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SLOW BUT STEADY
In its usually modest way, the North American Soccer League has announced the award of its 18th franchise to the Chicago Sting. With one more franchise—and two are pending—the NASL will become the third-largest professional sports league in the country. Only the National Football League and major league baseball will be bigger.
The soccer league started with a blast in the mid-'60s. After losses in the millions, it was down to five teams and almost broke by 1969. That's when Phil Woosnam became commissioner and talked small. Concentrating on community relationships and keeping expenses low, he achieved a slow, steady growth that the owners could live with. No franchise has since lost more than $230,000 a season—peanuts compared with the bath some World Football League teams took this year—and average attendance has grown steadily, from 3,844 a game in 1971 to 7,825 last season. A few of the games have been televised, including this year's championship, but Woosnam is not pushing overly hard in that direction. Build the game first is his theory, attract a loyal following and the TV will come.
HUES AND CRY
GOLD IN THEM THAR TILLS
THE LITTLE IN LITTLE LEAGUE
The outrage and hurt were not all Taiwan's when Little League Baseball, Inc. announced last week that henceforth the Little World Series would be very little indeed, excluding teams from all countries save those from the United States. Judging by editorial comment around this country, which was almost unanimous in deploring the latest LL gaffe, the only jingoists were the league directors themselves. Few others felt so concerned that Taiwan had won five of the last six series, or that Japanese teams had won in 1967 and 1968. As Dick Young of the New York Daily News said, disinviting the best is like barring Miami from the Super Bowl or Muhammad Ali from a bout for the heavyweight championship.
The unofficial reasons given for the action—travel costs for foreign teams were becoming too expensive and the approach was becoming too nationalistic—is transparent nonsense. Nor, as Peter Carry wrote in this magazine (Aug. 19), is there any reason to suspect unfair practices by the Taiwanese. The kids are of age, and they are not culled from a huge population base. They do, however, play all year round, they accept instruction gladly and they practice as though by glove possessed.
More to the point is what Robert Stir-rat, one vice-president of the Little League, said: "We could see a trend coming. Our program originally was intended as a community activity, and basically still is." For the wrong reasons, the Little League could just be on the track of something sensible at last. Why even hold a series? Winning the town or county championship is pressure enough for 11- and 12-year-olds. And scrapping the series would save the directors all sorts of embarrassment. At least they would not have to blush every time they mention those three little words—Little World Series.
RATTLING BAD TIME