SLOW BUT STEADY
In its usually modest way, the North American Soccer League has announced the award of its 18th franchise to the Chicago Sting. With one more franchise—and two are pending—the NASL will become the third-largest professional sports league in the country. Only the National Football League and major league baseball will be bigger.
The soccer league started with a blast in the mid-'60s. After losses in the millions, it was down to five teams and almost broke by 1969. That's when Phil Woosnam became commissioner and talked small. Concentrating on community relationships and keeping expenses low, he achieved a slow, steady growth that the owners could live with. No franchise has since lost more than $230,000 a season—peanuts compared with the bath some World Football League teams took this year—and average attendance has grown steadily, from 3,844 a game in 1971 to 7,825 last season. A few of the games have been televised, including this year's championship, but Woosnam is not pushing overly hard in that direction. Build the game first is his theory, attract a loyal following and the TV will come.
HUES AND CRY
At the University of Oregon, where the school colors are emerald green and lemon yellow, the athletic department distributed bumper stickers imploring GO BIG GREEN. Then the football team lost seven in a row—it is now 2-8—and a new bumper sticker appeared with a slightly different legend: GO BIG LEMON.
GOLD IN THEM THAR TILLS
"Olympic gold" used to describe what all the athletes were after in the quadrennial Games, the medal for finishing first. At Montreal in 1976, the phrase could stand for the price of a ticket. The main stadium will be scaled at $12, $16, $20 and $24 for track and field finals—$4 standing room—and opening and closing ceremonies will have a top price of $40. The Canadian organizers, who hope to net approximately $15 million from the sale of more than four million tickets, insist the prices are not out of line. The cost per seat at other Olympic venues will be lower, making the average price for all tickets for events held in the Montreal area $8, and something less for events outside. The cheapest final will be the field hockey championship game at $4, $6 and $8. That should make field hockey fans happy, anyway—all 200 of them.
THE LITTLE IN LITTLE LEAGUE
The outrage and hurt were not all Taiwan's when Little League Baseball, Inc. announced last week that henceforth the Little World Series would be very little indeed, excluding teams from all countries save those from the United States. Judging by editorial comment around this country, which was almost unanimous in deploring the latest LL gaffe, the only jingoists were the league directors themselves. Few others felt so concerned that Taiwan had won five of the last six series, or that Japanese teams had won in 1967 and 1968. As Dick Young of the New York Daily News said, disinviting the best is like barring Miami from the Super Bowl or Muhammad Ali from a bout for the heavyweight championship.
The unofficial reasons given for the action—travel costs for foreign teams were becoming too expensive and the approach was becoming too nationalistic—is transparent nonsense. Nor, as Peter Carry wrote in this magazine (Aug. 19), is there any reason to suspect unfair practices by the Taiwanese. The kids are of age, and they are not culled from a huge population base. They do, however, play all year round, they accept instruction gladly and they practice as though by glove possessed.
More to the point is what Robert Stir-rat, one vice-president of the Little League, said: "We could see a trend coming. Our program originally was intended as a community activity, and basically still is." For the wrong reasons, the Little League could just be on the track of something sensible at last. Why even hold a series? Winning the town or county championship is pressure enough for 11- and 12-year-olds. And scrapping the series would save the directors all sorts of embarrassment. At least they would not have to blush every time they mention those three little words—Little World Series.
RATTLING BAD TIME
If Larry Jay, 13, gets through November without being bitten, it will be the first month that's happened since August. For a while it seemed he never would get back to school in Redding, Calif.
Larry's troubles began on Aug. 29. He was working in his back yard, he says, when "this black widow spider just dropped down and bit me on the back of the left hand." Off to the hospital which, luckily, is only three minutes away by car. On Sept. 2, still not fully recovered, Larry was walking along about a block or two from his house when he failed to observe an 18-inch rattler that most assuredly saw him. Larry stepped on the critter and got it, this time below the knee. Three days in the hospital.
On Oct. 6 another rattlesnake struck, this one at Larry's left forearm while he was helping to catch a runaway chicken. "I bent over, reaching into the tall grass and the snake bit me," Larry says. I was sicker the second time than from the first snake, but the spider was worst."
Says Larry's father, Milbern, "He sure is nervous." Figures.
THE WEARIN' OF THE GRAIN
Three-time Women's Open golf champion Susie Maxwell Berning confided to a friend recently, "You know, I never knew what they were talking about when they discussed the grain of the green." For the first time in pro play she had worn glasses.
TOO YOUNG TO GO
Prepare to shed a tear. Old Rule 93-23 is dead and gone, stricken from the AAU Handbook. It's hard to know how to break this sad news, but never again will you go to a track meet and thrill to the Pole Vault for Distance.
What? Never heard of it? Surely you know it is "governed by the Rules governing the Running Long Jump" (Handbook, 1973-74, p.77). Surely you are aware that it grew out of a 19th-century need to get to the other side of the old mill stream: plant the pole and go. And now this, just when somebody on a fiberglass pole might have slung himself straight out of an Olympic stadium. What will they take from us next?
Dick Allen, the Chicago White Sox slugger, may have known all along that he could not depend on his string of 13 thoroughbred race horses to earn him a living. In announcing his retirement from baseball last September, he was careful not to commit the intention to writing. Had he done so and then wanted back in, he would have had to sit out the first 60 days of the 1975 season. But even that hedge may not be enough to stave off trouble.
First, there are the horses themselves. It costs about $1,000 a month to keep a thoroughbred running, and Allen's have not been running very fast. For instance, he saddled two on a card last week at the new Keystone Race Track outside of Philadelphia. One went off at 30 to 1 and finished seventh. The other, a second choice at 5 to 2, showed brief speed before tiring and finishing fifth. Allen earned $225 in that race, not very much balanced against expenses of about $13,000 a month, to say nothing of the $130,000 he paid for the horses.
Fortunately, Allen has his baseball salary of $225,000 to fall back on—or does he? Manager Chuck Tanner's ardor for his onetime star has cooled considerably. Tanner says: "It would be awfully hard to backtrack on this. We've already made our trading plans on the basis of Allen not playing. We've had to change our thinking for the future." Owner John Allyn says the club would have to give the matter of accepting Allen back "some study." Afraid of a hassle with the Players Association if they do not reinstate Allen, the Sox have been searching for somebody to take their retiring star off their hands. So far, no takers.
The first commissioner of baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, felt strongly that the game and horse racing did not mix, and made certain during his stewardship that they did not. Dick Allen could live to wish that the judge's view still prevailed.
GAMES FRIENDS PLAY
With winter approaching, it's getting to that Frazleerham and Brindledorph time again at Sandy Spring Friends School in Olney, Md. Just as well. Friedlefrappe, Hoop-A-Doop and Nurdleybawl had about run their course for a while.
Maybe this needs explaining. These arc games. In Friedlefrappe, for instance, all you have to do is throw a friedlesphere up into a friedlesnare that is being held by a friedlesnatcher on the friedleplat, providing, of course, the friedlefrapper doesn't get her broom in the way and bat the friedlesphere away from the friedlesnare. Got it?
If you don't, the Sandy Spring kids do and they profess to like the games, the inventions of Barry Morley, a Harvard and Boston U. graduate and a teacher there. A lack of funds and playing facilities were Morley's original inspiration. Although tennis, soccer, lacrosse and baseball have been added to the menu, they will not do for the gym-less students come the cold months. So it's Frazleerham for the boys—a combination of rugby, soccer and basketball with a whimsical mixture of Morleyesque terms—and Brindledorph for the girls, sort of field hockey played with brooms.
"I have a philosophy that life is a process of participation rather than spectating," says Morley. "It seems to me the object of education is to give a student experience. The object of school is to teach, not to exploit. The psychological and physical pressures put on Little League kids is too much. They win because their parents want them to. At Sandy Spring, the kids compete, but not to make the team."
RESPOTTING THE LEOPARD
Some six years ago Norman Myers, a wildlife biologist, warned a U.S. congressional committee that the African leopard seemed a prime candidate for early extinction. Now, after a two-year study, he has revised that estimate. It is still gloomy—the leopard probably will not survive in its wild state much past the beginning of the next century—but its numbers are not being reduced nearly so fast as the lion's or the elephant's or the rhino's.
The animal is managing to save its highly prized skin, at least for the present, because of a combination of stealth, strength and adaptability. Leopards, Myers writes in the latest issue of Inter' national Wildlife, can live close to man without being detected. Stronger, pound for pound, than any other predator, they can leap from cover, bring overwhelming power to bear on their prey and haul it out of sight, often up a tree, all in a matter of moments.
While leopards favor big game, unlike the lion they are not picky, and willingly hunt rats, birds, frogs, fish, snakes and other small fry. They can live in the intense heat of Kenya's Indian Ocean shore country or in the ice fields of Kilimanjaro, in bush country and the desert, but they do best in the great rain forests of the Zaire River basin, where it is hard and expensive for hunters and poachers to get at them. They will outlive the other large animals of Africa, which operate in the open and somewhat clumsily, as long as they have their forest cover, which will depend upon the pressure to develop new farm land.
THEY SAID IT
•Patricia Phillips, asked what her husband Mel Phillips, 49er defensive back, does in the off-season: "He sits home and watches his bones mend."
•Howard Cosell, discussing San Francisco Quarterback Tom Owens: "I'm impressed by the continuity of his physical presence."
•Ken Avery, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker, asked if anyone calls him a sissy because he studied ballet: "If they did, I'd stomp 'em and do a pirouette on their heads."