Rx: PREVENTIVE MEDICINE
Big-time college football, sensitive to the impact of college basketball scandals on all college sport and mindful of last spring's revelation that some pro footballers had been gambling on games, exhaled in glad relief when Wally Butts won his enormous ($3,060,000) libel verdict against The Saturday Evening Post (see page 46). With announcement of the verdict there was an instant assumption by coaches and others involved in amateur sport that college football had been "vindicated." They issued statements to that effect.
Vindicated? College football itself was not charged with anything. Only Butts and Bear Bryant were directly accused. Even so, the coaches were quite right in feeling that their sport would have been grievously humiliated if Butts had lost his suit. The whole is never unaffected by what happens to one of its parts. Some of the mud would have splattered on the football jerseys of boys as far away as Oregon.
But if the coaches had good reason to feel uneasiness during the trial, they have no reason to feel utter relief now. Conditions remain as before. The sport is a multimillion-dollar business and a subject of absorbing interest to vast numbers of bookmakers and heavy gamblers. Money of this magnitude makes for greed, and greed often makes for crooked dealing. Yet the colleges have done precious little to protect themselves against scandal. Their recruiting practices have, in fact, stretched the moral principles of amateur sport beyond recognition. And it was shocking to learn that the major effort of the Southeastern Conference to investigate the Butts-Bryant allegations was to assign a man to attend the trial. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, governing body of college sport, is moving to investigate, but with its usual slowpoke pace.
The whole pattern of the sport cries out for preventive action. We would not suggest that the colleges undertake the extensive spying and prying that professional football and baseball feel is necessary to protect their investments. We would urge, though, that as a first step a stern and universal ethic be drawn up to guard against a whole range of scandal-raising possibilities immanent in a sport that professes amateurism while raking in the cash.
THE NONKULTURNI AMERICAN
For all their nationalism and Communist tendentiousness, the Russians are "marvelous sportsmen," reports Robert Daley in his readable new book. The Bizarre World of European Sports ( William Morrow, $4.95).
"They play the game according to the rules," says Daley, who has covered European sports for The New York Times since 1956. "They win gracefully, they lose honorably. They obey officials. They rarely, if ever, whine."
A gentleman of sharply stated opinions, some sound and some dubious, Daley is correct in his evaluation of the Russian sportsman. Rather more on the anarchist side, we Americans also know how to win gracefully, but we sometimes choose to tell off an umpire. Our culture dictates that we tell the bum off when we know he is wrong. The source of Russian sportsmanship is the rigid discipline and conformity of the Soviet way of life.
A PLAGUE OF BEARS