In one area of the eastern Pacific Ocean in 1970 an estimated quarter of a million dolphins died after being trapped in vast nets set out by commercial tuna fishermen. The fishermen welcome the lively marine mammals, which help drive the tuna into the nets. Too bad if a thousand or so are killed when a huge net is hauled in, but what are you gonna do? The slaughter is incidental and almost casual. And it continues. Legislation introduced in Congress to halt or alter the practice is repeatedly undercut; the tuna industry is a vigorous lobbyer.
But what a pointless and disgraceful waste of a potentially invaluable animal. Dolphins have repeatedly demonstrated that they have exceptional intelligence, a natural friendliness toward man and an amazing aptitude for learning. Beyond their aid to man in fishing, they have shown that they can be trained for a variety of other uses and the U.S. Department of Defense has made extensive studies of the possibilities. The Soviet Union places such a high value on them that it has banned their killing or capture.
Killing them to catch tuna is as foolish as cutting down apple trees to pick apples. As Lewis Regenstein wrote in an illuminating report on the problem in The Miami Herald, "Because of the limitations of human intelligence, man may never perceive the real nature, the true significance, of these unique creatures that he is so needlessly destroying."
HERE COMES THE SUN
After the ugliness of the Minnesota-Ohio State brawl (SI, Feb. 7), it is a pleasure to talk about Memphis State and Louisville. These Missouri Valley Conference teams got into explosive fights the past two seasons, and before they met again last week at Louisville's Freedom Hall there were fears that the worst was yet to come. Louisville, on a 15-game winning streak, was ranked No. 3 in the nation by AP and UPI polls. Oncoming Memphis was challenging for a share of the conference lead. Security police were at courtside, ready for anything.
What happened was a hard but clean game, in which Memphis upset the Cardinals 77-69. Despite the galling defeat, the Louisville crowd was hospitable and sportsmanlike, and the players on both teams performed with discipline and control. The game was not the sensation that Minnesota-Ohio State was, but in the long run it might be the more important story.
OF MERGERS AND DRAFTS
The American Basketball Association, which broke with the accepted professional practice of not signing college athletes until their scholastic careers were over when it plucked Spencer Haywood out of Detroit three years ago, has now formally decreed that each of its teams can draft one such underclassman. Although the move is obviously part of the ABA's strategy to bring about Congressional approval of the proposed merger of the ABA and NBA (a merger that presumably would be followed by an agreement not to sign underclassmen), reactions to it were generally negative. Alex Hannum of the ABA's Denver Rockets, the team that signed Haywood in the first place, said flatly that he would not draft an underclassman. "I voted no on the issue," Hannum said. "I'm against it." The NBA's Pete Newell also voiced his disapproval and added, "We opposed the hardship draft, too."
While arguments persist that underclassmen benefit from the opportunity to turn professional, college coaches (page 20) argue the contrary. Grambling's Fred Hobdy says, "A college education is worth $150,000 to $200,000. The kids have a weak bargaining position if they don't finish their four years of college." Guy Lewis of Houston says, "You can't blame the kids for wanting to accept that money but they would get a lot more if they would finish their college careers."
Moreover, despite Haywood's success, there is serious doubt that very many young collegians are ready to compete at the professional level. A possible case in point exists in Utah, where the ABA's Utah Stars recently traded away rookie Rick Fisher, whom the Stars had signed out of Colorado State University last year. After the trade, Colorado State Coach Jim Williams muttered angrily, "I told you so. I told the pro people Rick was not ready for the jump to the pros. I had the films to prove it. But they would not listen, or look. I knew the Stars wouldn't use him. It's another case of professional selfishness harming a young man's future."
Environmentalists who turn to the law with problems of pollution sometimes have trouble convincing the court of the situations that exist. Not so F. Patrick Nixon, a sanitary engineer for the New York/New Jersey region of the Environmental Protection Agency. Nixon, in Federal court on behalf of the Government's attempt to stop 15 Jersey communities from dumping sludge into the Atlantic Ocean, brought two plastic bags of the sludge with him, each tucked away in a Styrofoam picnic cooler. During the hearing, Nixon was instructed to show each bag to the court and identify it. Then he was asked to describe the sludge. Nixon lifted one of the bags and began saying, "It contains a brown, semiplastic material with flecks of white and black material...."
"It's dripping out!" an attorney interrupted, and Nixon quickly dropped the bag back in the cooler and put the top on. A few minutes later a foul odor inexorably filled the courtroom. A decision in the matter is still forthcoming, but legal observers agreed that after the bag dripped the Government's case seemed overpowering.
WAGES OF SIN
Jack Loomis, a 6'10" reserve center at Stanford (he is a transfer from the Stanford of the East, often called Harvard), achieved instant, if local, fame recently against Air Force. Entering the contest late in the first half, the well-meaning but momentarily inept Loomis was charged with five personal fouls in three minutes and 50 seconds, or one every 46 seconds. Ruled out of the game, the towering center left the court holding his head in disbelief, but the gleeful Palo Alto crowd loved it. Loomis was given a standing ovation, and spectators clustered around asking for autographs.
Watch out for Big Ten football. It may be on its way back to the top of the heap. The conference is going along with most schools in following the new NCAA regulations that allow freshmen and junior-college transfers to play varsity football without first sitting out a year but, more significantly, the Big Ten has relaxed its rules on the number of scholarships that can be issued. For example, it used to be that even if an athlete dropped out of college or otherwise lost his scholarship it was still debited against the total number allowed. Now it can be recycled, so to speak. Scholarships will still be limited to a maximum of 120, but where in the past attrition might have reduced the actual number of scholarship athletes by as much as 25%, now the number can be kept at or near the maximum. Further, the Big Ten is seriously considering the reestablishment of redshirting (letting a man play in his fifth year of college, if he has not used up his eligibility), which has been banned in the Big Ten since the 1950s.
Thus, even though the conference gives no indication of relaxing its scholastic requirements, the flow of superior football players to the Big Ten may increase markedly. And since that could mean a simultaneous decrease in football talent going to the rival Big Eight (SCORECARD, Jan. 17), the Big Ten's football future looks bright indeed.
DRUNK AND DRIVING
Buddy Baker, Elmo Langley and Neil Castles, all veteran NASCAR race drivers, were drunk. No question about it. And yet there the three of them were tooling around the Charlotte Motor Speedway, driving cars at speed through a complex obstacle course. A fourth man, J. V. Allen, who is in advertising, was also drunk and driving.
It was all part of a serious examination into the effects of alcohol on highway safety (the tests were filmed for distribution to schools and other interested groups). Baker, Langley, Castles and Allen maneuvered their vehicles through a trail lined with traffic cones, first sober and then after drinking carefully measured amounts of alcohol. Sober, the racing drivers took the course easily, although Allen, the nonpro, knocked over 74 of the cones. After two or three drinks—or enough to make them half drunk (about .05% blood alcohol)—they did about the same but, significantly, drove more slowly. After another belt or two to raise their blood alcohol to .10%, at which level they were considered under the influence by North Carolina legal definition, their performances deteriorated markedly. Langley, who had had six drinks, drove through the cones as though they were not there, almost as though he were saying cheerfully, "Obstacle course? What obstacle course?" Castles, too, scattered cones right and left, and Baker did as poorly. It was, to be paradoxical, a sobering experience for the drivers. "I can't imagine me driving a car when I feel like I do now," said Baker. "I never drive when I feel like this. Never."
NEW MATH, NBA-STYLE
Ted Williams lost a batting title because he was walked so often he did not get enough at bats to qualify. Because of this injustice the rule was changed, and plate appearances, not at bats, became the qualifying criterion.
The National Basketball Association has a chance to outdo that statistical incongruity—not once, but twice. Wilt Chamberlain has much the best shooting percentage in the league but has taken comparatively few shots at the basket. League rules say a player must attempt a minimum number of shots to be eligible for consideration as the shooting-percentage leader. In the statistics that are released each week, Chamberlain's attempts continually flirt with the minimum, and a few weeks ago, when his .639 percentage was far ahead of the runner-up, he had taken too few shots and was thus officially considered a nonperson. Yet he would still have had the best percentage in the league if he had gone out and missed all the shots he needed to qualify.
And there is Jerry West, who last week had not played often enough to be eligible for the assists leadership. The recognized leader, Nate Archibald of Cincinnati, had a 9.1 average, based on 437 assists in 48 games. West had a 9.6 average, but in 46 games—one less than the required minimum. However, West had 442 assists, which means he would have had a better average even if he had played as many games as his rival. According to NBA logic, if West had squeezed in two more games in which he made no assists at all, those nonproductive performances would have lifted him into the league lead.
Lewis Carroll would have loved this Alice in Wonderland arithmetic. He might even have suggested that a couple of mythical games be played in which West would feed only Chamberlain, who would shoot wild, thus allowing excellence to be recognized.
THEY SAID IT
•Karl Schranz, the Austrian skier who reportedly makes $50,000 a year, on his disqualification from the Winter Olympics for commercialism: "It's an emphasis on the wrong principle. I think the Olympics should be a contest of all sportsmen, with no regard for color, race or wealth."
•Ginny Coco, coach of the U.S. women's gymnastics squad that upset a Japanese girls' team, on what a female gymnast should look like: "You want all the curves to be in the right places, but not at the level Hugh Hefner might want for the Playboy image. Voluptuous girls don't win in gymnastics. You want lean, strong girls, the racehorse type."
•Bob Feller, Baseball Hall of Famer: "I was a bonus baby. I got two autographed baseballs and a scorecard from the 1935 All-Star Game."