That was back on Dec. 2, just when the ski shops needed the boots most, and in the weeks since, the ski-boot caper has become one of the great mysteries of the sport world. The FBI is in on the case now, and little, enticing leads keep popping up. But so far, no boots.
"We had a couple of tips," says Heinz Herzog of Henke Overseas Inc., the boot-makers. "The stolen boots were offered to three New York ski shops. But the thieves suggested only 15% below the regular dealer price—and a big-volume buyer can get practically the same deal from us. The hijackers just want too much money for the boots." Canada, Herzog figures, will be the next stop.
Meanwhile, newly equipped skiers can bet that the stranger sitting next to them on the chair lift is a G-man. "Nice boots you have there, fella. Henke Competition model PC135, retail for about $135, don't they? Have you got the receipt on you?"
A Detroit sportswriter recently called his regular bookie. "He isn't here now," said the voice on the other end of the phone. "This is his bowling night. He bowls in the Bookmakers' League."
EVERYTHING'S UP TO DATE
When the Chiefs played the Vikings in the Super Bowl local involvement in Kansas City was almost total. A patient about to undergo open-heart surgery had her operation scheduled so that she would be lucid for the telecast of the game. The power company reported an increase of 15 million watts over normal Sunday usage of electricity. Streets were virtually deserted, and downtown movie theaters reported an 85% drop in patronage. Reports of crime declined from a normal of 360 to 96. Nobody murdered anyone during the game, and police put off questioning a suspect in the only major crime that did occur until the end of the first half. A note in The Kansas City Star's Sunday art column observed, "The lecture by Ralph T. Coe on 'Roy Lichtenstein, painter of the derived image,' scheduled to have been presented this afternoon at the Nelson Gallery, has been postponed because of the Chiefs' game."
There was impromptu jubilation when the Chiefs won (a merchandising director of a large department store and a theater-chain owner agreed that winning would' 'do great things for Kansas City," though neither could say just what), but the full import was not felt until the next day. The Kansas City Times, noted for its conservative typography, ran not one but two immense scare headlines across the top of the front page. The afternoon Star, promoting a forthcoming special section on the Chiefs, proclaimed that it would be "among your souvenirs concerning people and things that are on the number one list of all that is worth remembering."
When the team flew home Monday afternoon a crowd of 160,000 lined the street or gleefully showered streamers and waste paper from office buildings. A master of ceremonies screamed introductions of Coach Hank Stram and the players to the crowd gathered on the mall of the city's World War I memorial, and Stram made a speech.
It was a glorious afternoon. For a while the citizenry could look around with confidence, secure in the knowledge that, perhaps for the first time, everything was really up to date in Kansas City. Never mind that the 1969 homicide rate was the highest ever or that the downtown business district was struggling for its life. Never mind that for all its Jets and Mets, New York City appeared scarcely better off than it had before its teams had won their championships. Right now, the invincibility of Hank Stram and his 40 young men had infected the people they play for. Kansas City, too, was invincible; it could do anything.
The rain in New Orleans on Super Bowl Sunday looked like sunshine to Judge Roy Hofheinz, the Astrodome man, who is trying to get the NFL to play next season's version of the big game in Houston. But, it was pointed out, the Astrodome seats only 55,000, compared to 80,000 or so available in Miami or New Orleans. "A $20 seat in the Astrodome would be a far better seat than a $15 one in the Orange Bowl or the Sugar Bowl," Hofheinz argues. "Besides, the game that decides pro football's championship should be played on a dry field where the temperature is 72° and the wind is one mile per hour."