The New York Mets' rise to first place in the National League's Eastern Division was, well, amazing, but it gave predictable birth to a flood of God-awful hokum in the press and on radio and TV, particularly in supposedly sophisticated New York. The day-in-and-day-out Met fans, who have thoroughly enjoyed this season since that first stunning 11-game win streak last May and June, were joined in September by the politicians ( New York City has three mayoral candidates, all terribly interested in baseball right now, though none seems to give the tiniest damn for the other team in New York—and won't until the Yankees start winning). Worse, the editorial pundits weighed in, with the most grievous offenses being committed by the
New York Post
The New York Times
. The Post ran—stand back now—a poem on the Mets as an editorial (an unbelievably coy parody of Milton's Paradise Lost). The Times trotted out its senior political deep-thinker, James Reston, who can't seem to forget that 35 years ago he was publicity man with the Cincinnati Reds for a few months. Reston tediously cranked out 800 words of pseudophilosophic banality about sports and politics (sports are more fun, he decided).
Really, gentlemen, it's only a game. Relax and enjoy it.
Harness racing officials in Illinois disagree sharply with Mrs. Marje Lindheimer Everett's statement (SI, Sept. 15) that night Thoroughbred racing would not hurt night harness racing because the sports have two different followings. The harness people say the betting handle at harness tracks in the Chicago area had been up from 1.32% to 10.30% until Arlington Park's eight-night experiment with flat racing earlier this month. Then, in direct competition with the Thoroughbreds, the harness track handle dropped 9.67%. While this was going on, the harness people pointed out with grim satisfaction, night racing did not help the Arlington handle, either. Two earlier daytime meetings at Arlington and Washington Park had been down 8.8% and 9.2% from 1968; the night meeting was down 8.95%.
Dr. Robert Cade, the not-so-mad scientist who gave the world Gatorade (SI, July 1, 1968), may have done it again. This week in Tampa he introduced Hop'n Gator, which is not a new battery-operated toy but an elixir brewed by the Pittsburgh Brewing Company. Indeed. Hop'n Gator looks like beer—but it doesn't taste like beer. It has this sort of champagne-type flavor and, like Gatorade, extra added attractions. Hop'n Gator is less filling than beer, can be served over the rocks, can not be detected on the breath and, reputedly, produces no hangover. So what has all this to do with sport? Aha! According to Wilton R. Miller, Dr. Cade's genial attorney, "When you drink this stuff you don't get alcohol fatigue. You can drink Hop'n Gator and continue to play tennis or golf without physical impairment. Of course, your judgment may be a little off."
Hockey is off on another expansion kick: Vancouver and either Buffalo or Baltimore will join the National Hockey League next year in time for the 1970-71 season. The NHL's first bold six-team expansion three years ago made excellent sense; it broke hockey out of its Canadian-Northern U.S. regionalism and made it a major sport from coast to coast. But this new move has the odor of quick-buck expediency. By charging a $6 million entry fee (when the league first expanded, the new-member fees were only $2 million), each of the 12 existing NHL clubs picks up a sweet $1 million.
While any expansion would pose realignment problems, the NHL's present plan could scarcely be more awkward. The two new clubs will join the East where, barring miracles, they will be hopelessly outclassed for years, and the Chicago Black Hawks will shift to the West, a division Bobby Hull and his teammates are a good bet to dominate, although at the moment player discontent has damaged the Hawks' morale.
One praiseworthy thing coming out of the move is the NHL's plan to revise the Stanley Cup playoffs so that once again two strong teams will meet in the Cup finals. In 1971, semifinals will be played across division lines, instead of within them, thus doing away with the prospect of a weak West champion being humiliated every year by a powerful East club, as happened last spring in Montreal's slaughter of St. Louis.
CALL ME SPUD PALMER