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TO SKI OR NOT TO SKI
The group of gentlemen who govern world skiing gathered in Barcelona last week to re-do a few of the rules. And a setting like sunny Spain, away from all that snow, seemed to make them more feisty than ever: they set the stage for a direct clash over amateurism with that grand old party, International Olympic Committee chief Avery Brundage.
The FIS World Congress ( F�d�ration Internationale de Ski) voted to liberalize its amateur eligibility rules to a point somewhere just short of open ski racing, � la tennis. Prodded by the U.S. Association to "clean skiing's house completely" and by FIS President Marc Hodler to enforce "realistic rules," the congress decided that amateur skiers may now obtain direct financial aid from business—and skiers may even endorse products for pay in advertising. The only rein on any of it is a stipulation that permission must come from the ski racer's national board and that any pay goes to his association, not to the individual—a rule that most nations should be able to sidestep nicely. The FIS figures the plan is clean and perfect, except for that one shadow in the starting gate.
Everyone knows Brundage will thunder mightily against it when his IOC meets in Warsaw next week and will promptly seek to throw Alpine skiing right out of the Winter Olympics. But the FIS also is gambling that Brundage will not have total support of his board. After all, the FIS said, what about the millions already spent in Japan setting up the 1972 games, including new ski facilities? To deny Sapporo Alpine skiing might well stir a new world crisis.
And after that action, still full of fight, the FIS voted to endorse Canada's British Columbia as the site for the 1976 Winter Games, cold-shouldering the U.S., which figured it had a lock on the bid since '76 is our 200th anniversary. The final vote comes from IOC, of course, but without FIS endorsement, Denver looks pretty dead.
It may be academic by that time anyway. If Brundage gets his backing, Alpine skiing is out as an Olympic sport. The only sure thing right now is that it is going to be a long, hot summer on the ski slopes.
DOWN UNDER GOES UNDER
The first of a series of 16 special pro football films by Ed Sabol was televised last Sunday by CBS and was almost as big a disaster as Baltimore's defeat in the Super Bowl. In fact, the film is about the Super Bowl, but not the one we saw last January. Joe Namath appears (it would be hard to keep him out) but his role is almost a supporting one, and his deft handling of his team is mostly reduced to a series of symbolic, pass-pass-pass sequences. On the other hand, Don Shula, the Baltimore coach, is a major figure. The camera comes back to him time after time to show, first, his exuberance over a good play in the NFL playoff with Cleveland and then, in the Super Bowl, his growing concern, worry, gloom. Shula is so much in evidence because the film, to put it bluntly, is not about the victorious Jets but the losing Colts. And the hero is not Joe Namath but Johnny Unitas.
It is no secret that the sore-armed Unitas, after he took over for Earl Morrall, was able to move Baltimore in the last period principally because the Jets, leading 16-0, were employing a defensive strategy of containment, giving away yardage in exchange for minutes. Yet in the film Unitas is displayed as nothing less than magnificent in defeat, almost the passing genius of old, who has the Jets terrified as he nearly saves the game for Baltimore before the clock inexorably ends the game.