Two areas of the economy where the recession has had surprisingly little effect are boating and tennis. According to figures released by their industry associations, they have had remarkable years.
Tennis, of course, has been in a swinging boom for the past several years. Recently Pollster Louis Harris reported a dramatic rise in the number of people who "followed" the game. The National Sporting Goods Association has figures to show the rise may be even sharper among the people who play it. Equipment manufacturers say they probably will gross more than $366 million this year, a 30% increase over 1973. About $225 million worth of rackets and balls will be sold.
More surprising, perhaps, are the boating figures. Despite the fuel scare, the '73-'74 model year ended Aug. 31 with sales just 3% off last year's record $2 billion-plus. Powerboats were down only slightly, but sailboats, up to 135,000 sales from 120,000, canoes (76,000 vs. 68,000) and rowboats (155,000 vs. 145,000) took up a lot of the slack. People seem determined to spend this recession out of doors.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
"We got a few too many louts this year," said co-organizer Lew Cady nervously. "Some people seem to think this is a grossness contest instead of serious competition."
It is hard to see why. One woman judge of the Fourth—and hopefully last—Annual Spittin", Belchin' and Cussin' Triathlon in Central City, Colo. was hit by a half-full can of beer, several contestants violated the no-moon rule with graceless full flashes, Earl (The Squirrel) Worming unleashed a near-record-breaking expectoration of 33'3" and Chris Gossett, overall winner, knocked them dead in the belchin' competition.
"This is a beer-drinking town, and we know belches," explained Gladys Johnson of Johnson's Smorgasbord and Gold Coin Bar, as though she had to. Gossett's "Wounded Whale" was acclaimed a triumph, eclipsing a "Drunken Buffalo" and a "Roaring Platypus."
Probably the one decent idea of the evening at the Belvedere Theatre was Gossett's prize in the cussin' contest. For a somewhat irreverent soliloquy by a salacious Santa Claus puppet he won a case of Ivory soap—to wash his mouth out.
Come to think of it, Lew, the louts have something there.
Harvard spent a good part of the last century proving it was the oldest college in the country, antedating William and Mary. It won the battle and now is launched on a new campaign to convince the country that it and McGill, not Princeton and Rutgers, played the first football game. There is merit in the argument, according to football historian Tim Cohane, a Fordham man.
Those first Princeton-Rutgers affairs were really soccer, Cohane writes in the Harvard Football News. A league that included Yale and Columbia as well as the New Jersey schools was formed in the fall of 1873, thus giving the NCAA its peg for the centenary it celebrated last season. But that was soccer, too, and Harvard would have none of it. The Crimson favored "Boston football," pioneered by local schoolboys, which featured the kicking of soccer but also permitted players to run with the ball, as in rugby. On May 14, 1874 Harvard played a game of Boston football against McGill University of Montreal at Jarvis Field in Cambridge. Harvard won three goals to none.
The next day the two teams played to a scoreless tie, but the game was Canadian rugby, which the Harvards and McGills agreed was a better game than Boston football. Canadian rules permitted touchdowns as well as conversions and field goals and, with fairly extensive refinements, are the basis of today's game.
Cohane claims a lot of other firsts for Harvard: victim of the first upset (1876, to Yale); first to introduce the kicking game, spring drills and tackling dummy; first player listed as All-America (James Cumnock, 1889); first to appoint coaches and a team physician; first halftime locker room; first black All-America (Bill Lewis, 1893). To commemorate all this the Crimson has adopted an insignia for the season that features a large H surrounded by the legend: "1874-1974—The Real Football Centennial." Fine, but whatever happened to McGill?
SHAGGY DOGLEG STORY
Bob Russell of Centerville, Ohio had taken up golf only a few weeks before and he was having a downer. He was going so bad, in fact, that he thought the explosion he heard when he took a practice swing on the 15th fairway at Kitty Hawk Golf Center was a cherry bomb dropped at his feet by one of the jokers in his foursome. They're funny that way in Centerville.
Then the smoke cleared and he felt a burning sensation. He saw blood on his leg and his body went limp. "My God," he said, "I've been shot!" The others hit the dirt, suspecting a sniper. Crawling around, they finally discovered the truth. Russell's club—a two-iron, for purists—had detonated a live .22 caliber rifle cartridge hidden in the grass.
Damage to the leg, fortunately, was minimal. Russell is back on the links and figures that if he never improves at all he will always have this story to tell about the time he shot a hole-in-one-leg.
FRUIT OF LABOR NEGOTIATIONS
At least one good result emerged from the National Football League players strike—Cincinnati backup Quarterback Wayne Clark's announcement of the birth of his second child:
"Carol Clark crossed the picket line at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati and after 20 hours of unfair labor practices, all parties in the negotiations, including Wayne and Carol Clark, and the rookie free agent, Darin Hartley Clark, emerged from the closed-door session and announced that agreement had been finalized at 11:08 p.m. with no drugs involved.
"Issues resolved included a healthy reporting weight of 9 pounds, 15½ ounces (more than what was bargained for) and length of 20½ inches. Also, a compromise of the economic and freedom issues was reached when Darin was assured of free room and board plus per diem in return for the loss of Wayne's and Carol's freedom for the next 18-plus years.
"Brother Brian, a two-year veteran, announced later that the contract was guaranteed no-cut, no-trade, no-waiver. Pension and insurance benefits to be agreed on later."
Betting persons who take the home team on Monday night football claim it is the best deal since money was invented. Favored or not, the home team on the Howard-Frank-Don show last year beat the spread in all but one of the 13 games televised. The trend continues. Buffalo, a six-point underdog, beat Oakland in the opener and Dallas, favored by eight over Philadelphia, lost 13-10. If this keeps up, the bettors may never have to go back to working for a living.
The next time Bill Ainsworth of Southwestern Bell in Houston carries a "beep" Softball through airport security, he is going to choose his words with a little greater care. Invented by a telephone company worker, the ball has a hollowed-out center that contains a tiny battery connected to a beeper. It enables the blind to play ball, but it is not the sort of plaything that is going to win any awards from edgy guards.
"This ball contains an electronic device," Ainsworth said. A cop put his hand on his pistol. "It produces a beeping sound when this pin is pulled." Dark, grim glances.
At last, one brave checker pulled the pin. Guards raced over at the tone of the beep. After he got everybody calmed down, Ainsworth strolled through the checkpoint, ball in hand—and the metal detector alarm went off. Keys and change in Ainsworth's pocket. Well, can't win 'em all.
MADE IN HEAVEN?
Love still conquers all but sometimes the arrangements are difficult, as San Francisco's John Vick discovered last month in planning the marriage of his daughter, Lisa Jon-Marie, to Wayne Luty. Vick, who re-creates the horse racing results from Bay Meadows Race Track for KXRX Radio, planned to have the wedding reception at the track's clubhouse. The racing schedule precluded a date from Tuesday through Saturday, but that was only the beginning of the troubles.
Lisa's godfather is Charlie Silvera, the former Yankee catcher who is now a coach with the Texas Rangers, so the wedding had to occur on a day the Rangers would be in town against the A's. Soloist for the wedding was Jeff Carter, who sings the national anthem at all the Giant home games at Candlestick Park, and Papa Vick also announces Raider games at Oakland Coliseum. Their schedules had to be taken into account.
On Sunday, Sept. 8, all the signs were right. The track was closed, the A's were hosting the Rangers in the afternoon, the Raiders had played the Jets on Saturday and the Giants were on the road. The wedding came off just 30 minutes after the Rangers got through beating the A's.
RULE OF THE ROAD
Baseball and, specifically, the Pittsburgh Pirates needlessly find themselves in an untenable position. For taking his wife on three road trips this summer against club rules, Pitcher Jerry Reuss was fined a reported $600. Reuss filed a grievance, demanding an apology and a refund. He probably will get at least the refund. It is hard to imagine any deliberative body these days deciding for employers who would regulate employees' private lives, in particular the lives of their spouses.
The Pittsburgh management, like most others in organized ball, considers accompanying wives disruptive influences, but rather than dictate to Reuss, the Pirates might better have pointed out to him what happened when his wife was along on the trips. He was knocked out early in two games and lost a third. The one game he won was hard to lose. The Pirates jumped off to a 14-1 lead. In baseball, players talking contract always discover, statistics speak louder than words.
PLAY NOW, FLY LATER
Pinehurst, The Dunes, Firestone, Pebble Beach, Thunderbird.... Last week 21 pro-am teams played all these courses in one tournament—and never left home. It was the Inaugural Pepsi-Cola Indoor Golf Classic at Norm Schaut's Golf-O-Rama in Bedford Hills, N.Y.
Golf-O-Rama uses a teaching device that has appeared in several parts of the country and likely will become the game's next fad. The golfer plays the entire course by hitting his ball at photographs projected onto a screen. A computer measures his yardage, flashes the figure onto the screen and shows with a little golf-ball scanner where his ball landed before the slide changes for the next shot. Many of those who played in last week's tournament played all winter in once-a-week leagues and have found their handicaps dropping, sometimes dramatically. They believe that indoor golf takes away the variables of weather and forces the golfer to concentrate on the ball.
Spirits and competition were high at the Golf-O-Rama last week. One frustrated contestant tossed his wedge, but on the whole some very good golf was played. As one pro said, "Pebble Beach's par-3 17th was just as tough indoors as out. I bogeyed it at Pebble Beach and I bogeyed it here." But this time without having to wade through a foot of water.
THEY SAID IT
•Danny Murtaugh, Pittsburgh Pirate manager: "Why, certainly I'd like to have a fellow who hits a home run every time at bat, who strikes out every opposing batter when he's pitching and who is always thinking about two innings ahead. The only trouble is to get him to put down his cup of beer, come down out of the stands and do those things."
•Marty Howe, on his father and teammate Gordie Howe: "He's built like no one else in the world. His arms start at his ears."