Most public comment on the Peterson-Kekich affair, aside from the plethora of jokes, went along the lines of, "It's their own business. It's a private matter. If they weren't ballplayers, there wouldn't be such a fuss."
But they are ballplayers, and there's the rub. It seems terribly obvious to say it, but an intense interest in athletic heroes exists precisely because they are heroes. They do things the fan only dreams of doing: catch a touchdown pass, hit a home run, drive in for a layup. Sure, the fan is interested in intimate details about athletes' lives, but at the same time he is uneasy about this humanizing process. Why do so many fans, union members among them, resent athletes going on strike and squabbling about raises and fringe benefits? Heroes are men apart, a juvenile fiction, an ideal representation of ourselves. When they betray human foibles, when they are shown to have problems and worries and personal disasters similar to our own, they are diminished—and so is the fan.
It is neither arch nor sentimental to say that thousands, possibly millions, of youngsters were stunned and distressed to hear about Peterson and Kekich. Does that really matter? Yes, it does; it matters a great deal. An interest in sport almost always begins in childhood, and retention of that interest is, at least in part, an attempt to recapture the joys of our youth. Sport is a diversion, fun, something to augment our lives or relieve the pressures. When an athlete's dirty linen is washed in public, it hurts the child in all of us.
Does the athlete then have a responsibility oft" the field as well as on? Probably. In the old musical comedy Damn Yankees, the earthy, lecherous ballplayers tell of their rejection of temptation in a song that has more than a modicum of truth in it:
We've got to keep our minds on the game.
We've got to think about the game!
The game! The game!
We've got to think about the game,
The game, the game!
Booze and broads may be great,
Though they're great they'll have to wait,
While we think about the game!
Jacques Plante, veteran National Hockey League goalkeeper, took Foster Hewitt and his son out to dinner. Therefore, says Ken McKenzie of Hockey News, seated around the table were the father, the son and the goalie host.
Any pretense that college sport is "for the kids" was abandoned at Rider College in Trenton, N.J. when Basketball Coach John Carpenter dropped five players from his squad for the last two games of the season for the simple reason that they were seniors. "He told us we'd practice Sunday at three o'clock," said Bruce Rembert, one of the seniors. "But we found a note on the door. The 10 underclassmen on the team would practice, but the five seniors would not and would not practice Monday, either. Instead, there would be a meeting.
"At the meeting he told us he wanted to look at the players he would have next year. He said if we wanted to make the trip to the next game [against Catholic University in Washington], we could go on the train, and he'd pay for everything. But we would be nothing more than spectators."