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September 16, 1968
A WORD FOR THE BETTER
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September 16, 1968

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A WORD FOR THE BETTER

The present fight for control of professional golf is demeaning the sport. Though the issues tend to dissolve into a muddle of initials—PGA and APG and IGSA—a confusion of committees and a profusion of public charges, they can be easily summarized. There are no principles at stake. The issues are money and power.

On page 30 Jack Nicklaus ably states the case for the players and why they feel a break with the PGA is in their best interest. The players' feelings are understandable. Equally easy to appreciate is why the PGA is determined to keep control of the tour—and some $439,000 now in the PGA's tournament-expense fund.

But there is one interested party nobody seems to care about—the spectator who follows pro golf, likes it, perhaps even cherishes it a little. In all the thousands of words spoken in the last few weeks by the PGA and the players, there has been not one sentence to the effect that if we have control we'll run a better tour, we'll guarantee the appearance of big names, we'll build the international aspect of the game, we'll help the sport of golf. The total motivation in the PGA-player controversy has been complete self-interest. The more this becomes apparent to the golf fan, the less he is going to feel like applauding or identifying with all those bright young men making $50,000 a year or so. All concerned would do well to remember that.

OUT FOR BLOOD
There are any number of property owners who yell for blood at the very sight of a hunter on their land, and Sherrill Raley, a Fort Worth, Texas rancher, is only slightly different. Raley owns 1,100 acres in Jack and Throckmorton Counties on which there are an abundance of doves and numerous tanks stocked with bass, crappie and catfish. About a year ago, when Raley's wife was ill, he became aware of the dwindling supply of blood in the local blood bank. So he put an advertisement in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram announcing that anyone who donated a pint of blood to the bank could hunt and fish free on his land for a week. The ad brought in more than 300 pints in two months, as hunters came from as far away as California. Now Raley is repeating his offer, and he hopes other land owners will make similar proposals.

ANOTHER HURDLE
The threatened Olympic boycotts—by black American athletes, black African nations and European countries protesting the invasion of Czechoslovakia—appear to be off. Dissident Mexican students probably will not, after all, attempt to sabotage the Games. But last week in Spain there was another Olympic blowup. Three torches used to transport the flame to Mexico City exploded as they were being passed from runner to runner. Luckily, no one was seriously injured in the hand-offs.

NEW INTEREST

Last weekend Howard Hughes, who failed in his attempt to gain control of ABC, quietly bought Sports Network Incorporated, the up-from-nowhere company (SI, Nov. 8, 1965) that now televises more hours of competitive athletics than the three major networks combined. The implications of the Hughes move are huge. SNI President Dick Bailey, who founded his network with $1,000 working capital and lots of gall, has never been able to operate without a tight eye on his budget. "Everything we earned has gone back into the company," his son, Dick Jr., said last week. "We couldn't experiment as much as we'd like to. It was hard to justify a program that was going to lose money. We accepted ones that had established media value."

But now Bailey, who will remain as head of SNI, will have vast financial leeway. There is no reason to think SNI won't enter into direct competitive bidding with the other networks for the big sports contracts—pro football, college football and baseball. (Indeed, there is no reason to think Hughes doesn't intend to build a fourth major TV network for the nation. "We will become the greatest force in communications in the world," Dick Bailey Jr. predicts.)

The prospect is a stimulating one for the sports fan. And if CBS and NBC could have foreseen this, they might have helped Hughes buy ABC.

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