FISTS AND FUSTIAN
As a predictable aftermath of the widely misinterpreted heavyweight title fight between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston, one of those perennial bills to ban prize-fighting was presented to the Senate of the New York legislature. What was not so predictable was that the bill came close to passing. The vote was only 29 to 27 against it.
In the bombast of debate on a subject that few, if any, of the politicians know much about, the issue became confused with the incidence of injury in basketball, the inept play of the New York Mets (if the light was such a fiasco that it called for the abolition of boxing, why not ban baseball because of the Mets?), the repeal of parimutuel betting and capital punishment.
Very little of pertinence was offered by either side. Senator Joseph Zaretzki, Democratic majority leader who introduced the bill, congratulated the state athletic commission because it refused to license Liston. "They realized his ineptness from the very beginning," said Zaretzki. In fact, the commission refused to license Liston because of his underworld connections, not for ineptness. He was considered a veritable killer in those days.
And so on. Prizefighting, which does need reforms, was saved from ignorant destruction in one of its few remaining strongholds by a chillingly narrow margin. Let us hope—with diffidence—that something constructively efficient will come out of the congressional Interstate Commerce Committee hearings scheduled to start next month.
Early Bird crowed proudly last Saturday morning, then laid a big egg in its debut of live sports coverage from abroad. A faulty ground relay blacked out the early phases of the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans. But six hours later the 85-pound communications satellite was transmitting Le Mans strong and clear, as fine a justification as a bird ever had. Even so, watching Le Mans at night is like watching fireflies in a coal pit. In broad daylight the next morning, by the end of 2,906 miles, the race was a tepid procession of a handful of lame cars merely trying to finish. All that was significant in the race was not to be discovered in a mere view of it.
This, of course, is like criticizing early radio for making a singer out of Rudy Vallee. The pioneer's errors are significant only when they become established. Early Bird is just a mirror and not responsible for the triviality or ineptitude of the messages it reflects. But it is up to someone in command to think upon the responsibility that is inherent in Early Bird's immense power to affect world culture, as radio has done, as television is doing. As we have seen, two high school classes discussing The Beatles or a view of a bikini hardly justify such a power. Neither did the Le Mans broadcast, thrilling though it was to see the dream of transatlantic sports TV become fact.
In time, Early Bird's manipulators will learn to use their extraordinary power for the common good. Of course they will. Isn't this what CBS, NBC and ABC have done already?
ONE MORE CHAPTER