Harland Svare, an ebullient young man who once was a linebacker for the New York Giants and who is now head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, reacted to defeat recently as most coaches seem to react. He got sore.
"I bow to no one in my respect for NFL officials," fumed Svare, "but they are homers. They call penalties on visitors much more often than they do on the home team."
This frank statement cost Svare $1,000 in a fine levied by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. " Mr. Rozelle had to fine me," acknowledged Svare later. "I would not respect him if he had not."
But that is begging the question. Are NFL officials homers?
Well, an analysis of penalties in all games played through October 31, the period Svare was complaining about, shows that home teams were penalized more often in eight parks, the visitors in six, but in several cases the difference was hardly conclusive. Svare picked Baltimore and Chicago as the two worst places to visit. Yet in Baltimore the Colts lost 222 yards to their visitors' 210, and in Chicago the Bears lost 81 yards, the visitors 99—not a jarring discrepancy. Intriguingly, the biggest home advantage was in Los Angeles, where visiting teams were penalized 189 yards to only 142 for Harland's Rams.
What Svare needs is a better team, not better officiating.
THE FAMILY CAR
"Women are lousy drivers. With a car full of kids, dogs, cats, they can't concentrate." So said Paula Murphy as she borrowed a car and promptly set the ladies' land speed record last year. This September Betty Skelton, 102 pounds, borrowed a dragster and boosted the record to 277.62 mph. Last week another housewife had a go at it. Craig Breed-love's wife, Lee, who has five children and two dogs, borrowed her husband's helmet and his $200,000, nine-ton Spirit of America Sonic I for a spin down the Bonneville salt flats. Her warmup run was a modest 99. After 30 miles of practice she had the car up to 332.26 for a two-way average of 308.56 and a new world record. For ladies, that is, since husband Craig and his rival, Art Arfons, were taking turns pushing the men's mark toward 600 mph. For ladies' day Craig took the husbandly precaution of setting the throttle for a maximum speed of 350 mph. That is quite fast enough for just going to market.
NO CITY SLICKER
Philadelphia offered The Hambletonian Society a quarter of a million dollars, and quite possibly the Liberty Bell as well, to move trotting's prize event from rural Du Quoin, Ill. to Philadelphia's slick, nighttime pari-mutuel plant (SI, Nov. 1). Last week the society directors decided in a 12-5 vote that it was in the "best interest of the sport" to keep The Hambletonian at the state fair in Du Quoin. We heartily concur.
SAUCE FOR THE GANDER