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IN DEFENSE OF WOMANHOOD
There was a time when any athlete who entered a women's event in an international track meet was accepted as being a woman and no indelicate questions were asked. But as the importance of the competition has grown, so have the suspicions that men are sneaking into the female ranks. At the European championships in Budapest last week, three doctors were on hand to inspect each competitor and certify her femininity. The doctors did not uncover a single male, but this did little to allay suspicions, because some of the best European ladies did not show up for the meet. Notably, Yolanda Balas, the matchless Rumanian high jumper, did not enter the competition, and neither did Soviet Hurdler Irina Press or her weight-tossing sister, Tamara. In the face of rumors that Yolanda Balas was abstaining to conceal her manhood, Rumanians explained that she was having a baby. According to the Russians, the Press girls were home with a sick mother. These explanations, given in an atmosphere already supercharged with distrust, brought snickers from newspapermen and assorted cynics.
In this modern day, perhaps it is necessary to inspect and certify athletes as one would a herd of dairy cows. Regardless, we deplore the fact that suspicions can run so loose that performers like Yolanda Balas and the Press sisters are challenged and implicated in absentia. As we see it, any lady, American, Rumanian, Russian—even a bearded lady—should be able to stay home with a sick mother, or a sick headache, or with any other excuse, however valid or limp. When we reach the point where absence from the arena is considered evidence of fraud, it is time to close the show.
Over Africa way, in the emergent and sometimes seething nation of Ghana, the Accra Turf Club has been having a time. In the current meeting there have been 11 accidents on one turn of the Accra course. One jockey has died and two mounts have had to be destroyed. Fifty-five of the jockeys at Accra have asked that a cow be slaughtered ritually to purify the accursed corner and appease any evil spirits that might still be hanging around. The jockeys have offered to pay for the cow, but the Turf Club management has turned them down. The jockeys have refused to ride and have been fined �25 each (about $70, which in Accra is a bundle). There the matter stands, unsettled.
We decide in favor of the jockeys on two counts. First, they are the ones who are literally being trampled. Second, any management in the business of slowly and gracefully bleeding its clientele at the betting windows cannot logically object to cutting the throat of a single cow.
THE PITT PENGUINS
Although none of them will be in action for a year yet, five of the new franchises in the National Hockey League have already picked names for their teams. Some of them could have done better pulling names from a hat. The San Francisco entry will be the Seals, perpetuating the name of the present minor league team. Minneapolis has decided to call its team the North Stars, which is apt enough. Los Angeles is calling its team the Kings, and they deserve thanks for being willing to settle for a platitudinous name that franchises in all major sports have avoided for years. The St. Louis team will be called the Blues—its player uniform will bear a musical note of some sort to drive the pun home. Philadelphia, after sorting through a muddle of uninspiring choices, decided on the Flyers, and—perish the thought—may actually spell it "Phlyers."
Pittsburgh is still looking for a name, and well it might. Six years ago, when Pittsburghers were remaking the sooty heart of their town, someone who deserves anonymity called Pittsburgh's team in the now-defunct American Basketball League the Renaissances. That sort of thing could happen again. Right now the name with the inside track around Pittsburgh is Penguins. There has never been a penguin in either the Allegheny or Monongahela rivers, but the team will play in the Civic Arena that has already been nicknamed the "Igloo" and will wear black and white, so there you have it. Penguins it may very well be—but over the dead body of Pittsburgh Coach George Sullivan. "Penguins," Sullivan snorts. "So when we come up with a bad game, the press will say we skated like a bunch of nuns."