This year the National Sporting Goods Association, an arm of the sporting-goods industry, took its first consumer survey of patterns in the purchase of sports equipment for the information of its members, and the survey turned up some interesting trends and odd facts. For instance, did you know, or would you ever have guessed, that the largest projected increase in sporting goods sales for 1974 will be in archery equipment?
Further. Families on the $11,000-to-$15,000 income level were the biggest buyers of sporting goods, the main purchasers of almost every traditional item from basketballs to ice skates. The $8,000-to-$11,000 group was second overall and led in camping and table tennis. And in spite of what one hears about the democratization of tennis, it was still the affluent ($20,000 and above) who bought the most tennis gear.
The survey divided the country into nine geographical regions, and it was the Great Lakes states that led the nation in sales. But here is a fact to ponder. The South Atlantic region (D.C., the Carolinas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia), though it ranked high overall in total sales, actually led the country in only one category—exercise equipment (barbells, sweat suits, exercise bikes and the like). While the South may not rise again, in the historical sense, it is quite obviously shaping up.
If patents granted in the U.S. during the past few months are any indication, the wave of the future is under water. Consider, for instance, a jaw relaxer for snorkelers who have been down there all this time chewing hard on their bits and surfacing with tired jaws. A Washington man has fashioned a mouthpiece with a soft curved flap that stays in place without biting.
The Navy has solved the problem of speech being made unintelligible by the helium-oxygen mixture that its divers breathe at depths of 200 feet or so. Words spoken in normal tones into the diver's face mask can now be recorded, then played back at a speed determined partly by the depth and the mixture, but largely by the movement of the diver's tongue.
And finally, a way to heat a diving suit unmechanically, devised by a mechanical engineer: a vortex tube and heat exchanger that release air in hot and cold streams are attached to the diver's tank. Without getting technical about it, heat is created by the friction of air molecules on each other.
It is still too early to pick up this gear at the local tuck shop, but the opportunity to become a warm person, with a relaxed jaw and perfect underwater diction, is certainly worth waiting for.