THE POLITICAL ANIMAL
Times remain hard for those who believe politics should be kept out of sport. The Senate, in passing a bill pledging $15.5 million in federal aid to the 1976 Denver Winter Olympics, also approved an amendment offered by Senator Tunney of California that would set up a seven-man commission to review the objectives of the Olympic movement and the manner in which the Games are run. Participation of U.S. athletes in future Olympics would be subject to review, and so would the role of the U.S. Olympic Committee, particularly the way the USOC has organized and administered American participation in the Games. This seems a direct and rather high-handed incursion by government into sport, but proponents of the amendment point out that the U.S. Olympic Committee was authorized by an act of Congress in the first place and still holds a federal charter. How's that for keeping politics out of the Olympic movement?
The Senate also was considering a measure to create a National Amateur Sports Foundation, which despite disclaimers that "it is in no way an attempt to supplant or assume control over" present amateur athletic organizations is obviously designed to beef up a national sports program so that the U.S. will do better in international competition. It was only a coincidence, of course, that at about the same time, Premier Lubomir Strougal of Czechoslovakia told the sports bodies of that country to get on the ball and see that Czech performances improve at the next Olympics. The premier was miffed because Communist East Germany, with a population only slightly larger than Communist Czechoslovakia (17 million to 14 million), brought home 66 medals from Munich to only eight for the Czechoslovaks. This, he said, showed that long-term purposeful work based on a comprehensive concept gradually brings progressive results. Or something like that. Then, to stress further the warming concept of sport as an aspect of industrial achievement, the premier gave Olympic discus champion Ludvig Danek the Order of Labor and two other outstanding Olympians medals for "outstanding work."
In view of all this, it is a bit disheartening to note that President Nixon proclaimed Oct. 6 National Coaches Day. This could establish a precedent for even more government intrusion into sport. One can imagine Congress eventually setting aside May 18 as National Third Basemen's Day or some future November as National Tight End Month.
The National League, which used to boast about its close pennant races, had runaway winners this year in each of its divisions. But if the league were still functioning as a single unit, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, whose won-lost records were almost identical all summer long, would have come to the wire in one of those sustained pennant battles that make baseball so fascinating. But instead of a classic duel we have one brief three-out-of-five series that in itself is only a semifinal elimination for the World Series. Even the tangled struggle in the American League East could turn out to be a discount bargain; suppose Oakland were to win the playoff in three straight?
Maybe in splitting the leagues to create four artificial races instead of two real ones, baseball hurt rather than helped itself.
Mike Reid, 258-pound defensive tackle of the Cincinnati Bengals, won the Outland Trophy in 1969 when he was with Penn State for being the outstanding lineman in college football. Asked recently what he thought about trophies like the Outland and the Heisman, Reid said, "There's no question about it all being a lot of politicking. The Heisman Trophy is nothing more than a political campaign. When I won the Outland Trophy I did not reject it because I felt I had a good year and I had worked very hard and in my mind I was the best defensive lineman in college football. But whether I was or not, I don't think anyone will ever know. The Outland Trophy certainly has to be viewed as less than sacred. The funny thing is, I found out I won it by reading about it in Look. I didn't receive so much as a handshake, a phone call or a trophy. I don't even know what it looks like. I don't even know who Outland was. For all I know he was a falling-down drunk in Arizona. [Outland was a star lineman at Pennsylvania in the 1890s.] The only worth the Outland Trophy is to me is that if someone comes up to me in 15 years and says, 'who won the Outland Trophy in 1969?' I'll know."
Seems like nothing is good for you. An article in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal says the extreme heat of sauna baths can cause heart changes that resemble those usually associated with coronary heart disease. Middle-aged and elderly people entering a sauna for the first time are cautioned to limit their visit to five minutes. The article does concede that for healthy people who are accustomed to steam rooms and saunas, "The sense of relaxation and well-being will continue to outweigh the potential dangers of the circulatory gymnastics involved."
A REAL FUMBLE
Usually only demon statisticians or far-out fans notice when a relatively obscure record is broken. But lots of people were aware a week ago that a 104-yard return of a fumble by Jack Tatum of the Oakland Raiders set a new NFL record, because the old one, a 98-yard return, had been set 49 years earlier by none other than George Halas, the ancient ruler of the Chicago Bears. Well, whaddya know, people said.
But now it turns out that technically Tatum did not return a fumble at all, and the touchdown he scored should not have counted. This is interesting because Oakland won the game from Green Bay 20-14. Mark Duncan, the NFL's director of personnel, explained that the rules make a distinction between a fumble of a lateral by a player who has had possession of the ball and a muff by a player who has not had possession. The defense can recover and run with the ball in the first instance but can only recover without an advance in the second. The Green Bay quarterback had pitched out to MacArthur Lane, but the lateral bounced off Lane's fingers and ricocheted into the end zone, where Tatum picked it up and began his run to the record book.
"In my viewing of the films," Duncan said, "the man did not have possession. Therefore, there could be no return of the muffed lateral." He said several of the officials running the game were in position to make the correct call, but nobody thought to do it. "It never even dawned on them, and they did not realize their mistake until they saw the films. Obviously, we want to eliminate happenings like this. In fact we have a motto around here that goes, 'To err is human. To forgive is against league policy.' "
Motto or no, punitive action has not been taken against the officials, and the new record will go into the book. Don Weiss, NFL publicity man, explained, "However it is ruled, that's how it was scored in the game. The points counted, so the record does, too."
Too bad for Green Bay. But if the Packers feel bad, what about George Halas?
Plans to construct an auto raceway on a dairy farm near Hagerstown, Md. have caused a furious reaction among residents of that quiet section of Washington County in western Maryland. The land was bought by a couple of Washington businessmen who want to build a racing plant that will seat 40,000 and have room for 100,000 more around the track.
Despite local opposition, the developers say, "There is no legal way to stop us." Washington County has no zoning ordinance, although one that designates the area as agricultural is in the works. "They're trying to slip in quietly under the old law," says Allan Powell, a professor at Hagerstown Junior College. Harold L. Beyers, a county commissioner, says, "They're offering trinkets to the natives in order to take their land and peace and quiet, too. But the natives are rebelling."
Bill Young, one of the developers, says the uproar "is all politics. The commissioners think it's a way to get votes. The whole ecology thing has been blown way out of proportion." He added, "If we get turned down on the raceway, we'll build the darndest, lowest-income housing project you've ever seen."
GOOD VS. BAD AGAIN
He was late getting onto the court because he was in a gin rummy game and when he finished and headed out to play, he said he couldn't find his shoes.
He was Paul Haber, five-time national handball champ and all-round rapscallion, and he was about to lose a handball vs. racquetball rematch to Dr. E. F. (Bud) Muehleisen, a San Diego dentist. Last winter (SI, Feb. 7) when Haber beat Dr. Muehleisen in a showdown between champions of similar court games, he reinforced the maxim that while drinking, smoking and general carousing may not make a man a champion, they did not hurt.
But the other day in San Diego Mr. Clean struck a blow for purity by putting it to Bad Paul in front of 400 howling fans. The doctor took sweet revenge by winning 21-18, 18-21, 21-19. That might be about all he won, too. Unlike the first match, where bettors put up more than $30,000, the return had little more than the thrill of victory.
Already a third match between the two is being planned for after the national handball and national racquetball championships next spring. And publicity flak is beginning. Despite the gin rummy and shoe routine in San Diego, Haber was described as "wonderful and a perfect gentleman" after his loss to Muehleisen. But not, it was pointed out, by Muehleisen.
ONE TIE, ALL TIE
Some time ago (SCORECARD, June 6) we reported that the Ohio High School Athletic Association had adopted a tiebreaker system for football games, to be introduced this fall. Now because of opposition, the OHSAA has backtracked and said the tiebreaker is optional. Under the rule, if a game ends with the score tied each team would be given a chance to score from 10 yards out, with an equal number of opportunities given each side until one team won. The demurrers, those who preferred an old-fashioned tie, cited such problems as crowd control in tension-filled overtime, risk of injury to players already fatigued after a full game and scheduling difficulties where doubleheaders are played. The powerful Greater Cincinnati League, which consists of Catholic schools, was against the rule on other grounds. Last year it had an overall record of 28 victories, one defeat and one tie against outside opposition, and it reportedly felt that forcing defeats instead of ties in intra-conference games would hurt the league when it came time for computers to rate the state's teams and allot positions in the playoffs. A tie for two teams apparently would not hurt the conference as much as a win for one and a loss for another.
This, of course, shakes the Lombardian tenet of victory at all costs.
Nothing is sacred.
THEY SAID IT
•Fritz Peterson, New York Yankee pitcher who will help broadcast hockey games for a New York radio station: "There is no truth to the rumor Sparky Lyle will do the last five minutes."
•Al Conover, Rice football coach, on star Gary Butler's long hair: "Gary wanted to get a crew cut, but I told him we weren't having any liberals on our squad."
•Avery Brundage, on his 85th birthday, when asked in Chicago about the effect international travel and the jet lag have had on his health: "I haven't had time to think about it. But I'll tell you this: I walked from my office to my home last night—almost two miles—and it was an effort."