-circuit TV—where the money is. The lure of fantastic profits from the broadcast of major sports events on closed-circuit television will be too much for sports promoters and owners to resist. From the responses that I have received from the sports commissioners, there is little doubt that they are all seriously exploring...closed-circuit television. The owners are facing the same choice as a compulsive eater would in choosing between a plain cupcake and a rich, gooey chocolate cake. Anyone who thinks the owners will opt to continue with home television because of their concern for the fans, when closed-circuit TV is far more lucrative, is just kidding himself."
FRENCH AND DANISH
Boat shows are big this time of year, with summer sailors in New York, London, Paris and elsewhere prowling around exhibition halls, kicking prows and wondering if, with a refinanced mortgage here and no college tuition bills there, that 42-foot cabin cruiser couldn't somehow be managed.
The French show, held in the Paris suburb of Puteaux, hard by the Seine, was much like boat shows elsewhere, except for its name (Le Salon International de la Navigation de Plaisance), a wonder-winner $64,000 boat from East Germany ("Could a Communist afford it?" an Eastgerm representative was asked. "Yes," was the reply, "if he has the money") and some significant news about the next America's Cup challenge. It seems that France's Baron Marcel Bich, the ballpoint millionaire who sponsored France's last try and who is planning another onslaught in 1974, has enlisted the services of Denmark's Paul Elvstrom, probably the best racing skipper in the world. The boat itself may be the real key, but Elvstrom is a superior nautical locksmith. Together, he and Bich could mount the most serious challenge since the America itself won the original competition off the Isle of Wight more than a century ago.
The International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which usually deals with two-legged swimmers, has announced a competition for four-legged natators. The Dog Paddle Derby, scheduled to be swum sometime in the next month or so, is open only to man's best friends, who will be seeded by weight and breed, if breed can be determined. Entry fees will vary, with dogs who can trace their family trees paying proportionately more. All profits will go to the Humane Society. Television's Ed Mc-Mahon, a big wheel in dog-food commercials, will be invited to serve as "Meat Director."
Finicky swimmers who object to the idea of hairy, incontinent dogs scurrying back and forth in their swimming water will be assured by veterinary and health department officials that there are more short-haired dogs than people and that in water canine manners are impeccable.
In Chicago the phone rang at one of the city's outdoor skating rinks.
Woman on phone: How come you don't have no ice?
Park official: Do you know what the temperature is outside?
Woman: About 40, I guess.
Official: And do you know what the temperature has to be for water to freeze?
Woman: About 32.
Official (exploding): Well, lady, how do you expect us to have ice if the temperature is above 32?
Woman (disgusted): I knew you guys would have an excuse.
SHOW OF THE YEAR
A recent public opinion poll affirmed what everyone has realized for some time now: football is the country's favorite sport. But this preeminence does not mean that other sports no longer exist, which seems to be the burden of some of the comments on football's ascendancy. Another poll released about the same time reported that the World Series remains the single most popular sporting event for Americans, even ahead of the Super Bowl.
This all means nothing more than that the American sports fan's tastes are catholic and that when he is not watching the sport he loves he loves the sport he is watching. This, however, inspires another question. What individual sporting event was the most exciting in 1971? Obviously, Super Six doesn't make it (the Super Bowl and the other bowls are included in the 1971 season's menu). Except for dedicated Cowboy fans and those who relish the superiority of perfection, the Super Bowl was not an outstanding game. Neither were the college bowls. On the other hand, pro football's Miami-Kansas City game (that six-period affair) was a stopper, and so was the 35-31 showdown between Nebraska and Oklahoma in college football. Basketball, a sport that readily lends itself to melodramatics, was fairly drab in its ultimate showdowns, both in college and pro ball. Golf, a somewhat esoteric pastime, had a fine dramatic season, with everybody's everyman, Lee Trevino, taking center stage. So did hockey, where the Montreal Canadiens, coming from nowhere, hung on to upset the supposedly unbeatable Bobby Orr-led Boston Bruins. Horse racing, too, tested the extremes of dramatic license with the unlikely story of Venezuela's Canonero II.
But for all this, staid old baseball produced the best show of the year. The Pittsburgh Pirates' come-from-behind victory over the Baltimore Orioles, with the nonpareil Roberto Clemente providing individual touches of brilliance, was the most exciting sporting spectacle of the year. Which is fine, because it means the ancient national pastime is still alive and kicking. It means that upstart football must stay on its toes. And it means we all look forward with anticipation to what 1972 has in store.
Baseball's lingering hold on the sporting public is evident, too, in the interest displayed in the election of Yogi Berra, Sandy Koufax and Early Wynn to the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. Such subjective recognition is always suspect, of course, but this time the baseball writers have come up with three truly exceptional ballplayers, and it is a harsh critic indeed who can fault any of the trio. Still, one who followed baseball closely 20 years ago, when the Cleveland Indians had the best pitching staff in the game, asks rhetorically, "How did Bob Lemon compare with Wynn?" And the answer has to be, "Lemon was better." How then can Lemon languish among the also-rans while Wynn is swept into Cooperstown?
A more glaring example of inequity is evident in the vote Gil Hodges received. Hodges, an admirable man and a fine manager, was a heady fifth in the balloting, receiving twice as many votes as his contemporary on the old Brooklyn Dodgers, Duke Snider. This is absurd. Hodges was an impeccable fielder and a strong, if erratic, hitter but in his day he was never considered anything more than a good solid ballplayer, whereas the glittering Snider was one-two-three with Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle as the best centerfielder in baseball. For that matter, both Pee Wee Reese and Phil Rizzuto, the finest shortstops of the era, were down in the lists behind Hodges, too.
It makes you wonder sometimes how much the people casting the votes know about the sport.
LIBERATED LOCKER ROOM
Karen Wise of Bethesda, Md. is a 5'5½" junior at Windham College in Vermont. Windham, a rather progressive institution, has about 800 students, half of them men, half women. But it has no sports competition for women, so Karen, a fine athlete, went out for men's basketball—and made the squad. Last week, when Windham lost 83-38 to Castleton State, she got into the game for a few minutes and thus became, as far as can be determined, the first woman ever to play on an NCAA-sanctioned men's basketball team. She had no opportunity to score ("I have a good set shot," Karen says, "but I can't dribble well"), but she did get one rebound.
"There are no problems," says Coach David Parker, a 6'7½" former college player who tried out with the Atlanta Hawks in June 1970. "She works hard in practice. She goes through everything same as the guys. She uses the locker room and shower room with the boys."
Says Karen, "Well, it's just like being in the family. I grew up with two older brothers."
THEY SAID IT
•Harry Toscano, golf pro, asked by an acquaintance how he was playing: "I'm hitting the woods just great, but I'm having a terrible time getting out of them."
•Al Flora, former fight promoter, on the modern fight game: "Everything in the fight game nowadays is a con. It ain't like it used to be, when a fighter shook your hand and said, 'You got my next match,' and you knew you had it. Today fighters con you, managers con you, and you can't count on anything. When I caught myself starting to con, I decided to get out of the game."
•Bill Bradley, of the New York Knicks, on the gradual decline of the home-floor edge in the NBA: "All the arenas are new and have good lighting. And even the floors, which used to vary from arena to arena, are consistent. The fans on the road don't really bother you. If anything, they help you because they arouse your competitiveness."