FALSE ECONOMY, PERHAPS?
One of the best indoor athletic facilities in the country is the fine and fancy Sports Arena in Los Angeles. Only 4 years old, it seats more than 15,000 in clean, roomy, pastel comfort, and that is about how many basketball fans showed up when the L.A. Lakers played their biggest games there last season. Now the Lakers have told the city they will not play in the Sports Arena after this season. Their complaint—one common to us all—is that the rent is too high. It is risky to tell a man how much rent he can afford, but before the Lakers actually move to an inferior arena they should be reminded that pro basketball has been a long time trying to get out of just the kind of places the Lakers now talk of moving into. A certain amount of their great drawing power can be attributed to the fact that the Sports Arena is the kind of place in which it is an esthetic pleasure to attend an athletic event. The NBA has been glad to be able to show off its teams in such a place—as it has at Convention Hall in Detroit, and as it now will at the gleaming Civic Center in Baltimore. The Lakers may be right to worry about the rent, but they must also consider the prestige of their team and their league.
DOG WITH A JOB
For the past couple of seasons a regular attendant at Brown University football practice has been an officious, flop-eared, black-and-tan hound dog who says his name is Sam. He turns up at the start of each season, disappears at the end. He ignores the soccer and lacrosse teams, which work out in the same general area, and stays exclusively with the football squad. Not only that, he stays exclusively with the first team. Sam can't abide second-and third-string players.
"Any player who is loafing seems to bother Sam," according to Coach John McLaughry. "He runs up and down the line and yips at them. At first, we tried to run him off, but he wouldn't go. Finally, we gave up and let him go his own way. He's no trouble. Never gets in the way of a runner."
After practice Sam barks the first team up to the locker room and goes inside with the players. A photographer wanted to get a picture of him the other day, but arrived after Sam was through running the first team. The photographer decided, therefore, to picture him against a background of second-team players. Sam refused to pose.
"We think," McLaughry says, "that he's the reincarnation of some old football coach."
Throughout most of his abruptly abandoned tour of Britain, Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston chose to show that he can, on occasion, be a fellow of charm and grace—so much so, indeed, that before long British sportswriters were finding him a truly lovable person. "The image of a soul-less, baleful-eyed destroyer that preceded him across the Atlantic is a grotesque misfit," wrote Hugh McIlvanney in The Observer, where he also reported on Sonny's "smiling good nature and sincere sentimentality."
Well, Sonny is back in the U.S. and back in his old image. Stepping off the plane in Denver, he declared himself "ashamed to be an American," an apparent reference to Birmingham's fatal church bombing, which shamed many another American. In Britain, he left behind a trail of broken contracts, angry promoters and shocked sportswriters. After sellout appearances at Wembley, Glasgow and Newcastle-upon-Tyne and good business in Belfast, Sonny was headed for another sellout at Leicester when something, and no one seems to know what, went wrong. He refused to fly to Leicester, thus arriving too late for a weigh-in and causing doubt that he would appear for the exhibition. Refunds are still being mailed out. At any rate, Liston huffed back to London, after a nightclub row with a boxing inspector, and so to America.
One suspicion was that Sonny was getting increasingly restless about the way his money was being handled. It was not physically passing through his hands, but was being sent directly to the U.S. If so, this form of protest seemed unwise, since he forfeited at least $22,400 by canceling his last three engagements.