BRUNDAGE ON MT. OLYMPUS
Just as the Olympic Games always open with the torch ceremonies, so do the full-dress meetings of the International Olympic Committee begin with a colorful note of tradition: a thundering, Olympian warning from IOC President Avery Brundage that the amateur sports world had better shape up before it is too late. Last week the IOC met in Amsterdam and, right on schedule, Brundage issued his ceremonial call to arms.
The old man aimed his stern warnings at the entire Olympic movement, but he concentrated his fiercest blasts on the Winter Games in general and Alpine skiing in particular. Commercialism has grown so blatant, Brundage said, recalling Grenoble, that "when I declared to a national director of skiing that half of the contestants were being paid in one way or another, he replied: 'Sorry, Mr. Brundage, you are wrong. All are being paid.' " Brundage went on to cite proof—there is plenty to cite—and concluded, "This poison cancer must be eliminated without waiting. Alpine skiing has nothing to do with the Olympic Games."
One cannot help but admire—or at least respect—the 82-year-old Brundage, the last granite symbol of cantankerous integrity, for saying what he did, but kill Alpine racing? Strip the Winter Games of most of the glamour? In effect, destroy the Winter Games? It is hard to believe that the full IOC will perform such drastic surgery.
Brundage is correct in recognizing the spreading commercial influence in sport. But the Olympic movement over the years has gone along with much of the commercialism (huge stadiums, high ticket prices, rich TV contracts), and Brundage is wrong in thinking that excising a few events now (he also wants to eliminate ice hockey and—in the Summer Games—soccer and basketball) will bring the Olympics back to the golden days of pure amateurism. The IOC can no longer impose one rigid concept of athletic morality upon nations whose ideas differ basically on what is and what is not moral. The IOC has known this for years and has chosen to look the other way, as long as no one rocked the boat too obviously.
If the Winter Olympics are to continue and stay in tune with the times open competition in Alpine skiing will have to be the answer, with no distinction made between amateurs and professionals. If nothing else, it may bring back honesty, and in the end the results will be the same: the best skier will have won.
Jai alai, the Basque sport so popular in Florida and Latin America, may be coming to Ohio. Legislation has been pushed to legalize the sport, complete with professional competitors and pari-mutuel betting. So far the only proposed sites are Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati-Dayton and Toledo. That last has the old Spanish ring, but State Senator Max H. Dennis thinks his district is a far more likely area, including as it does the towns of Monterey, Vera Cruz, Buena Vista and Cuba.
Nitpickers have discovered a lovely flaw in the playoff system designed for the expanded National Football League. Under the new setup, four teams would advance to the playoffs: the winners of each of the three divisions and the second-place team with the best won-lost record. Seems perfectly reasonable. The league has also said that if any of the divisions ends in a tie with co-champions, both those teams would go into the playoffs, regardless of how good a record a second-place team in one of the other divisions has. But, say the theorists, suppose, for example, that going into the final weekend of the season Oakland is 10-3 in the Western Division with Kansas City second at 8-5; Cleveland is 12-1 in the Central Division with Cincinnati 10-3; and Boston leads the Eastern Division at 8-5 with New York and Baltimore tied for second at 7-6. New York plays Baltimore that final weekend, and Boston faces Cincinnati. Unless they tie, either New York or Baltimore will end up 8-6. So will Boston if it loses. Cincinnati has the best second-place record—and apparently a lock on a playoff berth—but if it beats Boston the Patriots go into a tie for the Eastern title and Cincy is eliminated from consideration. However, if the Bengals lose to Boston the Patriots would win the Eastern championship outright and Cincinnati would be in the playoffs.
In brief, Cincinnati would have to lose to get into the playoffs. The situation is farfetched, of course, but so were the Mets, so were the Jets, so were the Chiefs.