A few, 10 or so, got on the plane (see page 36). The others balked, unable to face a month or so in Kinshasa while the rest of life—like the World Series—passed them by. They watched the plane take off, then discovered that Icelandic's next homebound flight was fully booked—and there were no hotel rooms left in town. When last seen, they were playing to see who would buy the next round of drinks. The contest: pitching malaria pills against the wall.
It was only a friendly quip, but it put thoroughbred racing people on their high horses. At the end of a fine eulogy to television news editor John Merriman, who was killed in an airline crash at Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 12, ABC Newscaster Harry Reasoner said, "He had only one fault, in my view—a strange fondness for horse racing. But nobody's perfect."
The New York Racing Association, never noted for its sense of humor, requested and received a transcript of that part of Reasoner's show, and some of ABC's racing-minded listeners immediately phoned or wrote ABC. Incensed, they claimed that Reasoner's remarks demeaned the sport that had given Merriman so much pleasure.
Ironically, ABC had only recently discovered horse racing. The network wheeled and dealed last spring to win the sport's most lucrative event, the Kentucky Derby, away from Merriman's old stand, CBS.
Well, as Reasoner said, nobody's perfect.