PERISH BY THE SWORD
On Monday night football a week ago, the unflappable Howard Cosell was distinctly flapped during a halftime interview with Heavyweight Champion George Foreman when Foreman said on camera, "I like football, but I don't like you. You're a racist." And walked out of the broadcasting booth. It soon developed that Foreman was needling Co-sell. Earlier, in a pregame gathering of sportswriters, broadcasters and celebrities, Cosell, a friend of many black athletes, including Foreman, greeted the heavyweight champion in his usual abrasive way. "Hi, you big black——," he said. Everyone in the crowded room laughed. That Howard.
When Foreman joined Cosell for the interview, he decided to respond in kind. Thus the racist comment and abrupt departure that hit Cosell, as the broadcaster himself might say, where he lived. "I was just jivin' around," Foreman explained later. "Of course, it was facetious. Anyone who thinks I was serious never heard athletes talk to each other."
Cosell thought he was serious. Still shaken, he told Milton Berle after the game, "It's the worst thing that's happened to me in my broadcasting life."
Texarkana (Ark.) High School decided last spring (SCORECARD, April 23) to pay a $20,000 salary to lure Coach Swede Lee back from Texas A&M, where he was an assistant. Lee had been a big success at Texarkana before going off to A&M, but the high school's football fortunes plummeted during his absence. A minority of citizens objected to the salary, which was higher than that paid to any other member of the faculty, including the superintendent of schools. Now, however, the returns are in, and the opposition would have a rough time rousing any anti-Lee sentiment. The Arkansas high school had not defeated its state-line rival, Texarkana ( Texas), since Lee's last previous year of tenure in 1964. This year it not only beat the Texas high school, it won 13 straight games and the Arkansas class AAA championship. If that isn't worth $20,000, what is?
Honolulu's brand-new 50,000-seat stadium, under construction near Pearl Harbor, is having a hard time defending itself against Mother Earth and unrequited gods. When the state legislature okayed the stadium and work began two years ago, there were hopes that it would be ready for the 1974 Hula Bowl game. But support piles at one end of the site began to sink and the builders had to redo things. That delay took care of the Hula Bowl, and the opening was rescheduled for the first baseball game of the Hawaii Islanders' season next spring. Then last summer a windstorm ripped off metal sections of the partly constructed stands, and the Islanders were advised that their new home would not be ready until next August.
In November, further delays were feared because of more serious difficulties. During ground-breaking ceremonies in 1971, a controversy over the housing of people who had been displaced by the stadium project kept the Rev. Abraham Akaka from giving the traditional Hawaiian blessing. In Hawaii every new building from a gas station to a high-rise office building is blessed in proper Hawaiian style by a man of the cloth to keep the spirits from messing around with construction. "I did not bless the ground at that time," says the Rev. Akaka, "because, as young people say, the vibrations were not right."
Last month a workman fell 80 feet to his death only minutes after another man had his arm broken when he was pinned by a beam. Their fellow workers promptly called a boycott on stadium construction until the site was properly blessed.
"It's a matter of good luck and bad luck to the workers," said a representative of the builders. "The only thing that can turn it around is to get it blessed."