THE NATIONAL GAME
A number of people, some of them distinguished, are trumpeting the claim that pro football is replacing baseball as the national game. Branch Rickey, for one, a brilliant baseball figure but evidently a disenchanted one, has taken the new position. Oliver Kuechle, the respected sports editor of the
Milwaukee Journal, recently told a convention of newspaper brasshats: "Baseball is a moribund sport, and football, specifically pro football, will shortly become our national pastime." Perhaps bedazzled by the strong light coming from Green Bay, 100 miles to the north, Kuechle predicted that pro football will expand its league schedule, play midweek games and knock baseball all but out of the box in a mere 10 or 20 years. George Preston Marshall, owner of the Washington Redskins, takes a predictably similar position.
Sorry, but we are not quite ready to attend the last rites of the great game of baseball. There is plenty of evidence that the corpse is still lively. Television ratings (admittedly slippery items to deal with) show that the average weekend World Series game pulls 5 million more viewers than the average National Football League championship game. Furthermore, there are some tiny seeds of apathy growing in football's garden, although you'd never get a pro football booster to admit it. In Washington, for example, Mr. Marshall's Redskins have excited no citywide swell of enthusiasm, and are considered far more inept, in their own league, than baseball's Kansas City A's or Philadelphia Phillies in theirs. To be sure, baseball has suffered recently from money-grubbing tactics by its owners. But football owners are not in business for their health, either, and their tendency to write schedules which artificially guarantee climactic game after climactic game eventually will begin to wear thin with the fans.
So for all those polemicists on each side, we offer a palatable compromise. Pro football, for four months of the year, is the national game. But baseball remains the national game for 12.
We await word from the horseplayers.
It's not a new joke, but we admire President Kennedy's finesse in working it into a speech before the AFL-CIO in Bal Harbour, Fla. "I am delighted to be here with you and with the Secretary of Labor, Arthur Goldberg," the President said. "I was up in New York stressing physical fitness, and in line with that Arthur went over with a group to Switzerland to climb some mountains there. They all got up, but when they all came back at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, he didn't come back with them.
"They sent out search parties, and there was no sign of him that afternoon or night. The next day the Red Cross went out and around calling 'Goldberg! Goldberg! It's the Red Cross!"
"Then this voice came down the mountain: 'I gave at the office.' "
THE THANKS YOU GET