THE POLITICAL ANIMAL
Times remain hard for those who believe politics should be kept out of sport. The Senate, in passing a bill pledging $15.5 million in federal aid to the 1976 Denver Winter Olympics, also approved an amendment offered by Senator Tunney of California that would set up a seven-man commission to review the objectives of the Olympic movement and the manner in which the Games are run. Participation of U.S. athletes in future Olympics would be subject to review, and so would the role of the U.S. Olympic Committee, particularly the way the USOC has organized and administered American participation in the Games. This seems a direct and rather high-handed incursion by government into sport, but proponents of the amendment point out that the U.S. Olympic Committee was authorized by an act of Congress in the first place and still holds a federal charter. How's that for keeping politics out of the Olympic movement?
The Senate also was considering a measure to create a National Amateur Sports Foundation, which despite disclaimers that "it is in no way an attempt to supplant or assume control over" present amateur athletic organizations is obviously designed to beef up a national sports program so that the U.S. will do better in international competition. It was only a coincidence, of course, that at about the same time, Premier Lubomir Strougal of Czechoslovakia told the sports bodies of that country to get on the ball and see that Czech performances improve at the next Olympics. The premier was miffed because Communist East Germany, with a population only slightly larger than Communist Czechoslovakia (17 million to 14 million), brought home 66 medals from Munich to only eight for the Czechoslovaks. This, he said, showed that long-term purposeful work based on a comprehensive concept gradually brings progressive results. Or something like that. Then, to stress further the warming concept of sport as an aspect of industrial achievement, the premier gave Olympic discus champion Ludvig Danek the Order of Labor and two other outstanding Olympians medals for "outstanding work."
In view of all this, it is a bit disheartening to note that President Nixon proclaimed Oct. 6 National Coaches Day. This could establish a precedent for even more government intrusion into sport. One can imagine Congress eventually setting aside May 18 as National Third Basemen's Day or some future November as National Tight End Month.
The National League, which used to boast about its close pennant races, had runaway winners this year in each of its divisions. But if the league were still functioning as a single unit, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, whose won-lost records were almost identical all summer long, would have come to the wire in one of those sustained pennant battles that make baseball so fascinating. But instead of a classic duel we have one brief three-out-of-five series that in itself is only a semifinal elimination for the World Series. Even the tangled struggle in the American League East could turn out to be a discount bargain; suppose Oakland were to win the playoff in three straight?
Maybe in splitting the leagues to create four artificial races instead of two real ones, baseball hurt rather than helped itself.
Mike Reid, 258-pound defensive tackle of the Cincinnati Bengals, won the Outland Trophy in 1969 when he was with Penn State for being the outstanding lineman in college football. Asked recently what he thought about trophies like the Outland and the Heisman, Reid said, "There's no question about it all being a lot of politicking. The Heisman Trophy is nothing more than a political campaign. When I won the Outland Trophy I did not reject it because I felt I had a good year and I had worked very hard and in my mind I was the best defensive lineman in college football. But whether I was or not, I don't think anyone will ever know. The Outland Trophy certainly has to be viewed as less than sacred. The funny thing is, I found out I won it by reading about it in Look. I didn't receive so much as a handshake, a phone call or a trophy. I don't even know what it looks like. I don't even know who Outland was. For all I know he was a falling-down drunk in Arizona. [Outland was a star lineman at Pennsylvania in the 1890s.] The only worth the Outland Trophy is to me is that if someone comes up to me in 15 years and says, 'who won the Outland Trophy in 1969?' I'll know."
Seems like nothing is good for you. An article in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal says the extreme heat of sauna baths can cause heart changes that resemble those usually associated with coronary heart disease. Middle-aged and elderly people entering a sauna for the first time are cautioned to limit their visit to five minutes. The article does concede that for healthy people who are accustomed to steam rooms and saunas, "The sense of relaxation and well-being will continue to outweigh the potential dangers of the circulatory gymnastics involved."
A REAL FUMBLE