SEEING IS BELIEVING
Television's all-seeing cameras have been playing havoc lately with the credibility of NFL officiating. When a referee, like Fred Silva, declares a Bert Jones fumble not a fumble, thereby, in all probability, beating New England, putting Baltimore into the playoffs and keeping Miami out, and then television's replays of the incident show the world that the referee was quite clearly in error, fans begin to think fix and to call for drastic but impractical measures.
We have a suggestion for the NFL, a simple procedure that would use the very TV cameras that exacerbate the controversies, to settle them. One special official, a sort of super referee, could be assigned to a spot from where he could see every play on TV monitors, from every angle that the cameras see it. The official's sole responsibility would be to reverse an obvious, clear-cut, no-question-about-it officiating error the minute it occurs. He would push a button or flip a switch, signaling a reversal, and that would be the end of it. There would be no appeal from this decision and no opportunity for personal intimidation by coaches or fans.
The exercise of the power of the super referee would be infrequent, because incidents such as a Bert Jones non-fumble occur only rarely. But we feel that when there has been an error and millions of fans are being shown visible proof of it over and over again, as viewers in Miami and Boston have in this case, the NFL would be serving the credibility of its product and its officiating by admitting the error and correcting it.
Calvin Murphy of the Houston Rockets is only 5'9" tall but has a large pugilistic reputation in pro basketball. "My first reaction was I'm going to make someone pay for this," he said about the anger he felt when teammate Rudy Tomjanovich was severely injured by Kermit Washington's punch. "Once my anger subsided," he continued, "I realized how asinine that would be after seeing what devastation can be done to a person. You've seen Calvin Murphy throw his last punch."
Not exactly a happy ending to a sad story, but it helps mitigate the gloom.
Hughes Norton, one of Mark McCormack's agents, phoned Nathaniel Crosby, recently named chairman of the Bing Crosby Memorial National Pro-Amateur Golf Championship, about a client who wanted to play in the tournament. "I'm sorry, but I can't talk to you now," said 16-year-old Nathaniel, "I'm on my way to school."
RETURN OF THE KID
Wearing saddle oxfords, as befitted the occasion, and looking as splendid as ever, if not as splinterish, Ted Williams recently paid a visit to Hoover High School in San Diego, from which he graduated into organized baseball in 1937. With him were Tom Seaver, in the role of interviewer, and a television crew for a syndicated series to be called Greatest Sports Legends. The series will not be aired until spring, but thanks to Charles Maher of the Los Angeles Times, who was there, we have some tidbits to tide us over.
In the course of the day's shooting, sometimes on camera, sometimes off, Williams talked about Steve Garvey ("Don't like his style at all. He swings down at the ball. But he's stronger than hell"); Joe DiMaggio ("He did it smoothly, with power and finesse"); 1941, the season Williams batted .406 ("I have to think I had the league betwixt and between. They didn't know whether to pitch me high or low"); Atlantic salmon in New Brunswick ("I fish for salmon from June 15 to October 1. Every single goddam day. I'm out in waders. I'm casting. I cast 500 times a day. And every time I throw a line I think it's going to happen.... I live the whole year for those three months"); 1957, when he hit .388 at the age of 38 ("A hell of a year"); and his last at bat in Fenway Park in 1960 ("It was so damn dark that day. Holy cripes, it was dark. It was a windy, wet, misty day. I got the count 2 and 0 and the pitcher threw a fastball, a beautiful ball to hit. And how I missed it... I don't know yet how I missed it. I know he thought he threw it by me. I still don't think he did. Anyway, he couldn't wait to get the sign and fire another one, you know, and there it was, in the same place").
And then, as the crew was packing up, Williams stepped into the batter's box on Hoover High's Ted Williams Field and hit the third pitch from Hoover ace Alan Goodwin 350 feet over the right-field fence.
COFFEE, TEA OR BIRDSEED
The streaked shearwater is a seabird that nests on rocky islands off the coast of northern Japan in the summer and migrates during the first two weeks of November to warmer rocks in Australia and Southeast Asia for the winter. This year, though, unusually warm weather at home caused the birds to dawdle for a few days, and by the time they were ready to leave, rough, windy weather had set in over the archipelago, making the going too tough for some.
Eight of the stragglers, found in the streets of Tokyo between Nov. 18 and 20, exhausted and dying, were picked up and taken to the city's Ueno Zoo. Two of them died there, but the other six recovered, and on Nov. 29 were last seen streaking south with nothing but kind croaks for Japan Air Lines. JAL, with a sharp eye for the avian interest angle, had helped the Tokyo Six make up for lost time by airlifting them to Naha, Okinawa, close to the southernmost edge of Japan's airspace.
A couple of years ago ABC considered dropping the Army-Navy football game from its TV schedule, its thinking being that service academy football had gotten to be something less than top drawer. Fortunately for the network, it thought better of its idea, and this fall the 78th renewal of the Philadelphia classic was watched by a larger TV audience than that of any other game of the season. Army's three-point win over Navy flickered into 13,560,000 U.S. homes. The only other game that exceeded the 13 million mark was USC-UCLA with 13,959,000. Close behind were Pittsburgh-Perm State with 12,960,000 and Ohio State-Michigan with 12,100,000.
Interestingly, at ABC's request, the academies agreed to a later starting time—4 p.m. E.S.T.—in order to clear the earlier part of the afternoon for Pitts-burgh-Penn State, the "better" game of the two.
At the southeast corner of Rancho Municipal Park in the Cheviot Hills section of Los Angeles are 16 hard-surface tennis courts. Until Jan. 31, 1977, the courts served as a sort of park within a park—a community, day-care and senior-citizens center all rolled into one. The rules allowed players one set when other players were waiting, and the regulars whiled away their waiting time on the low bleachers, playing backgammon, dealing bridge hands and schmoozing. They were schoolchildren from the neighborhood and stockbrokers from Beverly Hills, graduate students from UCLA and grimy tennis hustlers out of nowhere. The quality of the tennis was generally high, but so was the level of tolerance for differences of age and skill. It was everything a public park should be and, like the rest of the best things in life, it was free.
But the tennis boom caught up with Rancho Park about a year ago. The Los Angeles recreation and parks commission, having decided to try to make its tennis courts pay, set up a test program at Rancho. Courts could now be reserved in advance for $2 an hour. Unreserved time was still free, but there was never much of it and, furthermore, one never knew how long one might have to wait to get it.
Right away the heterogeneous social fabric of the bleachers began to break down. The kids went looking for free courts farther from home, and some of the adults who just didn't care for the whole idea took up other sports. Eddie Kantar, a professional bridge player whose daily appearances at Rancho Park were once as predictable as a California sunrise, is playing a lot more paddle tennis at the beach these days.
However, help may be on the way. A group that calls itself the Association of Public Court Players and claims to represent the rights of between 10,000 and 20,000 tennis players is attempting to take the recreation and parks commission to court, hoping to halt the test program at Rancho Park and the proposed expansion of that program to 11 other tennis centers. The APCP contends that the reservation system is unfair to children and senior citizens who have to wait long hours for unreserved court time.
One wonders what might have been the fate of the kid with the big serve had the city of Los Angeles been charging $2 an hour when Pancho Gonzales was growing up on the old concrete courts in Exposition Park.
SAVE THIS BIRD
The Martha's Vineyard (Mass.) Wildlife Sanctuary, in an attempt to meet its $20-a-day food bill for 650 wildfowl, is urging local conservationists to become foster parents to the bird of their choice. For $10, an adoptive parent receives a drawing of his bird and visiting privileges at the preserve for a year.
Secretariat's get was beginning to look good last week, thanks to a six-length victory in a maiden race at Laurel by a slim, roan colt named Sacrebleu. The Triple Crown champion's first crop of 28 foals closed its somewhat disappointing 2-year-old season with three winners out of the 10 that went to the post. First a filly, Feuille d'Erable, won at Woodbine in Toronto. Then Philip Niarchos' Dactylographer won two races, one of them a stakes, in England. And finally, last week, Sacrebleu, in his first time out, became the first U.S. winner.
Sacrebleu is said to resemble his dam, a The Axe II mare named Color Me Blue who was in foal to Secretariat when Raymond Guest bought her for $220,000 at the Keeneland fall sales. Guest's winning share of the Laurel purse was $3,250.
Three Secretariats that did not get to the races as 2-year-olds but may figure prominently in the 3-year-old season are Cold Reception, State Room and the $ 1.5 million yearling, Canadian Bound.
It might be said that one has not truly gambled until one has had $1.5 million riding on a bunch of genes.
MUD IN YOUR EYE
Dr. Thomas A. Pearson, a cardiovascular epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, says exercise and moderate drinking, particularly of beer, may be the most important factors in safeguarding against heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the U.S. Pearson, who presented his findings at the American Heart Association's scientific session in Miami Beach recently, says exercise and moderate drinking—one or two beers a day—are significant because they keep high-density lipoprotein at a high level in the blood. Some researchers believe that HDL may actually flush away fatty deposits in arterial walls that cause atherosclerosis, a basic disease of the heart. Dr. Pearson suggests that people ask their physicians to measure the level of HDL as well as cholesterol when they are having a checkup.
THEY SAID IT
•Marvin Davis, Denver oilman, after purchasing the Oakland A's for a figure rumored to be more than $12 million: "As men get older, the toys get more expensive."
•Bum Phillips, Houston Oilers coach, on being unprepared for sub-zero cold in Cleveland: "You can't practice being miserable."
•Darryl Royal, University of Texas athletic director: "There are two things I've never heard. I've never heard my daddy cuss, and I've never heard a school on probation say they got justice."
•George Halas, on why he quit coaching: "I knew it was time to quit when I was chewing out an official and he walked off the penalty faster than I could keep up with him."