WRITING ON A WALL
The cheapness of the card stunts executed by Southern California's cheering section at the USC-UCLA game last Saturday was broadcast by nationwide television, although no one quite knows why. Certainly, college humor has always been callow—similar quasi-obscenities were coming out of collegiate grandstands long before television—but that does not mean the casual TV watcher at home has to be smothered by the heavy-handed vulgarities that impress some children as wit. It is not a matter of television censorship but, rather, one of directorial judgment.
Phase II of President Nixon's economic program has a direct and serious bearing on professional sport. Its basic premise says that increases in salaries should be held to a 5.5% maximum, but the peculiar earning pattern in sport makes such a guideline unrealistic and impractical. Even if 5.5 is applied to a payroll as a whole, with individual raises distributed under that blanket, it would be difficult to accommodate the often extreme but nonetheless justified jumps in salary. Salary increases are often designed to pay the employee for work he is expected to do; in professional sport a salary increase is for work done in the past, specifically the previous season. In few occupations can an employee's productivity be as precisely measured, and as directly rewarded, as in sport.
An extreme example of the impracticality of the 5.5 rule in sport is the case of Vida Blue. Blue was paid something like $13,500 in 1971, a fair salary for a second-year man but a terrible one for the best player in the league, which Blue turned out to be. President Nixon acknowledged this when, joking with Blue, he called him the most underpaid player in sport. Is it realistic to expect Blue to settle for a $750 raise? Of course not. But is it any more practical to expect other members of the victorious Oakland A's to take no raises—or even to accept cuts—in order to allow the 200% or 300% increase in salary that Blue deserves?
November 29, 1971
It was not the President's intention to shackle the competitive aspect of free enterprise. Professional sport, by its very nature, is based on lively competition among individuals. It will be unfortunate if the Phase II administrators adhere bureaucratically to a rule that would prohibit the rewarding of accomplishment in sport.
THE HEISMAN GIMMICK
Polls to decide who or what is best in sport are generally nonsense, but a few of them have created so much interest over the years that they take on a patina of validity. One of these is the Heisman Trophy, which for more than 35 years has been awarded annually to the man who is voted the outstanding college football player of the year. No matter how arbitrary the selection occasionally is, the question of who gets the Heisman is important to football and the trophy is an honored one.
It is sad, then, to consider the tasteless way the announcing of the Heisman winner was handled this year. The Downtown Athletic Club of New York, which awards the trophy, worked out an arrangement to make the announcement from an ABC-TV studio during halftime of the Georgia-Georgia Tech telecast on Thanksgiving night. It is hard to believe, but they even went along with the banal Academy Award device of running in an accounting firm and a sealed envelope, to be dramatically opened with a cornball announcement like "And the winner is...!"
One elderly Downtown A.C. member, a former president of the group, called it a sellout to television. Younger members denied this, pointing out that the modest fee received from ABC is earmarked for charity. All Downtown wanted was wider exposure for their hallowed trophy. The ABC people did not seek out the Heisman, but when it was laid in their laps they reacted predictably, as TV people will. Make it part of a package, baby. Let's see what needs hyping up. Nebraska-Oklahoma on Thanksgiving afternoon? Never. That'll have outasight ratings, anyway. Auburn-Alabama Saturday afternoon? Nope, that's another winner. Listen, put it on that Thanksgiving night football telecast. The turkey in that time slot bombed last year. Maybe the Heisman will help.
And so a distinguished football trophy becomes a TV gimmick. Way to go, Downtown A.C. Hang in there, ABC.
AN AMUSING LITTLE GAME
Perhaps it is time, now that a few months have passed to allow the excitement of the season to calm down, to talk a little about one of the more successful aggregations in sport: Oxford University's wine-tasting team. Oxford's cricket 11 had a bad year, its crew was swamped by Cambridge in the famous Boat Race and its tennis squad was a bust. Against this background of disaster the wine tasters rose to the heights, knocking off wine-tasting societies from the suburbs of London and from other universities before crushing Cambridge 381 to 210. We would like to tell you how the score of 381 to 210 was arrived at, but cannot, since wine tasting is all very esoteric. But as the contestants sniff and sip (and spit out) the various wines, they are supposed to name the country of origin, the area, the village, the vineyard, the vintage and, ultimately, the precise name of the wine. Whether they have to decide whether the grapes grew on the shady or the sunny side of the slopes is not entirely clear. In most matches, the tasters attempt to classify five white wines and five red wines.
Sarah Stewart-Brown, the only woman ever to taste in an Oxford-Cambridge wine showdown, says team members stay in shape off season by traveling extensively in wine-growing regions, sometimes sipping away from morning till night. "It takes memory and a great deal of drinking to develop your palate," says Miss Stewart-Brown. "Of course, no one gets drunk. You spit the wine out after each taste. One aims vaguely at great silver spitoons."
Japan's famous slugger, Sadaharu Oh (SI, March 29), has revised his thinking about major league baseball in the U.S. after seeing the Baltimore Orioles in action during the American League champions' recent visit to the Orient. "When the Dodgers came here in 1966 and the Cardinals in 1968, I felt I could play with the Americans," Oh said through an interpreter. "But after facing the Orioles, I think it would be difficult. They are very, very strong." He was equally candid about Japanese baseball in general. "It will be a long time before we reach the level of the Americans," he said. "Maybe never. Physically, they are stronger than we are. We are trying to close the gap, but it is very wide yet."
DOCTOR'S NIGHT OUT
This is not to imply that she ever got the least bit out of shape, but Tenley Albright, the first American woman to win the world championship in figure skating (1953, 1955) and Olympic gold medalist (1956), is back in training. So are ex-champs Hayes and David Jenkins and 1960's top Olympian, Carol Heiss, who is married to Hayes Jenkins. Plus, as they always say, a star-studded cast of others, every one a winner.
The oldtimers will highlight the U.S. Figure Skating Association's golden jubilee wingding this Monday night at Madison Square Garden in New York. The fund-raising benefit will include the 1971 U.S. figure-skating team and every other skater around who ever was anybody in the sport, except for Peggy Fleming, who is taping a TV show in Europe.
Showing up for a night of nostalgia is fine, but the proposed format for the jubilee really got to Tenley Albright. The oldtimers, presumably creaky with age, were supposed to be pushed around the ice on sleds while they sat there quietly, waving sedately to the crowd. Tenley, who is 36, married, a mother of three and a busy surgeon as well, decided she wasn't that creaky. She can still fit into her old skating costumes, though "they look kind of old-fashioned," and all she needed was a new routine and a little time away from the operating table.
The Jenkins boys and Carol Heiss, who felt the same way, are also spurning the sled, and will appear on ice together in a trio act. Tenley will do a solo, worked around a Pink Panther theme. That's showing them, Dr. T. Get out there and cut 'em up.
Word comes that Dan Gurney, the racing driver, and Writer Brock Yates recently drove a Ferrari Daytona from New York to Los Angeles in 35 hours 54 minutes. It was sort of a race—other teams essayed the same course—and the Gurney-Yates car won by averaging nearly 82 mph for the 2,925-mile trip "without ever exceeding 175 mph."
In one way it sounds like fun, especially to those who have taken a long, dreary week to make the coast-to-coast trip. In another way it sounds deplorable, especially to those who, holding at 70 on an open highway, have been scared half to death by a car whomping past as though they were standing still. And we sure hope no one tried to cross the road.
The Harlem Globetrotters became Globepickets last week when 15 of the 19 players went on strike, forcing cancellation of a game in Port Huron, Mich. Money was the big bone of contention—Trotter rookies, for example, said they made only $7,800 a year compared to $12,000 and $16,000 for first-year men in the ABA and NBA. But there were complaints, too, about the lack of meal money, about pensions and even about uniforms. "Every night I come back to the hotel and wash my uniform by hand," said Frank Stephens, a six-year veteran from Virginia State. "And they call this a first-class organization."
George Gillett, who runs the Globetrotters, did not question the players' facts on salaries and meal money, but argued that it was oversimplification. "They didn't want a pension plan," he said. "They voted for stock options instead, and we gave them half a million dollars worth. These guys stand to collect anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 each in stock—and they're complaining." He indignantly rejected the uniform charge. "I'll send them seven uniforms right now, a new one for every day of the week."
Whoever is right, the Trotter situation is a far cry from the way things were in the early days of the team. When the late Abe Saperstein began touring the Midwest in 1927, he packed his five players and himself into a Model-T Ford, and each night he would divide the gate receipts seven ways—one share for himself, one for each player and one for the car.
Chris-Craft and Pacemaker have both announced that they will give boat buyers the option of selecting Ford's new gas-turbine engines in some of next year's models. The gas turbine needs no cooling system and can burn furnace oil, jet fuel, liquefied gas or nonlead gasoline. Exhaust is said to be much cleaner, and there is almost no odor, little vibration and practically no noise. It is considerably smaller than the conventional engine, half as heavy and so simple in design that one man with a wrench can replace malfunctioning parts. One other thing you ought to know: selecting the gas-turbine engine in place of a comparable diesel adds about $15,000 to the sticker price.
THEY SAID IT
•Dan Devine, Green Bay Packer coach, after his team lost 3-0 in Minneapolis: "This is an unbelievable place. I come into town and all I hear is about all the problems the Vikings have. They've lost six games in three years. In Bud Grant they have probably the best coach in pro football. All their tickets are sold to all their games. They have a great team. I wouldn't mind having some of their problems."
•Red Schoendienst, recently rehired St. Louis Cardinal manager, on why the Cards must win the pennant next season: "My wife Mary is sore at me because she hasn't been at the microphone to sing the national anthem in the World Series since 1968."