disaster by a coach whose squad is loaded for bear are a standard operational
procedure applauded as clever psychology by reporters. It rarely occurs to them
that they are stooges for coaches who deliberately mislead the public with a
cheap trick as contemptible as feeding whisky to the Indians. If the team gets
licked the coach is off the hook. If the team wins big, the coach's reputation
as a mastermind is enhanced by the stirring triumph over insuperable obstacles.
It is peculiarly fitting that all the postseason football bowls are named for
agricultural crops. Through the year these joints—Orange, Cotton, Rose, Sugar,
to name a few—have been irrigated by the crocodile tears of coaches whose
crippled, undermanned teams have played there on New Year's Day.
The cushy bids to
these clambakes are largely predicated on weekly A.P. ratings, which ostensibly
represent a national poll of authoritative opinion. Actually, they are merely
third-rate popularity contests. Although some 3,000 newspapers and broadcasting
stations are entitled to one vote apiece, as few as 100, and rarely more than
500, ballots are cast. The majority come from small towns shilling for local
favorites. Sports editors in metropolitan centers know the poll is meaningless
and don't bother to vote, but they continue to run the ratings under big
imagination lavished on dreaming up new statistics were applied to the business
on the field, fewer teams would be suffering from pernicious anemia at the
gate. A press agent is suspected of taking money under false pretenses when he
fails to whip up a fresh batch of records for his client. At that, he should be
able to latch onto an angle in the welter of national, regional, conference
and, when things get really tough, school records. The Purdue football brochure
gets double mileage from its list by drawing an arbitrary distinction between
marks established before and after 1939. Those set in the last 20 years are
labeled "modern era" records, thereby dating alumni past 40 as relics
of the Paleozoic Age.
have been standard equipment for baseball publicists since Arthur Patterson
announced with a straight face that a homer by Mickey Mantle traveled 565 feet
in 1954. Basketball drumbeaters pinpoint shots as precisely as artillery
spotters. Track performances are reduced to fractional clockings for each
furlong. So many items have been added to box scores that they are as
complicated as financial statements.
absurdity in keeping a detailed summary of every insignificant move made by an
athlete is that the tactics and techniques of all sports today are geared to
the big, explosive payoff. In football it is the long gainer, in basketball the
fast break, in boxing the knockout punch, in track the finishing kick, in
tennis the "big game" with a minimum of strokes. The concept of
baseball was revolutionized by Miller Huggins, manager of the Yankees in the
1920s, who operated on the premise that the winner scores more runs in one
inning than the loser in the entire game. In other words, if the Giants beat
the Cubs 5-2, it is probable they got three or four runs in one cluster—and
you'd be surprised how often it works out that way.
It is argued that
statistics develop fans by increasing their knowledge of the game. By this
logic crowds should be hitting unprecedented peaks today. The biggest crop of
potential fans in history, the World War II babies, who now are at an age when
youngsters generally are wrapped up in sports, has been exposed to an incessant
barrage of figures from newspapers and television. Kids have more spending
money and parents certainly are more sports-conscious than they were a
generation ago. Yet with one exception attendances have declined steadily in
the last decade. There has been an upswing only in horse racing, the one sport
that bars minors.
traditionally walking encyclopedias of averages, still spout statistics with
convincing authority. Any adult who has taken a 10-year-old boy to a ball game
recently can attest, however, that the manly little fellow's consuming
interests follow this pattern:
When is the
hot-dog man coming?
When is the man
with the peanuts and soda coming?
When are we going