Arthur Ashe behaved with dignity and restraint when he applied for a visa to play tennis this spring in South Africa. South Africa's ruling politicians reacted with typical boorishness in denying the visa. The tiny cracks in the apartheid wall have been sealed up and South Africa has totally exposed itself as unreconstructedly racist, which is as much of a tragedy for that country's athletes—whose opportunities for international competition are rapidly becoming nil—as it is for the rest of the world.
According to Walter Byers, executive director of the NCAA, the accusation has been made that the NCAA is anti-Semitic because it refused to sanction a U.S. basketball team for last summer's Maccabiah Games in Israel. Byers properly refuted the charge, which had no basis in fact—the failure to sanction was part of the jurisdictional war between the NCAA and the AAU—but he neglected to say who, if anyone, made it. That is important, because proving it is not anti-Semitic does not absolve the NCAA from blame for its series of faux pas this year, including the Jack Langer case. (Langer is the Yale basketball player who went to the Maccabiah Games anyway, with his college's approval; the NCAA reacted by suspending Yale.) It is not racial bias the NCAA is being accused of but stupidity, a more difficult charge to refute.
Curt Flood's suit against baseball and its famous reserve clause (which, in effect, binds a player for life to the club that holds his contract) may have historic significance, particularly if Flood wins his case, but it might turn out to have a relatively minor effect on the game, despite hysterical cries that baseball will die if it can't keep the clause. Realistically, what will happen if the reserve clause is abolished or drastically revised? The presumption is that players with expiring contracts would go into a free-agent pool each year and could then sign with any one of the 24 big-league teams, presumably the ones who came up with the most money. Stars would be able to sell themselves to the highest bidders and would be a cinch to draw impressive bonuses to jump to other clubs. And the rich clubs would end up with all the good players.
But will it work this way? Will a baseball club pay large bonuses to sign players it knows it can lose at the termination of their contracts, particularly when it knows that one raid invites another and that a club burned by the loss of a star is bound to retaliate by nosing around in your roster to see what it can pick up?
Look at pro football. A pro football player can free himself from his contract by "playing out his option." Theoretically, then, the game should be teeming with free agents seeking to better themselves, and the weaker clubs should be tossing around bags of money to attract them. But it hasn't happened. Teams are noticeably reluctant to take on a man who has played out his option—partly because pro football insists that a player of comparable quality must be transferred to the new man's former club—and the list of football players who have switched teams this way is significantly small. There may be a brief flurry of club-jumping in baseball when the reserve clause goes, but the major leagues are certain to establish a similar one-hand-washes-the-other system to maintain stability of rosters.
HOME AND AWAY
Al McGuire, the outspoken Marquette basketball coach, says he learned something about scheduling from Ray Meyer, his counterpart at De Paul. "Play at home early, on the road later," says McGuire, whose team was 14-1 after playing 13 of its first 15 games at home. "That gives the players confidence and makes them mentally tough, and that's what they have to be. Otherwise, they get upset by little things. You might blow a game because a plane lands a few minutes late, or because their room keys aren't waiting when they check into the hotel. You've got to lead them upstairs and put their legs in the air and feed them Jell-O."
Alien referees and hostile crowds are factors, McGuire claims, only when a team travels more than 500 miles. "Then you might get different interpretations from different officials, and different weather can have a psychological effect."
McGuire's team finishes the season with seven out of nine on the road. It will be interesting to note the results.