SPORT FOR SPORT'S SAKE
Under the circumstances we think Coach Boyden Atwood is doing a splendid job. He cannot remember whether his Bethel High School basketball team won its last game in December 1959 or January 1960. Somewhere around then, he says, and he figures the losing streak at about 90, more or less.
Bethel High is in mountainous Watauga County, near Boone, N.C. Its gym, built in 1939, looks like a barn, and its only heat comes from two potbellied stoves. A few planks provide seats for 150 spectators. There are but 23 boys in the school, and 15 of them are on the basketball squad. Organized practice is difficult to arrange because the boys live in homes scattered through the mountains. But Atwood and his players are undaunted.
"The important thing," says Atwood, "is that these kids have a wonderful time. You see, this is virtually the only form of organized recreation they have. Basketball is the only sport in which we compete with other schools.
"These kids are just like my own children. We go hunting together a lot. A little school like this can't pay you anything for coaching [he teaches biology]. You just do it because you've got athletics in your blood."
And sportsmanship in your heart.
SPORTSMAN OF THE WEEK
It is hoped that this week Richie Wurster, a 22-year-old general reporter and sports columnist for the weekly Ballston Spa ( N.Y.) Journal (circulation 1,636), will stop writing about the R and H Little League baseball team, of which he is the manager; the Ballston Spa Merchants baseball team, on which he is the weak-hitting second baseman; and the Saratoga Black Knights football team, on which he is a reserve linebacker, and write instead about speed skating, a sport in which he has finally become accepted as one of the best competitors in the country.
Last week Wurster was given a five-mile civic motorcade from Ballston Spa to Saratoga Springs to celebrate his 30th-place finish in the world speed-skating championships at Oslo, Norway. Since parades are seldom formed for people who finish 30th, there must have been reasons for this one. Only eight years ago Wurster finished so far back in the first heat of a meet that he was mistakenly declared the winner of the second heat. But he kept on skating, even though some observers were saying, "Why doesn't that big clown give up? He shambles and chugs and falls down."
Wurster used to hitchhike great distances to compete. Three years ago he thumbed 1,000 miles to St. Paul for the National Outdoor Championships, where he finished far back. This year, after many brutal hours of practice, he went back to St. Paul and won the Nationals, then won the North American Outdoor Olympic Championship at Oconomowoc, Wis. Only three weeks ago he capped it all by leading the U.S. team to victory over Canada at Edmonton.