TARGET OF OPPORTUNITY
There seems little chance that the politicians will let up on sport before the 1972 elections are over. It's hard to blame them. Few subjects give a Congressman a better chance for instant ink than a blast at the evils of baseball or football or basketball, although most of the attacks are of the closing-the-barn-door variety. Politicians tend not to cope with problems until they become insoluble.
The transmigration of the Washington Senators into the Texas Rangers is a current case in point. Congressmen have beaten their breasts to a pulp deploring this insult to the nation's capital and vowing all sorts of punitive legislation to bring 1) baseball to its knees and 2) a major league team back to Washington. We did not entirely approve of the move ourselves: we like tradition, and Washington has always been a pan of the major league tapestry. But, really, what is so terrible about shifting the team to Texas? Very few people went to the ball games in Washington, including the tearful Congressmen. It is likely that folks around Dallas and Fort Worth are pleased with their new toy and ready to support it financially. Certainly, the switch to Texas will stimulate the American League and, by extension, all of baseball.
And why must a new team be put into Washington? Congress and baseball appear to agree on the prime reason: the chances of anti-baseball legislation being enacted would be considerably less if major league baseball were restored to the capital city. Now isn't that a laudable argument?
Characteristic of this embarrassing rhetoric is the San Diego incident. A local Congressman reacted predictably when he heard rumors that the woebegone Padres might move to Washington. He became a gallant, highly publicized defender of San Diego's inalienable right to major league baseball. E. J. (Buzzie) Bavasi, president of the Padres, who will need more than speeches to keep his attendance-poor club alive, wrote the Congressman a thank-you note and added that he was enclosing an application for season tickets to Padre home games. The Congressman had to put his money where his mouth was. It they had done that in Washington, the Senators would still be there.
Rather interesting, this report published by The Morton Research Corporation. Not so much the contents, which consist of a "marketing, economic and financial investigation" into the sporting goods and equipment industry (sales of sporting goods are expected to reach $1.5 billion in 1975), it's the price. Only 65 pages long and spiral-hound, the booklet sells for $50 a copy.
Florida, winning 45-8 in the closing minutes of its last game of the season, deliberately let rival Miami score (SI. Dec. 6) so that it could regain possession of the ball and give Quarterback John Reaves one more chance to break Jim Plunkett's collegiate record for career passing yardage. Reaves did and Florida celebrated—and woke up next morning with a had taste in its mouth.
What Florida had forgotten is that the lifeblood of sport is competition, real competition, the honest try. Records—making them and breaking them—are part of the fun of sport, but a vital part of that fun is validity. Florida helped establish a contrived record by keeping Reaves and the lust string in the game long before the shameful laydown, even though it was obvious that Miami was hopelessly beaten.
Some Floridians, stung by criticism, have said, "Well, who did it hurt?" Offhand, we would say Miami, a traditional and presumably honored rival, which was humiliated. Football, which was embarrassed by the parody of what the game is supposed to be. The record, which was cheapened. Jim Plunkett, whose yardage was legitimately achieved. And John Reaves, who will be remembered now not as the superb performer he has been for three seasons but as the guy who got the phony record.