BAYI VS. WALKER?
In these days when sports and politics are so unfortunately entangled, there is once again an ominous cloud developing—this time threatening what is anticipated as the showcase event of the Montreal Olympics, the 1,500-meter run featuring Tanzania's Filbert Bayi and New Zealand's John Walker. Bayi holds the world record for the event; Walker, the world mark for the slightly longer mile. Their speed is judged approximately even by the experts.
Again, the dispute is over racial policies. The Supreme Council of Sport in Africa has instructed its member nations, which include Tanzania, not to compete against New Zealand if New Zealand goes ahead with plans to send its rugby team to play South Africa in June. White-ruled South Africa long has been under fire for apartheid and has had numerous confrontations with countries opposed to the policy. This particular dispute dates to New Zealand's refusal to withdraw an invitation to South Africa to compete in the world softball championship several months ago. Which in turn so incensed Tanzania that Bayi was not allowed to go ahead with his plans to run in New Zealand against Walker.
There is no predicting, of course, what will happen in the two remaining months before the Olympics. Maybe black Africa will change its stand. Maybe New Zealand will. Or maybe right-thinking people on both sides can forge an agreement for two compelling reasons: millions of track enthusiasts around the world are thirsting for the race, and Bayi and Walker, friends and sportsmen, are extraordinarily anxious to make it.
Last week, at the Spanish Grand Prix, interest was focused not on the Ferrari 12s, the McLaren or the Lotus V-8s, but on the Tyrrell 6. In the Tyrrell's case, that meant six wheels, not cylinders.
Six-wheelers have raced before (one finished 12th in the 1948 Indy 500, and Mercedes-Benz entered one in European hill climbs during the late 30s) but the extra wheels were used to drive, not steer, the car. Not so with the new Tyrrell. In order to cut down aerodynamic drag by reducing frontal area, Designer Derek Gardner doubled the number of front wheels and reduced their size (they're 10 inches in diameter vs. the normal 13-inch wheel used in Formula I). Handling has not been sacrificed, because the same or even greater tire contact is made with the road. There also are extra brakes.
In its first competitive outing, Patrick Depailler qualified the car—which looks like a "What's wrong with this picture?" puzzle—third fastest, .6 second behind James Hunt's pole-winning McLaren. In the race, the Tyrrell—whoops—skidded off the track and failed to finish.
While the United States won't complete the switch to the metric system for some years, it may be much too soon for the city of Denver, where the NFL Broncos play their games in Mile High Stadium.
Denver's problem is one of euphony rather than arithmetic. "1.6092693 Kilometer Stadium" hardly rolls trippingly from the tongue.
RARE, BUT WELL DUNN
Playing college baseball in the spring in upstate New York is a lot like trying to kiss your elbow. Several years ago, for example, Colgate played only 13 of its 26 scheduled games because of horrific weather—and to get in those 13 involved rescheduling them 39 times.
So, everyone was happy the other day when Colgate and St. Lawrence met in Canton, N. Y. on what passed for a beautiful spring day—cool, windy and cloudy. But no snow.
Then a weird thing happened. The sun came out. And out. Soon, it was shining brutally into the eyes of the hitter, the catcher and the umpire.
With the game tied 1-1 going into the top of the 11th, Umpire Arnold Dunn threw up his hands and invoked a rule he admits doesn't exactly exist: "That's enough. The sun is driving me crazy. This game is sunned out." Dunn reasoned that by the time he, the hitter and the catcher would have been able to see the ball, they wouldn't. Too dark.
THE IRONIC DUKE
The pro football players who became free agents a few days ago could strike it rich this year. If they do, they will owe a three-pronged debt of gratitude to the courts, to fortuitous timing and, curiously, to Wellington (Duke) Mara, the New York Giants' owner popularly recognized as the arch-enemy of the players' freedom movement.
In past years, being a free agent did not promise to be a particularly lucrative condition, primarily because of the Rozelle Rule, which required a team signing a free agent to compensate his former club. This year, however, the 24 athletes who have played out their option year—Roman Gabriel, Fred Dryer, John Riggins, John Gilliam, Ahmad Rashad and Ron Johnson among them—find the blocking all in front of them.
The courts have contributed by declaring the Rozelle Rule in violation of antitrust laws. This in turn recently forced the NFL to announce that there would be no Rozelle Rule until the matter has been settled in the courts or through collective bargaining.
Enter fortuitous timing. The athletes whose options expired May 1 had refused months ago to sign contracts at a time when there was a Rozelle Rule, but they were willing to take a chance. Now they will presumably benefit by getting higher salaries.
At the same time it is doubtful that those who play out their options this season will benefit. They would not be free until next May 1 and by then a new form of the controversial Rozelle Rule might be in effect.
Lastly, the players owe thanks to Mara for his largess in signing Larry Csonka to a reported $1.5 million contract. This set a salary standard that free agents can use and which owners will have to respect, lest they be accused of conspiring to keep salaries down.
Mara's role is fascinating. It is not the first time that his self-interest—he needed Csonka's name to help fill a new stadium—has cost his fellow owners. Years ago Mara coveted a competent place-kicker and raided the American Football League for Pete Gogolak. That move escalated a costly signing war that eventually forced the NFL to agree to a merger with the weaker league.
It is ironic that the owners' owner could turn out to be the players' best financial friend.
We might excuse the Topps Chewing Gum people for beginning to wonder if they could chew gum and run a business at the same time. Indeed, in recent years some of their plans have, er, blown up in their face.
Two years ago it seemed a certainty that the San Diego Padres would move to Washington, D.C. Among the quarter of a billion baseball cards Topps packages annually with slabs of bubble gum, it printed a few million with the new designation, "Washington, Nat'l Lea.," under the players' pictures. Then at the last minute San Diego stayed in San Diego. Embarrassing.
Last year Topps sponsored its first big-league bubble-gum-blowing championship. The winner was Kurt Bevacqua of Milwaukee. The only trouble was that Bevacqua was not on a Topps baseball card. That's because the thinking around the company before the season was that Bevacqua, who in 1974 hit only .184 in 57 games with two different clubs, would not be with a big club in 1975. Thus, he would not be among the 660 major-leaguers entitled to a card with his picture and statistics on it. Embarrassing.
Which brings us to this year. Just at the time Topps had to print its cards, it appeared the San Francisco Giants would move to Toronto. So Sy Berger, the Topps vice-president in charge of sports, was again a troubled soul. He says he muttered a lot, saying things like: "Please, God, not another San Diego thing."
Berger finally concluded, long before the matter was settled, "I don't think the Giants are going to move." This time he was right, and one for three is .333 and not bad hitting in any league.
But had the club moved, Berger says, Topps was prepared to fix the pictures so the San Francisco uniforms wouldn't show and to paint a "T" on each hat—all at an added cost of $25,000. Sighs Berger, "I'm getting used to the idea that every time baseball does something, it fouls up Topps and costs us money."
At last week's exhibition of dreary fighting between Ali and Jimmy Young (page 30), an observer with more than a nodding interest was Randy Neuman. His name may not leap quickly to mind, but four years ago Neuman whipped Young (one of only five boxers to do so) in a 10-round decision.
So Neuman could be forgiven if, during the fight, he had illusions of grandeur. If young won, Neuman had a claim of sorts for a return shot at him. Says Neuman, "In the last 30 seconds of the 14th round, Young had Ali in trouble. Visions of a rematch with a heavyweight champion I'd already beaten danced through my head. I had the fight scored even at that point and I thought Young won the last round."
Then they raised Ali's hand.
Little League baseball has been criticized for everything from messing kids up psychologically to giving them warts. Now, even the snack shacks on the edges of the fields are under attack.
James White, a phys ed professor at the University of California-San Diego, snorts, "The only real exercise Little League affords is the 200-yard sprint to the snack stand after the game."
Worse, he says, soda pop and candy increase a youngster's anxiety level because of their high sugar content. White submits that most kids get a shot of sugar before the game, whether at home or at the field. Coupled with the anxiety of competing in the game, the effect, White says, is to put the youngsters in "double jeopardy." Finally, just when the kids should be calming down after the game, the dash to the snack stand occurs all over again.
The professor says he has observed a practice whereby members of the winning team get to run to the snack stand for two pieces of junk food apiece while the losers only get one each. "So you see," says White, "the losers are the winners." Further, he says that out of 45 items at one stand he surveyed, 41 were candy and that there were no dried fruit, nuts or health-food cookies—which, everyone knows, are big favorites among kids. Given a choice, surely any youngster would choose prune juice over a soft drink, a carrot over a Big Goo.
Finally, White says, there's the obvious harm to teeth and the buildup of body fat.
So why don't all those folks throughout the country stop operating these sugar-filled snack traps? "Because," says White, "they make money."
Gary Lautens, a Toronto Star writer who is a keen hockey observer, offers these definitions to help outsiders understand the current state of the game:
Gloves—what a player throws down to signal a game has started.
Lineup—the procedure used at the police station to identify the stars of the previous night's hockey game.
Hooking—hockey's oldest profession.
THEY SAID IT
•Norm Cash, former Detroit Tiger slugger who holds the team record for career strikeouts, 1,081: "Prorated at 500 at bats a year, that means that for two years out of the 14 I played, I never touched the ball."
•Bill Muir, offensive line coach at SMU, on aggressiveness: "If the meek are going to inherit the earth, our offensive linemen are going to be land barons."
•Tom Bianco, Spokane first-baseman, after his first encounter with his manager, 6'7", 300 pounds-plus Frank Howard: "I'd like to take him to school for show and tell."
•Guy Kochel, Arkansas State track coach, on being congratulated for his team's runner-up finish in a recent meet: "If finishing second was so great, then we'd only run in dual meets."