SON OF DENVER
When last we left the 1976 Winter Games, they had been dumped by Denver (SI, Nov. 20) and only a few cities remained as possible backup sites. Nobody ever really took North Lake Tahoe and South Lake Tahoe seriously and that narrowed the choice down to Salt Lake City, which has a swell setting, and Lake Placid, which gave the world Sonja Henie in 1932. Last week the U.S. Olympic Committee settled on Salt Lake City—and Olympics fans had best brace themselves for another international embarrassment.
The bid will now be trooped off to the International Olympic Committee meeting next month in Lausanne, with plenty of indication that the IOC has heard about enough from the colonies, bicentennial or not. For one thing, some rather fancy European bidding is taking shape, notably from Innsbruck and a French Mont Blanc bloc. But even that opposition, plus the reaction that the Denver affair was ineptly handled, is not the real point.
What the USOC has again missed, in its unerring instinct for picking the wrong spots, is that Salt Lake City's bid is based on the thesis that the funding would be entirely federal. In bidding, the city did not promise any local funds because officials were sure they could not get them. Lake Placid, meanwhile, has most of the facilities already set, enthusiastic community support and the formal backing of Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who allowed that New York State would come up with some money to help out.
Further, where Denver failed to get the man-on-the-street reaction until it was too late, that has already been done in Utah: The Deseret News polled its readers in November and came up with a 12-to-1 sentiment against the Games. A telephone poll last week found qualified support for the Olympics, but already local conservationists are rallying, ready to throw themselves in front of the first Olympic bulldozer. And if all this doesn't throw an awful lot of cold snow on the U.S. selection, then somebody out there is just not paying attention.
TOWING THE LINE
That tabloid watchdog of the western waterways, American Boating, has produced the newest entry in the Let-Me-Make-One-Thing-Perfectly-Clear sweepstakes. In a roundup of boating news from hither and yon, it quotes a news release on safety procedures as follows: "Maneuvering towed skiers or persons on other towed devices so as to pass the towline to another vessel or another person being towed by another vessel is a prohibited act."
If your favorite football player did not make All-Something, don't fret too much. All-Teams tend to be soufflés, lovely things whipped up from a little of this, a little of that and a lot of imagination. Consider Gale Gillingham, the Green Bay Packer lineman. He made honorable mention on the UPI's All-NFC offensive team, a signal accomplishment since Gillingham played in only the first two games of the season, both on defense. Then he injured his knee, underwent surgery and was out for the rest of the year. Chuck Lane, the amiable Packer publicity man, credits Gillingham's honor to brilliant public-relations work. When people scoff, Lane asks, "How many men on your injured reserve list made an All-Pro team?"
CBS SIGNS OFF
The sale of the New York Yankees to George Steinbrenner and his associates, among them Yankee President Mike Burke, is a welcome change in baseball's ownership structure. CBS, which took over the Yankees in 1964, showed commendable restraint during its ownership, assiduously keeping a show biz, TV-ratings atmosphere out of the Yankee picture. Nonetheless, it was a bad precedent that a television network, a major part of whose business is sports broadcasting, should own a team on whom it would inevitably have to report. Too, big as the Yankees were in baseball, they immediately became rather small fish in the vast CBS corporate pond, at best a relatively minor subsidiary of the parent corporation. That the Yankee fortunes declined with CBS taking over control is possibly a coincidence.
It is impossible to predict how Steinbrenner, Burke and Company will run the Yankees, but the fans, players and other members of baseball's brass now at least can hope for ownership they can focus on, a corporate personality instead of a wandering mote in the vast, vague, unblinking eye of the TV screen.
Al Conover, the Rice football coach, is a highly visible individual with a decided penchant for memorable quotes and fascinating suggestions. Part of Conover's success—he moved Rice up to a 5-5-1 record last fall in his first year—may lie in his somewhat revolutionary attitude. He is the youngest head coach in the Southwest Conference and is aware of it. "Kids are looking for a new approach," he says. "When they go to college they are fired up at first about the idea of playing football. Then they go through a few practice sessions and realize it's the same old thing they went through for four years in high school." To break the monotony and gain his charges' attention before their game with Arkansas, Conover threw a chair through a dressing-room window. Inspired, or awakened, the team went forth and won 23-20. Conover also introduced a "Popsicle break" at practices, and one day wheeled in a hearse and coffin so that the team could bury the mistakes it had made the previous Saturday.
"You can go around the dormitory at 11 and make bed checks," says Conover, "but that's the old style. That's insulting a guy's intelligence. When I first started coaching it was considered a sin to give a player a drink of water on the practice field. I used to be stationed near the water supply to make sure everybody spit out the water they took in to rinse out their mouths. Now isn't that stupid? Today in coaching you've got to be different in every respect to be successful."
Conover's success is still modest, but his relations with his players seem exceptional. They address him as "Big Al," and on his 34th birthday last October they celebrated by trying to take off his trousers. He won that battle—he still possesses authority—and chances are he'll win a lot more.
Notre Dame fans watching Nebraska rout the Irish 40-6 in the Orange Bowl felt that what was happening on the field was a crime. In truth, the crime was happening up in the press box, which Miami police raided during the first quarter of the game. They had heard that drinking was going on, an apparent violation of a Miami ordinance barring the serving of alcoholic beverages in the city-owned Orange Bowl. After a quick search the cops confiscated two cases of rum and four of beer.
Well, now. You can do a lot of things to a newspaperman and get away with it, even to the point of sending him to jail for not revealing confidential sources. But mess around with his drinking and you have a tiger by the tail. The upshot of the outraged protests:
1) A man in the city attorney's office said he was not exactly sure if booze was illegal in the press box, which is off limits to the public.
2) Both the Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami said they had no intention of stopping cocktail parties in the privacy of the press box.
3) The police returned the rum and beer to the Orange Bowl committee.
4) Bill Colson, a member of the Orange Bowl committee, said, "Sending in shabbily dressed members of the vice squad was the crowning insult. This is one of the most crime-ridden cities in the whole country. I'd say the police had their priorities mixed."
The rum was, too. With orange juice. Delicious, the press said.
WHEELING AND DEALING
The official count is yet to come but final sales figures for 1972 should show that more than 10.5 million bicycles were sold last year. Automobile sales were 10.9 million. More than just a sign of the leisurely times, this near standoff is a landmark for bike manufacturers, who haven't outwheeled autos since Henry Ford stumbled over his first axle.
With more and more cyclists vying for their share of the road, many communities have passed legislation providing for bike traffic lanes, parking facilities, rural trails and tougher safety regulations. The State of Oregon now uses 1% of the funds hitherto expended on highways for the needs of bicyclists.
Accompanying this new equality is a predictable side effect. Bike burglary is developing into a multimillion-dollar business—$22.3 million worth were swiped in California alone in 1971.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE: DEATH OF A PROUD
When Roberto Clemente was breaking into the major leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955, Henry Aaron (left, above) had already established himself as a star and Willie Mays (center) had won a batting championship, had been named Most Valuable Player, had helped his team win two pennants and the autumn before had made one of the most spectacular catches in World Series history. Clemente was having a modest rookie season: a .255 batting average, only five home runs, only 47 runs batted in. Yet the extraordinary skills were already evident, and one day that season in New York the 21-year-old Clemente was invited to appear on a post-game interview. The announcer reviewed his playing and then, thinking to give the youngster a compliment he could savor, said, "Roberto, you had a fine day and a fine series here. As a young fellow starting out you remind me of another rookie outfielder who could run, throw and get those clutch hits. Young fellow of ours, name of Willie Mays."
There was a noticeable silence. Then the Pittsburgh rookie answered, "Nonetheless, I play like Roberto Clemente."
Such pride, such insistence that he be respected for what he was himself, was the hallmark of Roberto Clemente. He knew how good he was and it was a continuing source of irritation that it took others so long to realize what was so patently evident. During the 1971 World Series between the Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles, Brooks Robinson said, "I knew he was good, but I didn't know he was this good." Not until then, at the end of his 17th season, when a vast television audience watched as he displayed all his myriad talents in leading the Pirates to their upset victory over the Orioles, did Clemente attain the national stature he deserved.
Fate, which frustrated him for so long and was so cruel at the end, was kind in one telling way. Clemente's last hit of the 1972 season was the 3,000th of his career, and with it he joined his old rivals Aaron and Mays as the only active major-leaguers at that exalted level. And now, so soon after, he is gone.
THEY SAID IT
•Frank Shorter, America's first Olympic marathon gold medal winner since 1908, explaining why he is not surprised that President Nixon has never called him: "Football players and coaches may get calls from the President, but you have to remember that there are a hell of a lot of football fans who vote."
•Toby Kimball, bald forward of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings: "Someday I'm going to expose the NBA. I'm really going to let my hair down—both strands of it."
•Ken Shelley, figure skater who went from Olympic competition to professional ice shows: "The Saturday matinees can be maddening. You're out there skating your heart out, and the kids are all yelling, 'Bring on the clowns.' "