The British, when bent on crime, carry it off with peerless flair. Their train robberies and prison breaks have rare distinction. And now they can add the sure-thing betting coup. Last week at the Bristol greyhound track a gang placed several hundred pounds on Silver Jemima, an animal that on the face of it merited no such display of faith. On the second turn, it was obvious things were going all wrong. Silver Jemima could not win. Suddenly the house lights went out and the mechanical hare stopped amid a pile of startled greyhounds. A gang member, receiving a distress signal from trackside, had pulled out the fuses in the stadium switch box.
The blackout lasted 30 minutes. The race was declared void, and all bets had to be returned.
It would figure that the pastor of the Country Club Christian Church in Kansas City and his parishioners would be men of sporting interests. But when the Kansas City Chiefs announced an earlier-than-ever kickoff time for their home games (1:05 p.m.), it put the squeeze on Sunday worship.
The Rev. Dr. Lawrence Bash wrote in the church bulletin, "I think most churches are going to feel the impact of this rather difficult football schedule." However, Dr. Bash has solved the problem for his congregation and himself. He has arranged for a chartered bus to wait at the church steps ready to speed the faithful to Municipal Stadium. Parishioners can attend services in sports clothes or change clothes at the church afterward. They also can leave their children at the church nursery school during the game. Nor is the Rev. Dr. Bash about to be left behind. He boards the bus still dressed in his clerical robes.
"Our world produces so many interesting, entertaining, fascinating and even helpful distractions," says the reverend, "that old habits of loyalty just wither and die. We never really say to ourselves, 'I'm going to give up church. It isn't as entertaining as football.' But the decision is made, and your church can tell the difference. We have 3,225 resident members, and a home game used to cut attendance by 150 to 200 persons. Life is full of hidden priorities. I don't know whether the question should be, 'What will I sacrifice in order to attend church?' or 'What will I sacrifice to attend a football game?' "
Until this season NFL teams have always been divided into two conferences, the Eastern and the Western. But, to meet the seemingly insatiable demands of pro football fans and heighten the suspense, the league decided to split up this year into four divisions, each with four teams. This would mean two more playoff games come December, and, it was suggested, double the money and double the fun.
Ironically, as of last Sunday night—with almost half the season gone—it may be double the money, but it looks like half the fun. If the old East-West division had been retained fans would now be enjoying two tough, tight races between traditional rivals, one involving four teams, the other five (above). Under the new format races are much less interesting; in the Central Division, champion Green Bay's early bumbling and fumbling has become meaningless. In spite of its indifferent record, it is a cinch-winner in its division of patsys. But that's progress for you.