NEW FOR THE OLD
In recent years, skating, finesse and play-making have taken a back seat to slap shots and bruising body checks at all levels of hockey, with the result that the sport is far less fun to play than it once was. Whether it is less fun to watch is a matter for argument, but there is no argument that participation has declined.
Enter Coley Burke and the American Oldtimers Hockey Association. Modeled after the Canadian organization of the same name, the AOHA is for men 35 and older who would like to play hockey without risking their lives for it. "A 45-year-old guy doesn't want to go out and crack a guy over the head, and he doesn't want to be pushed around by a 22-year-old who's lean and green," says Burke, a 37-year-old New York lawyer who was an All-Ivy hockey player at Yale in 1963. "He wants to skate and shoot and pass and have a good time."
AOHA rules differ from the norm in two respects: slap shots and body contact are forbidden. Now in its second year, the league has more than 2,000 on its mailing list; elsewhere it is booming. Canada has more than 10 thousand members, and last year 56 teams showed up for a tournament in Copenhagen.
It is Burke's fervent hope that all this will somehow change the direction youth hockey has been taking in this country for several years and lead to the sort of participant explosion that tennis recently experienced. "It's ridiculous to see these kids go out and hit the way they do," he says. "Professional hockey, with its brutality, has ruined the game on a broad level. More and more kids are getting out of the game." Then he adds, "If you were on a tennis court and getting ready to hit a drop shot and your opponent jumped over the net and gave you a cross-body block, there'd be a lot less people playing tennis, too."
THE VALLEY OF DEBT
Steve Cauthen's problems continued last week when he suddenly changed his mind and decided not to leave Santa Anita. His agent, Lenny Goodman, returned to New York, leaving Steve with another agent, Chick McLellan. Two days later Cauthen switched to Harry (the Hat) Hacek in hopes of getting the mounts he needed to break his woeful slump.
When last Sunday's races at Santa Anita were run, the losing streak had reached 105. Nobody knows why the super-jockey of 1977 and half of 1978 has become the bust of '79, but the consensus of owners, trainers and fellow jockeys is that he is simply getting on too many slow horses.
One of the interesting aspects of Cauthen's case is that trainers are still using him—he had eight mounts Sunday—thus backing him as he tries to find his way back into the winner's circle.
As far as horseplayers go, Cauthen is riding them right into the valley of debt. There is an old system for bettors who wager on jockeys: when a good jockey is going bad, double your bet on every mount until he wins. However, no gambler can endure a 105-race losing streak by doubling up. Starting with a $2 bet on Cauthen's first losing mount and progressing through his slump, a player would have lost $40,564,819,207,303,340,847,894,502,572,032 on the final bet.
The sounds of creaking knees may soon be music to the ears of injured athletes. In Akron a team of scientists led by biologist Dr. Richard A. Mostardi, formerly a defensive back with the Cleveland Browns and the Minnesota Vikings, has been feeding the tape-recorded sounds of the movements of damaged knees into a computer for the past four years.
"A healthy knee is fairly noise free," says Mostardi. "Everything fits together. But a damaged one sounds somewhat like sandpaper." The computer makes a spectral analysis of the sounds, producing a profile of the injury or irregularity.
Dr. Ivan Gradisar says, "Not only can we evaluate the condition of the joint surfaces with this technique, and do it more accurately than before, we also eliminate the painful procedure of arthroscopy, of surgically looking into the knee."
Up to now the sound-comparison system has been used mostly on lab animals and for diagnosing severe arthritis in a few human patients, but the team intends to begin clinical application within six months.
Says Gradisar, "It won't be too far in the future when sound profiles of knees are a regular part of every pro football team's physical exam."
This is not only welcome news to the blindside crowd, but the same technology can be applied to the great symphony of elbows and ankles sounding off out there by the millions.
SHOT OUT OF THE GATE
Waiting for the starter's bell at Redcar racecourse in England, Stetchworth, a 9 to 1 long shot who had never won a race in his short career, reared and bucked in the starting gate, threatening to throw his rider. According to the Daily Mail, when the gate opened he streaked out, powered down the seven-furlong course and sped across the finish line half a length ahead of his nearest challenger. While long-shot bettors rejoiced, track officials examined him and learned that Stetchworth had been hit on the rump by a pellet from an air gun just before the start.
Three boys armed with air pistols were subsequently found in the long grass near the starting gate. In juvenile court, the prosecuting solicitor didn't regard the offense as overly grave. "A small mark was found on the horse's flesh," he said. "It did not appear to suffer too much." Two of the boys were fined, and the third—who admitted to an unrelated burglary—was put into official care.
Track officials let Stetchworth's win stand. Said a Jockey Club spokesman, "There was no deliberate fraud, since the shooting took place before the off. But if it had happened at a crucial point and the horse had shot forward and won the race, the matter could have come under the rules relating to violent and improper conduct and fraudulent practice. Disqualification could have resulted."
NEVER EAT AT MOM'S
To win baseball games you must have heart, not heartburn. At least that was one of the conclusions of a study by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research compiled from data collected last summer by an observer traveling in the Midwest with a Class A team.
Among the findings of on-the-road factors that influenced the team's fate:
The closer restaurants were to the motel, the worse the team played. On the other hand, the nearer the team's motel to bars, theaters and shopping centers, the better the team fared.
Players have known this all along, of course. It's those darn managers and coaches, with bed checks and fines for breaking curfew, who never seem to learn.
BUSTING UP THE BUSTARD HUNT
The great Indian bustard, a highly prized desert game bird, has recently been saved from almost sure extinction by the Indian government. When visiting Arab Prince Badr, brother of King Khalid of Saudi Arabia, decided to call off falconing for the lesser and great bustards—the latter one of the world's rarest—at the behest of the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, it caused rejoicing among Indian environmentalists.
Arabian nobles and well-heeled sportsmen have been hunting the more plentiful and unprotected lesser bustard from air-conditioned Jeeps in the desert on the India-Pakistan border. According to local observers, however, they had also slaughtered great numbers of great bustards as well. The best answer, it seemed, was to stop the hunting of both varieties of the slow-moving birds (bustard is derived from the Latin avis tarda, or slow bird).
Falconry is a traditional Arab sport, and the deserts of India and Pakistan have been popular hunting grounds since the bustard—both great and lesser—was extirpated in Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, the sport has been the subject of widespread betting. By means of high-powered radio equipment, the Arab princes would announce to waiting bookies throughout the Middle East which of the numbered falcons had bagged the most birds.
In the study that led to the law protecting the great bustard, passed in 1972, a specialist called in by the Indian government had said, "The birds are fragile enough without being hunted. They suffer an extremely low reproduction rate and generally lay only one egg a year, and they suffer from habitat destruction, poaching and disturbance.
"The Arabian nobles think of falconry as a culturally central sport. But it's badly distorted when they show up in India in motor caravans to continue the slaughter."
Charles and Katie Crowe say they should have smelled something fishy after she boated a 7'2" sailfish two weeks ago on a charter boat out of Miami Beach. "It did seem kind of lifeless when we got it on the boat," says Crowe, a Dallas contractor in for the Super Bowl. Lifeless was right. The fish had been dead at least a day before Mrs. Crowe "caught" it.
Moments before the "strike" a team of Miami Herald observers, who had been tipped off, watched from a nearby boat while the mate of the Therapy IV slipped forward to the bow of the boat, out of sight of the anglers in the cockpit, attached the hitherto concealed fish to Mrs. Crowe's line, eased it into the water, gave it time to stream astern, then yelled, "We've got one!" The "fight" was on. By keeping the boat in motion, Captain Jack Wiggins produced the effect of a 20-minute battle.
Mrs. Crowe agreed to have the fish mounted. The cost would have been $431, with $140 going to Wiggins and the mate—which explains the deceit. A charter crew usually gets a 30% share of the mount money—the $5-per-inch fee for taxidermy—paid by the angler.
"They were pushing us real hard about getting the fish mounted if she caught one," says Crowe. "My wife was the only one of our party who'd never gotten a billfish. I recall the mate was out of sight for a while. He said he had to make a phone call or something."
Captain Wiggins was suspended from taking part in the annual Metropolitan South Florida Fishing Tournament after ichthyologist Charles Getter certified that the fish had been dead before it was reeled in. Back in Texas, Crowe put a stop on the $120 taxidermy deposit check. "I don't want to have a fraudulent catch mounted," he said. But he added that he wouldn't try to recover his $60 portion of the charter fee or the $20 tip he gave the mate.
Said Elwood Harry, President of the International Game Fish Association, "One possible answer to the problem is some sort of licensing. Then when something like this comes up you could put them out of business."
Long Wharf, a lively section of New Haven's downtown urban-renewal area, will have a new attraction to add to its theaters, restaurants and shops next fall. American Totalisator Company has devised Teletrack, an off-track betting parlor with a difference. Several differences. In fact, Teletrack will actually be an off-track betting theater.
Races from five New York tracks—Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga by day and Roosevelt and Yonkers raceways by night—replete with paddock scenes and post parades for atmosphere, will be shown live and in color by microwave transmission on a 768-square-foot screen. Punters will place their bets at racetrack-style facilities on the ground floor, a space that will accommodate 1,800 bettors, as well as on the clubhouse level, which, including a dining room, will hold 400 more. Changing odds, based on Connecticut's off-track betting pools, will be displayed on monitors.
For horseplayers, Teletrack means off-track convenience with on-track atmosphere. For Connecticut, it means racetrack revenue for a state with no horse tracks of its own. As any legislator avid for tax dollars can tell you, show biz is a lot better than no biz.
HE SAID IT
•Don Budge, on the new Ellsworth Vines and Gene Vier book, Tennis: Myth and Method, in which Vines picks Budge as the greatest player of all time: "It's one of the most knowledgeable tennis books ever written."