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Friends for Life
During last month's preliminaries to the world amateur hockey championships in Prague, both the U.S. and Canadian teams played in a style long familiar to North Americans. But to the Europeans watching, more accustomed to finesse than body checks, it was less hockey than hooliganism. And for every crunching board check thrown by an American, it was not too much to expect a fight on the ice, a fight in the stands or a condemning editorial in a European newspaper next day.
So it is rather astonishing to discover, after the Prague matches, that while the outplayed U.S. team finished fourth in hockey it finished first in good conduct. ( Canada finished first in hockey, sixth and last in conduct.) But it was more astonishing to learn that it was not because our amateurs had decided to act better. Rather, the crystal cup for fair play went to the U.S. because the Europeans decided to act worse. The Russians, Swedes, Czechs and Finns, after adopting the bang-about techniques of the West, spent an aggregate of three hours or so in the penalty box, while the U.S. spent 42 minutes.
We set these statistics down chiefly for their oddity. Nothing could have mattered less to the players themselves. At the end of the rough days in Prague, all the players got together for a gala evening featuring food, speeches and vocalizing by a glee club from the Czech army. Hardly anybody could speak any languages save his own, but players from each of the six nations hugged each other delightedly, slapped backs. Correspondent Robert Daley of The New York Times pondered all this, set it down just right: "It is strange that a game such as hockey should promote good will among the players. For days these young men had been smashing savagely at each other. Tempers had become frayed. There had been tripping, mauling, slashing, and worse. It is strange but true that when you bash a man over the head with a hockey stick in the heat of competition he becomes your friend for life."
Temporarily Out of Focus
In basketball, where the objective is not a girl but a goal, men seldom get passes from guards who wear glasses, because guards with poor eyesight nowadays wear contact lenses. A player, moreover, can lose a lens as easily as a car can lose a hubcap—any good bump may do it—and this fact has led to a special kind of time out. When a lens jars loose, the referee blows his whistle and organizes both teams into a search party. The ten players fold their long bodies and begin to scan the gleaming floor, for the tiny object is 1) expensive and 2) indispensable to the player who has lost it. To the spectator who doesn't know about contact lenses, everybody on the court seems to have gone out of his mind.
Nearly all fans should know about them now, though, for last Saturday afternoon a contact-lens hunt was televised nationally. It was the final of the National Invitation Tournament in New York's Madison Square Garden. St. John's University of Brooklyn was out for its third NIT championship, this time against Bradley University. (St. John's won. See page 5.)
The game was a little more than three minutes old when St. John's Guard Gus Alfieri lost contact with one of his lenses. The game stopped, the players knelt, and millions of watchers waited until Referee John Nucatola found what everybody was looking for. The cameras followed Alfieri to the sidelines and watched him replace his lens, and the microphones picked up the congratulatory roar of the crowd.
Contact lenses are so new to basketball that both schools and players are still working out ways of dealing with them. Some colleges pay for players' lenses and insure against their loss, and some don't. There are players who make a great fuss about washing the recovered lens, and need a mirror to get it reinstalled. Others merely wipe it on their trunks, spit on it—moisture of some kind is necessary—and clap it back on their eyeball. The firmest policy on contact lenses is being established, here and there about the country, by the TV industry itself: if the telecast is sponsored, the search for a lens offers a fine opportunity to throw in an extra commercial.