CONGRESS STRIKES OUT
As a predictable aftermath of the Frazier-Ali fight, shown in high-priced closed-circuit theaters instead of on "free" home television, politicians have moved into the act, weeping for the poor fan who could not afford a ticket. In the space of nine days Congress was presented with five bills whose intent was either to ban the showing of big sports events on closed-circuit TV or make them equally available to the networks for home showing. And on top of that, Representative Morris K. Udall of Arizona proposed that sports seasons be reduced in length so that baseball, football, basketball and hockey would not be constantly running into each other.
As to the proposals that television exclusivity of championship sports events be denied closed-circuit TV, Representative Torbert H. MacDonald of Massachusetts interjected a note of common sense.
"I think," he said, "that they [the Congressmen making the proposal] know more about sports than they do about the Communications Act."
A 1940 Harvard football captain himself, MacDonald noted that the Federal Communications Commission has little power to regulate programming of closed-circuit TV, which uses cables, not the licensed airwaves. The principal bill in this area would ban closed-circuit telecasts of sports events to paying audiences except when the FCC determines that the broadcasting of an event on home television is not commercially feasible. It seldom would be feasible. Closed circuit can easily outbid the networks on really big fights.
As to the Udall measure, shortening the seasons is not too bad an idea, except that it should be done by the fans, not by government edict. And the fans have not yet indicated that they are turning off their sets as the seasons run beyond what was once considered to be their normal limits. The various bowl games and pro playoffs draw fevered watchers by the millions. Udall fears that overexposure on television will eventually kill some sports, as it helped to erase boxing from the tube. But one other factor—a plethora of dismally bad fights—was what really knocked out boxing. The talent supply ran out. Good matches still draw, as the Ali-Frazier fight established, and they even draw customers willing to pay high prices for their tickets.
Just back from an expedition to the Florida Keys, Jack Rudloe, president of Gulf Specimen Company, which collects marine specimens for scientists, museums, universities and the like, reports from his home in Panacea, Fla. that "destruction from dredge and fill operations are evident everywhere you look.
"Marine life populations have been drastically reduced from draglines and bulldozers pouring lime rock over once-beautiful mangrove swamps," he says. From Homestead to Key West entire habitats are being smothered and polluted. The nursery grounds of bonefish, tarpon and snook are being turned into channel spoil banks, trailer parks, golf courses and motels.
"The Florida State Department of Transportation is dredging through big stretches of mangroves to make new roads. The sea bottoms are covered with silt, and coral has been reported killed as far as 20 miles from shore. Sea grass beds are dying, and in many areas we were unable to find young lobsters, starfish, sea urchins, anemones or sessile jellyfish. Old collecting areas once productive are now lifeless dead bottoms. Gobies, beaugregories and blennies are not reproducing in the dying coral. The water is milky white every time there is a storm.