THE TRACK MESS
Villanova Track Coach Jumbo Elliott is crying foul because the system used to select the U.S. Olympic track team has caused his best runner, Miler Dave Patrick, to be left out, and Elliott has a point. More important, though, is the fact that the public has been mystified and misled by the peculiar selection process.
Until the week before the final trials at South Lake Tahoe a few men seemed to be absolutely sure of berths—those, like Patrick in the 1,500 meters, who had won their events at Los Angeles in June in a meet billed as the U.S. Olympic Trials. All these winners had to do subsequently, they were told by Olympic officials, was to prove at Tahoe that they could also run well at high altitude.
But then, for reasons still not clear, the officials embarked upon an experiment in democracy. Just before the Tahoe trials they let the athletes themselves, in a series of group discussions, decide upon the selection system. Prior assurance to the Los Angeles winners was dissolved by a vote of all the contenders—among whom the Los Angeles winners were a negligible minority. The majority decided that the top three finishers in the Tahoe events would make the team, and that would be that. So the Los Angeles trials, which drew 25,654 spectators who thought they were seeing the trials, were actually a preliminary meet, a big trial heat.
As it turned out, Patrick was the only one of the earlier winners who definitely proved himself at high altitude (he ran the fastest 1,500 meters at Tahoe in a preliminary heat) and yet was eliminated (in the final heat he ran fourth). Our sympathy for Patrick is diluted by the fact that he backed the idea of taking the Tahoe finals as the only criterion. But he shouldn't have been put in such an awkward position.
The entire selection process was misleading. The system should have been established early and adhered to. Then no one would have had grounds to complain that the officials had in effect reneged on an earlier promise.
BLACK AND BLUE TOGETHER
In a recent effort to ease racial tensions in South Bend, Ind., four softball teams representing the city police met four teams representing the Negro community. The Negro teams wore T shirts saying, "Black Is Beautiful." The police wore T shirts saying, "Blue Isn't Bad." The Negroes won three out of four.
Artificial tracks and fields are in the news again, hailed as magic carpets on which humans never dirty their breeches and horses never need mud marks. We confess to some skepticism as to whether this will be—and some doubt as to whether it should be. It would be a shame, for example, to divorce horse racing entirely from the turf and dirt tracks that have been at the very heart of its history. Among other things, that would deprive the world of the term "mudder." It would shortchange those stout-limbed horses that come into their own on a slow track, thus eliminating another venerable factor from the horseplayer's equation. And it would make most tracks even harder to tell apart than they already are.
We also wonder whether a uniform sports surface is such a good idea for people—not to mention a uniform temperature, a uniform humidity or a uniform lack of wind. Last week the French sports daily, L'Equipe, perhaps having let the Astrodome slip its mind, said, "It is high time that stadiums with major competitions be protected from the wind, as the Romans protected the immense Colosseum from the sun with canvases, cables and pulleys."