It may be a side effect of the jet age, or of satellite TV, or of increasing affluence the world around, but we find important sports stories are more and more turning up in settings far removed from conventional venues, in out-of-the-way places the very names of which suggest elegance, style and excitement.
Last week it was Porto Cervo, the multimillion-dollar replica of a medieval Italian village created by the Aga Khan on the island of Sardinia, where the One Ton Cup sailing races took place. This week Dan Jenkins introduces us to the European tour, the world of big-time golf as it is played on the Continent. The courses in Spain, France, Switzerland and Italy may not match a Firestone in quality, but in contrast to them Akron somehow looks like your local municipal layout. And oh my, the air is genteel and the promoters aristocratic. Constantine, the exiled ex-king of Greece, makes an appearance at tournaments. "The players hobnob with royalty," Jenkins says, "and there's always a party going on under some big old shade trees somewhere, with the waiters moving around with trays of champagne and caviar. No air conditioning. You just never find that sort of thing over here."
The Grand Prix circuit has long been one of the big glamour scenes in sports, even when a race is held here in the U.S.—as the season finale will be at Watkins Glen next week. The leading international drivers, eight of whom appear beginning on page 68, are an uncommonly cosmopolitan lot—as well they should be after starting off a few seasons by whipping around the streets of Monaco under the eyes of such as Princess Grace. To take their portraits, Neil Leifer had to put in time at the likes of Monte Carlo and Le Castellet.
The People's Republic of China is not heavy on royalty, but sports settings there can be unusual enough in their own proletarian way. In the second part of their report from China (page 42) Bill Johnson and Jerry Cooke tell of feeling almost deified as they sipped green tea in their best visiting-dignitary fashion at the "Swimming Village" where thousands of residents had jumped into the river to greet them.
Which leaves us with the U.S. contribution to international exotica: Houston and King-Riggs in the Astrodome. That fantastic exhibition could have been staged only in the U.S. and was typical of nothing else in the world of sport except perhaps a heavyweight championship fight. Genteel it was not—Howard Cosell decked out in dinner jacket notwithstanding. But somewhere along the line, as Curry Kirkpatrick makes clear (page 30), the trappings did fall away and what remained were two athletes flailing at each other as hard as they could, tired and sweaty.
In all this we have not forgotten hard-nosed sports and their traditional aspects. They are our franchise and our first love. And so in this issue you can also read about such things as the astounding Mets, the shocked Pirates, Anthony Davis of USC and the latest travails of poor Paul Dietzel. So goes sport in the jet age.
KILLY AND JENKINS AT SWISS OPEN