It was as simple as ABC-TV. Before that network taped the finals of the Little League World Series for its Wide World of Sports program, one of the TV directors dropped by the favored Staten Island team's bunkhouse to give the kids a pep talk about the big game.
"Whatever you do, fellas," he told the cast of anxious juveniles, "just be sure you face the camera."
DECLINE AND FALL
One hears from time to time that James D. Norris, the multimillionaire who monopolized prizefighting for a decade, has entered one of his horses in a race, but that is about all one hears of him. Norris has withdrawn into an obscurity that he has seemed to desire since he was driven out of boxing and his alliance with the underworld was exposed beyond possibility of denial. Just a few years ago his ruggedly handsome face was flashed on national television before every big fight. Now television has abandoned the fights, and boxing is at its lowest state in modern times.
How it got there is told in James Norris and the Decline of Boxing by Barney Nagler (Bobbs-Merrill, $4.95), a book of estimable coherence when one considers what a tangle of events and personalities the author had to unravel. The strange alliance between Norris and Frank Carbo, a murderous hoodlum who became prizefighting's underworld czar, is explained fully, if not the character flaw that permitted Norris to tolerate him. The tragedy of that brilliant lawyer, Truman Gibson Jr., finally convicted of conspiracy for doing Norris' dirty work, comes through clearly. And the Byzantine conniving that went on behind the scenes of so many big fights is traced by a writer who has done his research thoroughly—even though he has reported it belatedly. (When Norris and Carbo were the despots of boxing only this magazine and a handful of sportswriters protested.)
Boxing will come back, no doubt, as it always has. When it starts the long climb one hopes that those who dominate it will remember the lessons to be found between the covers of this fascinating book.
MAX THE SCISSORS
How do you keep girls out of a football player's hair? "Cut it off," says Max Spilsbury, Arizona State College coach. A hide-peeling ex-leatherneck who believes in tearing a man down so that he may build the raw material back up again the Marine way, Spilsbury makes head-mowing mandatory for all freshman footballers.
Some years ago Max the Barber got tired of hot freshman prospects whose wavy hair irresistibly tempted coeds to rearrange it. After the first few weeks of practice, the game's prospects tended to forsake football for less painful sport. ASC freshies are immediately outfitted now with unrearrangeable (and unattractive) hair. It is not uncommon to see a tackle tough as grade-B beef sporting a Friar Tuck trim. There are also Mohawk cuts, nude cuts, tufts, plaits and neatly carved initials. Each year more imaginative revenge is wreaked by upper-classmen for bob jobs they once endured.
This is all a far piece from the days when stripe-jerseyed, moleskin-breeched football idols cultivated luxuriant crops of cranial shrubbery but, says Spilsbury, "There's a purpose in it. When these kids come to us, they come to play football. They don't have time to fall in love." Well, there was a purpose back then, too. In those helmetless days players grew Beatle-styled hair as padding to protect their skulls. We offer that argument to the coeds at Flagstaff.