Poor television. It can't win even when it does things right. NBC-TV took over the National Hockey League's Sunday afternoon telecasts this season, and has done a generally superior job. Ratings are down slightly, but the falloff is traceable to two things: the mild winter, which had many TV viewers out driving their families around instead of sitting snugly in front of the box; and the rigid schedule of games the NHL imposed on the network (Buffalo has not been on at all; Detroit has been on five times).
The telecasts themselves are of a high order. NBC uses four cameras, sometimes five, with slow-motion shots that often catch a significant away-from-the-puck incident for replay. The exquisite complexity of perfectly fashioned goals is sometimes reshown from two, three, even four, angles. The play-by-play is professional, the commentary superior. Color man Ted Lindsay is blunt and direct. A former NHL star, he is a knowledgeable critic of hockey, and his habit of speaking his mind adds a salty complement to Brian MacFarlane's lively between-period interviews. Lindsay told Derek Sanderson that by jumping back and forth between leagues he had done a disservice to hockey and criticized the Boston Bruins for their handling of the situation. When Dennis Hull was on, MacFarlane freely talked about Hull's brother, the great Bobby, who defected to the rival World Hockey Association.
But NHL owners are upset by such interviews. They seem terrified of implied criticism of the NHL and object to any mention of the WHA. This is shortsighted. Skilled, honest reporting educates the fan as it entertains him; sport thrives on discussion, controversy, outspoken disagreement. You don't make fans by force-feeding them with self-serving promotional pap.
SMALL MEN, BIG MONEY
All the talk about highly paid athletes (in the $100,000-and-up class are 50 pro basketball players, 45 hockey players, 30 baseball players, 16 golfers, 10 football players, and so on) has not included much discussion of the little men who ride horses. Race riders get 10% of the purses they win. Last year 26 jockeys won more than $1 million in purses. Ergo, more than two dozen jockeys had incomes of $100,000 and up. Top man was Laffit Pincay Jr. with $322,000. Angel Cordero was at $306,000, Ron Turcotte at $278,000, Bill Shoemaker at $251,000.
Some innovations in stadiums and athletic fields:
Ambassador College in the heart of Pasadena is solving a nasty space problem by constructing a track-and-field area on top of a 300-car subterranean parking garage. The track, one-sixth of a mile around, and its infield will utilize artificial turf. At the other side of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, part of UCLA's practice football field crosses over a multilane highway.
In Moscow, Idaho, the University of Idaho's new roofed stadium, not yet completed, has a four-inch-thick asphalt surface on which courts are marked out for basketball, tennis, badminton and volleyball. There is also a 300-yard, six-lane running track with a 120-yard straightaway, as well as areas for pole vaulting, long jumping, wrestling and boxing.
The remarkable thing about the New Idaho Stadium is a huge eight-foot roller that extends almost the complete width of the arena. Wrapped around the roller—which normally is parked against a wall at one end of the field—is a Tartan Turf surface that can be rolled out onto the asphalt base when the stadium is to be used for football, soccer, baseball or other pastimes normally played on grass. When it is completed, the stadium is expected to be in use 16 hours a day, seven days a week.