- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
BIG WIND OFF NEWPORT
The niceties of polite yachting competition, such as the contest for the America's Cup, permit no public wrangling, but the wrangling does occur nonetheless. It is inevitable. Sooner or later someone shoots off his seagoing mouth.
The mouth this time belongs to George O'Day, 5.5-meter gold medalist of the 1960 Olympics, a good sailor who was displaced as skipper of Easterner in the Cup trials and then picked up as spokesman for and adviser to Weatherly's Bus Mosbacher. (In the last few days he has been an active crew member.)
During the races O'Day has been writing signed commentary on the races for the Boston Traveler. Some of his judgments have kicked up a williwaw in Australia, where he has come to be described as "The Ugly American." In one article he protested Sir Frank Packer's use of a walkie-talkie to call "all tacks, spinnaker changes and maneuvers" during preparatory runs (though not, of course, in the actual races, where this would have been against the rules). Sir Frank, head of the Australian syndicate that owns Gretel, bit his tongue and refused comment.
"Sir Frank has given confidence to no one and is running the show himself," wrote O'Day, giving confidence to no one that amicable relationships would prevail. The day after Gretel encountered Weatherly in a beat to windward during a shakedown, O'Day observed that "they were following us the same way an amateur skier follows a professional, trying to learn how he does it."
There may have been justification for the criticism—after all, in the actual races Gretel did better without benefit of Sir Frank's squawk box. Skippers generally do better on their own. But in Australia O'Day's observations revived the dearly held conviction that jealous Yanks had poisoned the great Phar Lap (in 1932). He was accused of trying to "unsettle" the Australian crew with his comments and of perpetrating "miserable...propaganda." By extension, his remarks were held to be the responsibility of the entire American press, which has, in fact, been most polite.
If O'Day were functioning solely as a critic of yachting during the America's Cup competition, one might differ with his views but still not dispute his right to voice them. However, as a Weatherly crewman and spokesman, he has been singularly graceless in his caustic essays and press conference comment. Skipper Mosbacher piped him down last week, but the damage already was done.
TENNIS WITHOUT ANGINA
Tennis, which has been the sport of elderly Swedish kings as well as young commoners, presents a special problem to those who are getting on in years. The family doctor's tut-tut about overexertion can force bitter retirement. Royalty may solve this by requiring an etiquette that calls for all shots to be returned within reach or not played at all, but few commoners can demand this special consideration.
There is a solution, devised a few years ago by former Senator William Benton. The Senator had been warned by his doctor that he was getting too old for singles and, since volleying never has been his strong point, he did not care too much for standard doubles. So he invented a simple, four-man game that would involve little volleying and absolutely no heart-pounding dashes to the net after drop shots. The basic rule change: a ball that lands inside the service area must bounce across the service line or be counted an error.