A new Willamette University season record for personal fouls was set this past basketball season by Rich Grady, a junior center, who got the whistle 97 times. Grady did not seem too impressed one way or the other by the honor, but the former record holder, Ted Loder, who picked up 92 personals two decades ago, was moved to impassioned prose. Now minister of the First United Methodist Church in Germantown, Pa., the Rev. Mr. Loder wrote: "All I want to say is that there is a big difference between quantity and quality. Although the quantity of my personal fouls may be surpassed, I suspect the quality may not. Perhaps one way to evaluate the real effectiveness of a personal foul is to determine how many of the subsequent free throws were made by the opponents. If they could still stand without shaking and could still see without blurred vision, then I would question whether the quality of the foul was sufficient to merit real notice."
Willamette Athletic Director John Lewis, who was basketball coach back then, conceded that Loder's fouls "were generally of high quality." He also said he was pleased his charge had gotten the violence out of his system before entering the ministry.
Speaking of reverent competitors, the major league baseball club with the largest and most active number of members in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is the Chicago Cubs, managed by that model of deportment, Leo Durocher.
NOT NICE, GUYS
Nor does this sound Durocheresque. From an article on soccer in Colony Information Notes, published in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, comes the following: "Firstly, it is a foul to tackle a player when he does not have the ball. This may surprise some of you, but it is so. Secondly, a knee in your opponent's chest, back, face or privates is also a foul, and in bad taste as well."
SPORT AND ART
For decades writers have dreamed of turning baseball into art, of using the so-called National Pastime as raw material for a superb novel or play. One or two came close but, by and large, baseball has failed as the stuff that art is made on. Football, too, has had its vogue but most fiction or drama derived from it echoes the melodrama and sentimentality of old boxing movies.
But basketball—aah. This basically American sport is suddenly and perhaps not surprisingly the crucible from which genuine art is bubbling. John Updike, for instance, has made his Rabbit Angstrom a familiar name in the literary scene. A young writer named Dow Moss-man has used an ABA player, Bob Netolicky of the champion Indiana Pacers, as a major figure, named Dunker Nadlacek, in his highly praised new novel, The Stones of Summer, which is about growing up in Iowa. Netolicky was a boyhood friend of Mossman's and, the author says, "During college we used to come home weekends and talk all night about the things we did in high school. Neto was amazing. He remembered things I had long forgotten, and I'd take notes as we talked. He was an awful lot of help."
Derived, too, from basketball is the current New York stage hit, That Championship Season, an adroit production built around the reunion of a high school basketball team and its coach. The banal Rockne-like exhortations of the bigoted old coach as he sees his players, now middle-aged, being defeated by life take on a curious and moving validity. Apparently, basketball is a touchstone of the American experience. At any rate, where the older sports have failed, it has come through.
Possibly because his Texas Rangers had a team batting average under .200, Ted Williams last week was moved to comment glumly, "We may be in a period when there isn't going to be much hitting. Hitting has been going down for quite a few years." Williams said the reason for this may be that the modern youth has other interests that prevent him from concentrating sufficiently on perfecting his hitting, which Ted says is the most difficult thing to do in sport. Turning to sociology, he noted that the National League had better hitting than the American mostly because of its black players. He suggested that black players might have fewer distractions while they are maturing as athletes and trying to push their way up in society. Thus, they work harder at their hitting, which would explain why so many of the good hitters are black.