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A MATTER OF OPINION
An Apostrophist named Pudd'n-head Wilson once observed that it was "not best that we should all think alike. It is difference of opinion," Pudd'nhead added, "that makes horse races."
Pudd'nhead's creator, Mark Twain—a man of letters who attacked even so sedentary a'n art as literary criticism with the competitive zest most men reserve for a fast game of tennis—would have been the first to admit that the same truth holds for all other sports as well, for opinion is the elixir on which sport battens and breathes. The judgment of an expert duck hunter coolly leading his bird across the sky, the harsh prejudice of a Dodger fan assessing the ability, acuity and ancestry of an umpire, the shrewd appraisal of a football coach assembling his squad, these are the realities of sport.
In today's workaday world where, as T. S. Eliot mourned, so much of wisdom is lost in the greedy acquisition of knowledge and so much of knowledge in the amassing of mere information, opinion is being forced more and more to give way to measurement. Tomorrow's leaders will no longer need to fight their way to the top; they will need only to fill the right slots in an IBM sorting machine, which can catalog in an instant their every vice and virtue, their every strength and weakness.
So far, as many a horse player has found to his dismay, the machines of prediction have signally failed to make inroads in the world of sport. When—and if—they succeed, the world of sport will be dead. For the present, however, and for all the foreseeable future, the measurement factor in sport will continue to come as little more than an anticlimax—an item for the record book. The great paradox of sport is that the answer—who won—is always secondary in importance to the question. The game is what matters, not the score. And in the endless divergence of opinion that makes the game, sport has its being, its beginning and its end.
All of which is merely to reassure those readers who may have noticed it that the new and formal heading on this page represents no change in policy but only a change in pattern. Editorial opinion, briskly put and vigorously defended, has never been and never will be a stranger to this magazine. It is our intention as sports fans to see that it continues to crackle not only on this but on every other page of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for as long as we have a point of view to uphold and the wit to express it.
The Rules of Golf are precise and exacting (see page 12). They provide, among other things, that a golfer may not carry more than 14 clubs in his bag. The rules of TV, on the other hand, have been as plastic and pliable as a prostitute's promise.
Caught between these two widely divergent moralities one day last December, Golfer Sam Snead proved to have something less than the wisdom of Solomon. Finding himself at the 12th hole with 15 clubs in his bag during the filming of NBC's supposedly orthodox "World Championship" golf tournament, Sam knew as a golfer that he had automatically forfeited the match, which should have ended then and there with young Mason Rudolph the victor. But then Sam made the worst decision he could have made. He decided to play on, purposely flubbing strategic shots to bring about the result the infraction called for.