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HOW TO KILL A GOLDEN GOOSE
Baseball made a stupidly self-defeating decision in allowing commercial television to dictate its scheduling of the World Series (page 20). The glitter of TV gold made baseball's brass forget that for all its faults, the quondam national pastime still exercises a powerful hold on the public. Baseball at its best is a marvelous show that almost everyone enjoys. Proof of this is found in surveys of past World Series telecasts. Even when games were spread over a week or more and were played in the afternoon rather than at night, the Series consistently drew the largest sustained audiences for anything—not just sports—shown on the tube.
But these astonishing audiences on weekday afternoons were not enough. "Prime time" became the shibboleth. Baseball, letting itself be conned by TV, began to look upon the Series as a new kind of low-suds detergent. The schedule was warped and twisted so that a maximum number of games could be aimed at the optimum "prime time" selling moments. It no longer mattered that what baseball was selling was competition, a showdown between the two best teams in the sport. Games began at 5 p.m., twi-night doubleheader time, gimmick time. Players were flown 2,000 miles and rushed to the ball park with five hours' sleep in order to squeeze in a Saturday game in Cincinnati barely 18 hours after they had played in Oakland. Display rather than quality had become baseball's criterion.
Baseball forgot that the World Series is a Special Event, something that makes people leave their desks to gather around a TV set for a couple of hours. It creates its own audience; it does not have to lure viewers away from the daily products of show biz. Putting the Series into the rat race of nighttime programming diminishes that special quality, and eventually it will be lost. Then the World Series will be just one more TV show, competing for popularity with All in the Family and Carol Burnett. And you can bet your TV Guide that in time it will be shoved onto a back shelf. Even in the flush of today's success, the TV executive is always looking for tomorrow's prime-time winner.
Bow and arrow hunters, those glamorous figures, were practically shut out in Texas this past hunting season. Only 20 deer were killed with arrows during the special periods set aside for archers in four Texas areas. In one such place the Robin Hoods shot 101 arrows and hit three deer. In another, 140 hunters sent arrows flying at a total of 93 deer and killed only four.
All of which seemed to point up the wisdom of a cynical oldtimer who said, "If the bow and arrow was worth a damn, the Indians would still own this country."
FOR THE PLAINTIFF
The chairman of the U.S. Olympic basketball committee, M. K. (Bill) Summers, said last week that he hoped Avery Brundage—you remember him—would represent the U.S. before the International Olympic Committee next February in its appeal of the controversial Russia-U.S. basketball game. " Mr. Brundage was very upset about what happened," Summers said, "and he asked that we get all the evidence we could."
Summers thinks the U.S. case is airtight, with or without Avery. He says sworn, notarized statements have been obtained from the scorer, the timer, the 30-second-clock operator, a spotter and the man who ran the Longines clock in the basketball hall at the Munich Games. "The referee has also promised us a statement," Summers said, "but the umpire told us that if he gave us one he would never get out of Bulgaria."