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January 13, 1969
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January 13, 1969


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Pro basketball is about to make the same mistake with Lew Alcindor that it made a decade ago with Wilt Chamberlain. George Mikan, commissioner of the ABA, says fawningly of Alcindor, "We will bend in any direction and make every effort to sign him in our league. He would be a great asset and a great leader in any community he chooses to live in." In other words, anything Lewie wants, Lewie gets.

Walter Kennedy of the NBA claims his league will not engage in a bidding war with the ABA over Alcindor. He says it won't, but the NBA's executive committee meets this coming Monday before the All-Star Game in Baltimore to discuss the Alcindor question—and more than a few NBA people feel, like Mikan, that Alcindor is worth any price or any arrangement.

Nonsense. When Chamberlain came along, the NBA owners were so atwitter with anticipation that they made it clear to Wilt and the public that he was more important than the game itself. Wilt took them at their word and has been a problem ever since, even though he is a superb athlete and a good basketball mind who should be a stupendous asset to a team. Today, a few months after joining his third NBA club, he is again embroiled in disputes with his coach and creating confusion in the team's style of play. Wilt would have been far more valuable over the years if, in the beginning, he had been offered an appropriate salary and had been treated like any other first-rate athlete. A player like Wilt—or Robertson or Bradley or Alcindor—may bring in extra fans the first time around the circuit because of his appeal as a novelty, but after that he is unimportant compared to the solid competition you must have to build a strong, continuing sports attraction.

The NBA should follow established drafting procedure, and the team that picks Alcindor should offer him a bonus and salary appropriate to his unquestioned talent—in other words, a decent, dignified proposition befitting the operation of a major sport. The ABA should do the same. If it does not, if it decides to make some insane offer and Alcindor decides to take it, well, that's just too bad—too bad for the ABA and too bad for Lew.

An irritated New Yorker, a Jet fan, complained bitterly because professional football refused to waive its policy of no local televising of home games when the Jets met the Oakland Raiders in Shea Stadium for the AFL championship. "I can see the logic of blacking out regular-season home games," he said, "but this was the championship, for pete's sakes. Did they think the Jets and the Raiders wouldn't draw capacity if the game was televised? Good lord, poor old baseball televises every game of the World Series, and to huge audiences, and it still gets capacity crowds. And think of the promotional impact—imagine millions of New Yorkers watching that terrific game, actually seeing Joe Namath lead the Jets into the Super Bowl. You can't buy that kind of exposure. But no—pro football says this is the way we do it because this is the way we do it. I think the game needs a checkup. It's showing signs of hardening of the arteries."


Neither New York nor Baltimore will be blacked out for the Super Bowl, since the game will be played in Miami (which will be in the dark), and Jet and Colt fans can all sit comfortably at home watching the classic. Yet, literally thousands of them will make the trek to Miami to see their heroes live and not on TV. For example, National Airlines reported that it would be flying about 650 Jet fans from the New York area to Miami and another 400 Colt fans from Baltimore, going down Friday night and coming back Sunday night or Monday morning. Quite a tribute to pro football's appeal.

Not surprisingly, a few apprehensive followers of the game decided to go down a few days earlier in order to have time enough to get back from Havana before the kickoff.

If you're a boatman and need a sinking fund or want to float a loan (though watering stock is out), then Chesapeake Bay would appear to be the place for you. The Chesapeake National Bank of Kilmarnock, Va. has converted a 33-foot fiber-glass houseboat into a nautical bank for marine people who don't have the time or inclination to use land-bound financial institutions. The boatbank, which operates at two locations near the mouth of the Rappahannock River, provides full banking services and is designed primarily to dredge up business among watermen like oyster tongers and commercial fishermen who get paid in cash but who are at sea during normal banking hours. Deposits during the first few months of operation totaled more than a quarter of a million dollars, which may inspire a revival of the old Chesapeake Bay sport of piracy. Can't you see some freebooter throwing a line on the boatbank and towing the entire operation, deposit slips and all, to a desert island long since abandoned by Edward Teach?

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