Oscar, Meet Toni
Like four slapstick comedians painting themselves into a corner, the members of the Amateurism Committee of the International Ski Federation have been working their way, by perfectly logical steps, toward a position of complete absurdity; and they have now arrived there.
They announced that they would view a German movie called Der Schwarze Blitz (Black Lightning), which stars Toni Sailer, the Olympic ski champion. If Sailer turned out to be a competent actor in the film, he would be allowed to keep his amateur standing as a skier. But if he gave a bad performance, he would be declared a professional athlete and barred from further FIS competition. Having made this pronouncement, the four athletic officials assigned themselves the roles of movie critics and filed, presumably with straight faces, into a projection room to view Sailer's film and decide his fate.
The situation developed from fairly straightforward beginnings. Sailer is 22 and as handsome as any amateur athlete in the world. American, French and Italian film companies have been trying for months to sign him to contracts, with or without his skis. The thing that worried the Amateurism Committee: Was Sailer cashing in on his fame as an amateur skier? Or did the moviemakers want him for his pearly teeth, his sex appeal and his skill as an actor? The committeemen decided that if Toni turned out to have no skill as an actor it would mean that he had been hired for his skiing and should therefore be branded a professional; and so they ordered up their command performance.
It turned out, however, that only a fourth of the movie had been filmed, and the Critical Committee of the International Ski Federation had to admit that such a small sliver of Black Lightning wasn't enough to judge by. They put off their decision for two months, so that Sailer could return to Munich and finish the movie.
For a time the committeemen entertained themselves with another fantasy: perhaps they should summon Roberto Rossellini and let him judge whether Sailer was a professional actor and an amateur skier or the other way around. But this proposal was abandoned "in view of the costs it would automatically incur," and it was decided simply to ask Sailer's co-workers on the movie set whether he is any good or not and use their answers as supporting evidence.
Sailer seemed unworried. "Es ist alles in Ordnung," he said, and what he meant was, everything is fine. Then he announced that he was "prepared to accept" a leading part in Hollywood, in a picture starring Van Johnson and Terry Moore. He didn't say why; perhaps he felt that, measured against such performers as Mr. Johnson and Miss Moore, any skier would look like an actor.
Meanwhile, Toni has his work cut out for him. In the next two months he has to make the kind of effort in Munich, that, in Hollywood, wins Oscars. If he doesn't he may get poor reviews from critics both in and out of the FIS and wind up with both his skis and his profile unemployed.
The New Dick Stuart
Remember Richard Lee Stuart, the big, old boy with the strong back and the ego the size of a mush-melon, who believed his singular mission in life was to hit home runs? And Dick Stuart, as Dick Stuart will remind you, did hit 66 of them at Lincoln in the Class-A Western league back in 1956, and struck out 171 times and caught more flies on one bounce than any other outfielder in organized baseball.