NOT ALL OF THE TIME
CBS came within a few seconds—in fact, exactly 30 seconds—of earning our qualified praise last week. Then.... Listen, it could be worse. On April 16 CBS will televise its first National Professional Soccer League game. Soccer, of course, is a game in which there are no time-outs except for injuries, so there was this problem about how to do the commercials. The way we heard it there were going to be five 30-second commercials per half before goal kicks, which occur when the ball is kicked above or wide of the goal and over the end line. In these instances, the referee would take his sweet time about getting the ball back into play.
Shucks, it seems we weren't getting the picture. For 30-second commercials read one-minute commercials. According to CBS, it takes an average of 30 seconds for the ball to be put back in play in a real game, so they'll only be stalling for 30 seconds. If you concede that commercials are the price that has to be paid for televised soccer, this still seems to be the least objectionable scheme, since it hardly interferes with the natural flow of the game.
Hockey is another story. Just the other day a game between the Rangers and the Black Hawks took 2 hours and 35 minutes, largely because of time-outs for commercials. Each time play was stopped, an official had to fake doing something. Once Linesman Matt Pavelich seemed to be tying his laces. He was doubled over with laughter.
However, we have little sympathy for those college basketball coaches—invariably losing coaches—who gripe about "officials' time-outs" killing their momentum. If they want to keep their momentum they shouldn't play in televised games. Admittedly, the present way of doing commercials in basketball is far from ideal, but instead of beefing about momentum, the coaches would be better advised to suggest an alternative method.
But we do feel that in hockey and basketball, as well as in football, and now soccer, the viewers should be apprised that "officials' time-outs," or whatever they want to call them, are being taken for the sole purpose of doing commercials. What is most insulting about TV is its smug assumption that it can always fool the viewer.
OUT OF THE RACE
Sammy Smith, who trains horses for a living, was talking about racing. "Sure, this is a sporting game," he said. "Only trouble is most of the sports haven't got so much money anymore." Which sums up the horsemen's side in their strike against the state of New York that closed down Aqueduct for five days.
Owning racehorses has never been a venture taken solely, or even for the most part, in hope of profit. It's a rich man's game in which 95% of the people who support it take a bath. But racing is no longer exclusively for the extremely wealthy. It is now peopled by many who are simply well-to-do, who understand the odds against them, but who also want something approaching a fair chance to break even.
And they're not getting it in New York. In 1965, the last year for which complete figures are available, only 2.26% of the handle went into purses at Aqueduct—a lower percentage than at any one of the other 20 big Thoroughbred tracks. Fifteen years ago the minimum purse in New York was $3,500, and it cost about $8 a day to train and feed a horse. Now it costs about $18 a day—and the minimum purse is $3,500.