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May 04, 1964
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May 04, 1964


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"Promoters of dubious enterprises often defend them by saying their history is long," began David Brinkley's Journal Special on boxing released by NBC-TV this week. The documentary continued: "Many think boxing is an ugly brontosaurus that has somehow survived beyond its time."

One of the many is David Brinkley, though he did admit that boxing is one way out of the slums and "into a purple Cadillac." But that was just a feint. "The same is true of purse-snatching or pushing marijuana," Brinkley added.

He landed a lot of punches around the belt. Referring to "the spectacle of a longtime criminal being defeated by a Black Muslim," he defined the opponents as Sonny Liston, "the only fighter we know of who's been arrested more times than he's fought," and Cassius Clay, "world champion in two divisions—heavyweight, and loudmouth." Liston got it again when Brinkley quoted George Katz, Sonny's old manager, as saying: " Liston has a lot of good qualities. It's his bad qualities that are not so good."

The arguments against prizefighting are old, though they seldom have been presented so entertainingly. Its imminent death has been predicted often, but it survives, and by no means because television for so long and so profitably drenched the nation's screens with the blood NBC now deplores. TV came closer to killing boxing than any other force that ever opposed it. But men do like to contend against each other with their fists, for fun as well as for money. Like many other disciplines (including TV commentary), boxing has an element of risk. That risk is less than most people think. Boxing will continue.


French, the language of diplomats, courtesans and cooks, has been invaded over the years by sporting terminology, much of it derived from English, and all of it resented deeply by Professor Rene Etiemble and the Acad�mie Fran�aise. "My language, the blood of my spirit, is being destroyed," says Etiemble with a sob.

So, with the assistance of the French Sportswriters' Union, he has begun a campaign to de-Anglicize French in all aspects, including the sporting. Hereafter sober yachtsmen are to become gay plaisanciers, and blue jeans will be dignified as pantalon de treillis bleu. Football must be le ballon rond if it is soccer, or ballon ovale if it is Rugby.

We must doubt that Etiemble will be successful. In the speed and excitement of playing or reporting a game, few will have the patience to enunciate le ballon rond. Other languages gladly accept the currency of modern lingo. In English we have taken from the French such words as epee, en garde, touch�, lacrosse. Tennis' "love" is, by tradition, attributed to the French l'oeuf. Literature can be subjected to academic censure, perhaps, but the language of sport is common parlance. It is for people, not pedants.


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