CLOUD THE SIZE OF A MAN'S HAND
We have been force-fed so much favorable comment on Shea Stadium, the new ball park of the New York Mets, that we feel compelled to give one of our nonconformist correspondents the courtesy of minority space. He says bluntly, "I don't like the park. The players are too far away, and there is none of the intimacy of the Polo Grounds or Ebbets Field. You can't see pitchers warming up because the bullpens are hidden by fences. The crowds are poorly handled. Parking is more chaotic than it has any right to be at a modern stadium. The superscoreboard, constantly blinking publicity messages, is a superirritant. The whole place is phony."
An all-out drive has begun to "restore the United States' overall supremacy" in the Olympic Games. Franklin L. Orth, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army and head of a special Olympic committee, described the plan last week and said it would "involve thousands of people and eventually millions, along with the latest business methods available." He said, "The necessary facilities can be furnished for all sports through a cooperation of effort by municipalities, counties and the Federal Government in a planned program." He cited figures on the Soviet Union's expenditures on sport and added, "We will beat them with our own United States system. It will take a lot of time, effort and money to put it over in 1968 or 1972." He called the program "our big test to determine whether democracy can compete with a regimented society."
We admire sport for sport's sake, but we recognize, as Mr. Orth does, the desirability of Olympic victory, and we applaud efforts to further America's chances for winning gold medals. Yet we feel Mr. Orth and his committee may have overlooked certain facts.
One is that victory in sports does not necessarily mean victory in the political scene. Or doesn't Mao Tse-tung read the sports pages?
Another is that Russia is not necessarily the prime challenge to U.S. Olympic superiority; the world is. In men's track and field in Rome in 1960, seven countries whose combined population was only slightly larger than the Soviet Union's ( Germany, Italy, Poland, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Ethiopia) won twice as many gold medals as Russia and exactly one more than the U.S. did. America's athletes are not getting worse; the rest of the world is getting better.
Third, like it or not, Americans favor sports that have commercial value. Blocs of dedicated amateurs compete in gymnastics, speed skating, weight lifting and the like, but our most popular sports—baseball, football, basketball, golf, horse racing, harness racing, bowling—are commercial giants, and only one of these is an Olympic sport. Broadening the base of American participation is a laudable idea, but it will be difficult and perhaps not necessarily good to wean the youth of the country away from the diamond, the gridiron and the links, the familiar arenas.
Finally, Olympic victory is splendid and American preeminence is something we all want, but the program Mr. Orth recommends to achieve this end sounds more like a copy of the Soviet Union's regimented methods than it does like "our own U.S. system."
WHEN THE GOING WAS WORSE
John Zanhiser, pitching for the Behrend Campus of Penn State against the Penn State freshmen a few days ago, was hit in the elbow when the rival pitcher tried to pick him off first base. John was also the losing pitcher, but all in all he considered himself fortunate. He remembered the last time he pitched against the Penn State freshmen. On the first play of that game he was spiked on the ankle as he covered first base on an infield tap. After a 10-minute time-out for recovery, he went back to the mound. His first pitch was lined back at him and hit him on the other ankle. He took another 10-minute respite and doggedly returned to action. There was a close play at home plate, and John had to cover. The opposing base runner, trying to score, slammed into him and knocked him halfway to the dugout. He was revived and told to sit on the bench, "where you will be safe." A batter fouled off a fast ball toward the dugout. Zanhiser' jerked his head back to avoid the foul ball, smacked his head against the concrete wall of the dugout and was down for the count again.