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The members of our writing staff take their sports straight and with stern self-control. This coolness is expected of them, for they must look through the excitement of the moment to get a lucid, unemotional story. They must be able to take disciplined notes on a boxing match, for example, with one of the fighters in their lap. ("Uh, pardon me, sir," they are expected to say calmly, "but you seem to have landed on my company typewriter.") I never hope to see one of them jumping up and down or sailing his hat into the air at a football game. True, there is one man listed in the column at right who absolutely chokes up at Churchill Downs when the band plays My Old Kentucky Home, but we forgive him that. He is a baseball writer, which may explain why he is an emotional sitting duck.
There is, however, one moment in sport that produces exceptional strain on the old keep-calm tradition. It is that stunning instant when the bell rings and two men rise from their corners for Round One of a heavyweight championship fight. Never mind the psychological implications behind it—perhaps it touches a prehistoric tuning fork deep within us—the fact is, it is a tumultuous moment. The temptation is to say that nothing in spectator sports can rival it for getting the juices flowing and the knees awobble.
But don't give way to the temptation unless you are ready for an argument. A small poll around the office showed that there is more than one candidate challenging the heavyweight fight for the "most exciting" title.
The opening-bell position finds one ardent supporter in Tex Maule, who for a decade has kept his dispassionate eye on the thrills of pro football. "Nothing in the world compares with the first bell at a heavyweight championship fight. Nothing."
Alfred Wright tends to side with the heavyweight fight theory, too, but adds a candidate of his own. "There is a moment of trauma at the start of the Masters in Augusta. It comes at the precise point the starter says to an Arnold Palmer, 'Play away,' and you look down that first fairway and find it solidly lined with the faces of the gallery. The same wonderful agony that grips the crowd grips the players."
"Heavyweight fight, bah!" says Rafael Delgado Lozano, our correspondent who lives in Mexico City and therefore can pull off a statement with a "bah" in it. "There is a time in the bullring when the world is perfect. The red of the cape and the shadow slashed across the sand, the flash of costume and shiny sword. The trumpet blows and it makes a sound like shattering glass, and now the matador makes his final passes. It is such a beauty, such a moment, I could cry. In fact, I often do cry. This," says Lozano, "is a bigger moment than two men can make in a box-fight ring."
Robert Creamer, resident baseball editor, patiently repeating a fact of life he feels everyone should know, says, "The big moment is the start of the seventh game of a World Series. You always hear the tired, old phrase 'There is no tomorrow.' Well, this is one time that it is true."
To Bob Ottum, who writes of motor sports, fights do not belong in the same league with the stunning sensation at Indianapolis when the man shouts, "Gentlemen, start your engines!", and to Andrew Crichton even bigger excitement comes at track and field events when the starter says, "To your marks!", because these men, Track Editor Crichton points out, "are their own engines, you see."
We see. We also see that we will never settle the argument here. People take their Big Moments seriously. But of this we are certain. One of those Big Moments is coming up next week in Las Vegas and our writer Gilbert Rogin, whose preview of the heavyweight championship fight begins on page 34, is emotionally braced for it. He did not take a hat with him to Las Vegas, which is one way to be sure that when the bell for Round One sounds he is not going to throw it into the air.