Some advertising intelligence for the sports fan to mull over: even though the cherished belief is that the average fan listening to an event on radio or watching it on TV is an amiable slob (ideally wearing a T shirt and drinking a can of beer) who switches the dial whenever a commercial comes on, advertising people know better. Ken Miller of radio station KMPC in Los Angeles, which broadcasts California Angels baseball games, says the station had a survey done a few years ago by the W.R. Simmons company to determine how much attention listeners to various programs were paying to commercials. Says Miller, "According to the Simmons study, in California the sports listener has a higher rate of attentiveness and ability to recall a commercial than a listener to any other kind of broadcasting." As for the old blue-collar image of the sports fan, Miller says the Angel broadcasts do not reach a blue-collar audience. "Research by the Mervin Field company on the West Coast during the last 12 or 13 years indicates that the baseball listener is in a higher income bracket than the national average and is in a higher educational bracket—well above the average. The Los Angeles Rams' audience is pretty much the same as that for the Angels. Upper income and upper educated. Probably a little bit more than the baseball audience."
There you are, sports fans. You're rich and you're smart—in California, anyway—and you pay attention. And that last attribute is going to get more and more important. According to the J. Walter Thompson Company, the largest advertising agency in the world, in another 15 years three-second spots may be the big thing in television advertising. Three-second spots? One little second, two little seconds, three little seconds? Yes, says J. Walter, because consumers (that's you, sports fans) will be able to comprehend commercials at much faster rates. What it comes down to, of course, is that we'll be able to watch commercials between every pitch, between every down, maybe after every basket. It's the wave of the future.
RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU
The Poughkeepsie Journal ran a headline out of the past a couple of weeks ago: PALMER LEADS CROSBY. No, it wasn't Arnold, and it wasn't Bing. It was Sandra Palmer on her way to winning Kathy Crosby's own little clambake, the Kathryn Crosby/Honda Civic Classic in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
YO-HO-HO AND A BET ON RUM
Red Rum, the English horse, won the 136th running of the Grand National at Aintree last Saturday. That's accomplishment enough, but there's more. Red Rum won the race in 1973. He won it again in 1974. He finished second in 1975, second in 1976 and now he has won it again this year. No other horse in the history of the National can equal that astonishing record.
Red Rum is 12 years old, an age when most respectable horses that are not at stud (Red Rum is a gelding) are either running in minor races at minor tracks or are waiting the call from the dog-food factory. As a matter of record, moralists in Great Britain have been intermittently indignant for the past two years about the cruelties being inflicted on Red Rum, such as making him still run. He's finished, they cried, washed up. It's terrible to keep him in training. A good part of their outrage was directed at Trainer Donald (Ginger) McCain, who by profession is a garage owner in Lancashire. McCain trains a number of horses along with Red Rum, keeping them all in a stable behind his garage. There isn't room to gallop them there, so he trots his charges through the streets and down to the beach, where he works them out on the sand. This regimen did not seem to do much for Red Rum after his back-to-back victories in 1973 and 1974, for in the next two racing seasons his record was quite ordinary. Yet when it came time for Aintree and the National in 1975 and 1976, there was Red Rum at the top of his form again.
This year, despite the critics, the public made Red Rum second favorite for the National, and when the 12-year-old came down the stretch a smashing winner by 25 lengths, the huge crowd at Aintree gave him a tumultuous salute. And began looking ahead to next year.
GOOD OLD DAYS
When a professional athlete gets into a contract dispute with management he automatically risks the disfavor of his fans. It doesn't much matter whether his argument is valid or not—he seldom wins public approval. Several weeks ago the New York Daily News, reacting to home-run hitter Dave Kingman's continuing salary hassle with the New York Mets, asked its readers to vote on who was right, the Mets or Kingman. The Mets won by a landslide.
It was ever thus. Before the turn of the century major league players protested bitterly that salaries were too low, too restricted. Their bitterness became outright rebellion; many of the best players broke loose and formed their own short-lived league. Yet they received little sympathy. According to a fascinating volume called The Scrapbook History of Baseball, a pre-1900 newspaper published the following sarcastic account of a ballplayer's life:
"The professional ballist has a hard time. He rises every morning at 10 o'clock, takes a snug breakfast in the cafe, reads the Metropolitan newspapers, strolls out in the corridors and smokes a Reina Victoria, takes a nap...strolls out to the ball field about 3 o'clock, takes a little exercise for a couple of hours, returns for supper, smokes again, goes to the theatre in the evening with his girl and, of course, draws his salary—oh, the ball tosser never forgets that.
"And he is paid handsomely for working himself to death in this way? Yes, altogether too handsomely. His income, compared with that of others in the same stratum of society, is simply princely...Yes, the professional ballist has a tough time."
It should be noted that one of the things the players were protesting against, before they formed their own league, was a rule the owners established limiting salaries to a maximum of $2,000 a year. Granted, professional ballist Kingman was looking for a little more than that.
THE ROCK OF EAST STROUDSBURG
In eastern Pennsylvania, Tom Duran, a 19-year-old sophomore at East Stroudsburg State College, was so moved by the Academy Award film Rocky that he took up boxing on the spur of the moment. Duran, a 6'2", 215-pound defensive end on the East Stroudsburg football team, had gone to watch a friend fight in a Pennsylvania Golden Gloves tournament and found himself an entrant in the heavyweight division. "My friends have a way of talking me into doing things," he told sports writer Joe DeVivo of The Pocono Record. "Like eating glass and stuff like that. They started saying I could be like Rocky. They even cracked raw eggs and put them in a glass and made me drink them like Rocky did."
Duran had never been in a formal boxing bout. The only equipment he had was a pair of sneakers. He had to borrow everything else, including the $4 entry fee. None of the boxing people at the Golden Gloves wanted to work his corner ("I asked, and everybody said they were busy"). He had to ask another fighter's father to bandage his hands.
In his first fight, a semifinal (he had drawn a bye in the quarterfinals), he started poorly. "I lost the first round," he says, "and the second was pretty even, so I knew I had to do something in the last round. I went out and looked for a little opening. When I found it, I came up and got him. He went down, and I was so psyched I wanted to hit him again." The opponent got up, but the decision went to Duran, now, astonishingly, in the finals.
"I had a little shiner," he says, "but I didn't feel it. I was so happy. People were fighting to see who would take over my corner. Everybody started giving me brochures to attend their boxing camps. I wanted to see the movie again—I was using Rocky to inspire myself—but I didn't get the chance, so I tried to pick up some pointers in the dressing room. One guy tried to show me how to throw a right cross, but when he did he poked me hard in the nose. I guess that was an omen of things to come."
In the finals, Duran again was outfought in the first round but started strongly in the second. "We stood toe to toe flailing away for about 30 seconds," he says. "I went to hit him again and my arms felt like 100-pound barbells." When he returned to his corner he was told by his seconds that he had won the round, but his lips were bleeding, his nose was broken and his eyes were swelling shut. When he went out for the third round, he could hardly see. The referee let Duran fight for about a minute, then stopped the bout and gave it to his opponent on a technical knockout. "I could have cried when he stopped it," Duran says, "except my eyes were so swollen nothing would come out."
Despite the beating and the defeat, East Stroudsburg's Rocky says he relished the entire experience. "It was worth it just to be able to say I did it," he says. "I went to a nightclub afterward and people bought me champagne."
The University of Houston has a small band called The Cougar Brass that usually plays only at home basketball games. When Houston was invited to the NIT tournament in Madison Square Garden this year, it was decided to send The Cougar Brass along, too. Band director Bill Moffit decided to go in style—Texas style—so he bought himself a big hat and a pair of fancy cowboy boots.
When the band boarded its plane to New York, the rear seats were occupied by a group of foreigners. After the plane was airborne, Moffit, in boots and big hat, walked up and down the aisle distributing meal money to the band members, who were scattered around the plane. It was just routine, but the foreigners stared wide-eyed and began talking excitedly among themselves.
It must be true, they seemed to be saying, all those stories we've heard about rich Texans.
When Dr. James Naismith invented basketball, it seemed so simple: you shoot at your peach basket, I'll shoot at mine. Well, maybe after 1,000 games in the NBA, nothing is simple. Consider Paul Silas, the Denver Nuggets' forward, who last week played in his 1,000th regular-season game. In game 1,001, against the Indiana Pacers, Silas took a jump-ball tap at the Indiana end, and while nine other players raced off one way he wheeled and glided toward the wrong basket for an uncontested layup. As Denver Coach Larry Brown, who played a mere 376 games in the ABA, observed, "Someone once said that after the first thousand, all baskets look alike."
Luckily the law of averages was on the Nuggets' side: Silas, a 36% shooter, missed.
THEY SAID IT
•Dan Galbreath, owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, on the paucity of meetings among baseball owners: "I don't know of any other business where you meet your partners only twice a year."
•Billy Turner, trainer of Kentucky Derby favorite Seattle Slew: "With a horse like this, something bad can happen at any time. But what's the fun in having a horse that doesn't run fast enough to worry you?"
•Jim Palmer, Baltimore Oriole pitcher, alleged to have called Reggie Jackson "a mediocre outfielder," explaining to Jackson that he had been misquoted: "I said you were an average outfielder."
•Turquoise Erving, wife of basketball star Julius Erving, on her husband: "He's a warm person but he's not especially romantic, except during the summer."