BOMBS BURSTING IN AIR
The flap in New York City over whether or not The Star-Spangled Banner should be played at a track meet was a tempest in a teapot, but it has excited passion among the lunatic fringe east and west of reason. Opportunists raced to make a law of anthem-playing at sports events, which is nonsense even if routine form for politicians. We are dealing here with a tradition which should remain just that—and nothing more—until people tire of it.
It is reasonable for someone to be simultaneously patriotic and against the incessant playing of the anthem at insignificant events. It is also logical to be anti-anthem on political grounds. But the majority of Americans evidently likes to hear The Star-Spangled Banner played, and it is not mandatory for the majority to abandon its preferences because of the feelings of a dissident minority. If an athlete chooses to be so ill-mannered as not to honor the anthem, that is his right, but it does not justify rejection of a tradition favored by most Americans.
Our position on discourtesy is that we are against it. But we would hate to call it a crime.
HASH A LA ROZELLE
Pro football's year of the hash mark is over. Now we can open the envelope and see what really happened after those little white marks—delineating the point where the ball is spotted after it has gone out of bounds or too close to the sideline—were shifted closer to the center of the field.
Rushing yardage went up, as everyone predicted, but only 7.09%. It had gone up 8.09% a year earlier, before the great hash-mark trek. The average yardage gained per rush went up slightly, from 4.0 to 4.1 yards per carry. Passing yardage went down for the third straight season, but the average gain per pass increased, as did the percentage of completed passes.
Thus, even though there was more running and less passing, there was greater offensive efficiency, and scoring increased about 4%. This was due in part to an improvement in field-goal kicking, with greater accuracy and a higher number of successful kicks, presumably because of the better angles provided by the new hash marks. But the admittedly dull field goal added only about 3½ points per team for the season, while touchdowns added about nine points. Thus, because the hash marks were moved with an eye to hyping up scoring, they must be considered a success, if a very mild one.
Philip K. Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, said last week that his second-place team lost $161,336 last year. "When a ball club draws 1,300,000, as the Cubs did, and still loses money, then baseball is in trouble," Wrigley told Ed Munzel of the Chicago Sun-Times. "If this continues, you know where we'll be? In the same boat with an opera company, which means the only way baseball will survive will be through the aid of public subscriptions—getting outright donations from people.
"Baseball cannot live on gate receipts now. If it were not for radio and TV we would have no chance at all to make it financially. Frankly, if baseball ever loses its contract with the National Broadcasting Company it will be out of business."
Wrigley complained that the overhead in baseball is too high (when he read that Steve Carlton of the Phils had signed for something like $165,000, he muttered, "Now we'll probably have trouble signing some of our fellows"). He specifically included Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in his criticism.
"He definitely is not very economy-minded," Wrigley said of Kuhn. "I believe he has more than doubled the staff in his office since he became commissioner. There is so much waste anyway in baseball in the duplication of administration, what with the National League office, the American League office, the Commissioner's office, the minor leagues scattered everywhere, and all keeping separate records. Seven or eight years ago a proposal was made—and all but adopted—to house all the top baseball offices in one building at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. It would expedite everything, eliminate duplication, make the operation more efficient and cut costs tremendously. We even had the land selected. But it all fell through. Somehow we can never seem to agree on anything in baseball, no matter how sound the proposal."
Sylvia Bartz, a 53-year-old Baltimore widow, was playing cards with a group of friends when her living room door flew off its hinges. Several members of the city's vice squad poured in and arrested Mrs. Bartz and 13 of her friends for gambling.
In addition to 28 decks of cards the police confiscated $26.50 cunningly stashed in a plastic margarine cup. When brought to court Mrs. Bartz claimed the loot was simply money chipped in by her friends for food they were eating at the time of the bust. District Judge Daniel Friedman refused to swallow the food story and fined Mrs. Bartz $100 plus $10 court costs for permitting gambling in her home. All the others in the Bartz assemblage, ranging in age from 46 to 67, were placed on probation.
Well, not all. One of the Bartz gamblers escaped, sort of. When he collared one of the women, an arresting officer clutched. "Her heart was pounding so much I just had to let her go," he confessed later. Such negligence. She was only 86.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Chris Taylor, the wrestling behemoth from Iowa State who made such an impression while winning the bronze medal at the Olympics, is creating some problems in collegiate wrestling. Iowa State Coach Harold Nichols explains, "Everywhere we go, Chris is the big attraction. At Wisconsin we had 3,600 spectators, and I understand they usually draw in the hundreds. Taylor can pin most of his opponents just about any time he wishes. But if he walks out, picks up his opponent and slams him down in 20 seconds, the fans go home grumbling. So I tell Chris to practice some of his holds during a match and wait before putting on the clincher."
Dutifully, the 410-pound Taylor took three minutes and 45 seconds at Wisconsin to put away Glenn Vissers, a wispy 245-pounder, and when Iowa State met Iowa for the first wrestling match between the schools in 34 years he spent five minutes and 48 seconds defeating 230-pound Jim Washek. The 10,268 fans gave him a rousing ovation.
"That was one of the biggest crowds ever to see a collegiate wrestling meet," says Nichols. "I knew if Chris went out and finished Washek in the first period there would be a lot of disenchanted fans. So he tried out some holds and carried the match into the third period."
The crowd's reaction pleased Taylor, who doubts that he will try for a gold in the 1976 Olympics. "Verne Gagne, the pro wrestling promoter, has been waving $60,000 and $70,000 offers under my nose," he says. "With that kind of money possible, I don't think I can afford to stay poor to compete in an Olympics that is more than three years away."
THE WHOLE THING
The Soviet Union's national hockey team, which knocked off American teams one after the other during its recent tour of the U.S., awed those who came in close contact with it—and not just for the strength and precision with which the Russians played.
"The one thing they can do as well as they play hockey is eat," said Mike Radakovich, the U.S. official who escorted the Russians on their tour. A typical lunch for 20 people, this one ordered in San Diego, consisted of three huge trays of oranges, apples, bananas, strawberries, grapes and other fruits; three more trays of cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, olives, pickles and other vegetables: tomato soup, filet mignon, potatoes, onion rings, bread, honey and ice cream. A bottle of catsup was provided for every two players. Each had a pitcher of orange juice, milk or tea, as well as a quart bottle of Coca-Cola, which the players apparently love.
"They eat five hours before a game," Radakovich reported, "and they polish off everything."
A MATTER OF METERS
The Marin Golf Club near San Francisco, looking ahead to the metric age, is installing supplemental markers at each tee to show the distance to the green in meters. "When the U.S. finally converts to meters," says pro Wayne Wallick, "we plan to delete the yardage figures."
That's all very well, but Wallick and the Marin Club should not sit back thinking the job is done. There are other conversion problems to be solved. After all, saying "I have trouble with 1.22-meter putts" does not have quite the ring of "I still can't sink those damned four-footers."
Tennis star Tom Gorman had Stan Smith at match point in the fourth set of a semifinal match in a recent pro tournament in Barcelona when he suddenly walked to the sidelines, announced he was forfeiting the match, put on his jacket and left the court. Gorman's behavior, while startling, was neither capricious nor rude. He had injured his back earlier in the set and had continued only because he thought it would look better if he held off quitting until Smith had tied the match at two sets apiece. But now that he had Smith within a point of defeat, Gorman realized it was too late for a graceful departure. He knew his bad back would tighten up overnight, making it impossible for him to play in the finals the next day. If he defeated Smith and then withdrew from the tournament, Ilie Nastase, the other finalist, would win by default and the tournament would end on an empty note. So he defaulted, and the next day Smith and Nastase went five vigorous sets before Nastase won, which entertained the crowd and pleased the tournament committee.
Gorman, who has a history of sportsmanlike gestures, stood to lose $5,000 in second-place prize money for his action. Happily, the committee discovered why he had done it and, in appreciation, voted to give him $2,500 anyway.
THIS WAY TO THE 1-3 POCKET
That old bowling hassle over doctoring alleys has erupted again. Recently the American Bowling Congress refused to sanction the highest five-man-team score of the season, the highest four-man score, a number of individual scores of 300, 298 and 299 and more than 50 individual series of 700 or better.
"Call it a crackdown if you will," said Al Matzelle, executive secretary of the ABC. "The action reflects our concern that a few people, guilty of cutting corners, are making a mockery of the sport." What bothered Matzelle and the ABC was the widespread practice of dressing lanes in such a way that balls were more or less guided into the strike pocket.
"Unrealistic scoring takes the fun and challenge out of the game," Matzelle said. "It brings about averages that are impossible to maintain under neutral conditions. It creates bickering, animosity and disgust.
"All we are trying to do," he said, "is restore the neutral condition of all lanes, which has been a foundation of the game since the ABC came into existence in 1895."
THEY SAID IT
•Ken Holtzman, Oakland Athletic pitcher, on what the designated-pinch-hitter rule means to him: "I'm facing the realization I may never come to bat again in the major leagues."
•Darrell Royal, University of Texas coach, complaining about the NCAA's decision to reduce the number of football scholarships to 30 a year: "If they want to equalize things, why not let a touchdown count four points if you're ahead and eight if you're behind."
•Wilt Chamberlain, asked if he minded not being selected in Pageant magazine's list of the 10 sexiest men in sports: "No one thinks a 7-footer is sexy. Fortunately, a few girls I know do. I think guys pick those lists."