Will basketball never stop its invasion of the arts? Not content with inspiring a massive novel and an award-winning play (SCORECARD, May 29), it is now daring the Olympian heights of TV drama. Or series. Or whatever they call those weekly visits to the same people. This one, tentatively scheduled for presentation in 1973, has the working title of Junior Harlem Globetrotters and is about five black youngsters, their basketball coach and his wife. Will it be any good? All we can do is wait and see.
WHEN IN ROME
The muted traditions of tennis—polite applause for a good shot, considerate silence for an error—are not known everywhere. In Pikesville, Md. the high school baseball and tennis teams often travel to out-of-town contests together. Usually the tennis players finish their match first and then go root for the baseball team. But on one recent trip the baseball game ended first, and the infielders, outfielders, catchers and pitchers trooped over to the tennis court to reciprocate in kind. Except that they cheered the way you do at baseball games.
"They applauded whenever we scored a point," said Tennis Coach Jerry Miller, "but, unfortunately, they also cheered when the other team made a bad play. How were they to know? They had never finished their game first before. I had to explain the customs of tennis to them, and then I spent the rest of the match giving them cues. I'd nod my head 'yes' or shake it 'no.' They were O.K. after that."
All right. George Allen of the Washington Redskins, wheeling and dealing draft choices for veteran players, got into a bind when it came out that he had traded the same draft choices to different clubs. Allen had to back and fill, and compensatory arrangements had to be made. The NFL eventually slapped an official reprimand on the Washington coach and a $5,000 fine on the Redskins for their careless ways at the trading table. Life moved on.
But a question remains: How could the league have allowed such duplication to take place and then not catch up with it until months later? Surely, the league must keep records of who gives what and who gets what. Surely, all trades and transactions must clear the league office. They do, they do, says the NFL. Except that in this case the man who usually handled such things had left to take another job and in the changeover there was an unfortunate slipup. Could it ever happen again? "No," snapped Commissioner Pete Rozelle.
You can bet it won't, especially since Allen, who apparently believes you can get away with the same thing twice, has been similarly careless in the past. But the fact remains: His club was fined $5,000 for a mistake Allen presumably could not have made if the league office had been more efficiently run.
Willie Mays' amazing (the only acceptable adjective) play after joining the New York Mets prompted the repeated comment, "He has a young body." Dr. George Sheehan, the sportsman and physician, disagrees. "He has a 41-year-old body," Sheehan observes, "and he has a lot more going for him than most people suspect. First of all, he is in superb shape, and any cardio-pulmonary physiologist can tell you that a well-trained and fit 40-and-over can perform at the level of an average man 10 years his junior. The heart and lung functions that are quickest to deteriorate are also the easiest to reestablish through hard work. Second, nerve conduction and reaction time decrease extremely slowly and are still 85% of normal at age 85. Mays could well be hitting for the cycle when he goes on Social Security. Third, 'Exercise is the best preservative we know,' says Dr. Alex Comfort, the British expert on aging. He cites ballerinas, orchestra conductors, runners, cyclists, weight lifters. He may add Mays to the list. Finally, Mays has motivation. Critic Elizabeth Hardwick says, 'When great creative artists are granted a long life they appear to find some vital source within themselves that can set the decrepitudes of age at a distance.' Mays found that vital source, and his heroic feats as a Met have set the decrepitudes of age at a distance not only from him but from all us aging also-rans and never-weres. He is the greatest boost to our morale since Balzac said that 52 was the age at which men were most attractive to women."