SI Vault
 
THE MAN WHO STOOD SPORT ON ITS HEAD
Ray Kennedy
April 28, 1975
...or, for better or worse (and lately worse), tried to. Jack Scott led the radical movement in athletics and got to test his ideas at Ohio's Oberlin. Now he is embroiled in the Patty Hearst case, some famous sports figures are being grilled by the FBI and the rebellion he headed has lost followers and its fierceness
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April 28, 1975

The Man Who Stood Sport On Its Head

...or, for better or worse (and lately worse), tried to. Jack Scott led the radical movement in athletics and got to test his ideas at Ohio's Oberlin. Now he is embroiled in the Patty Hearst case, some famous sports figures are being grilled by the FBI and the rebellion he headed has lost followers and its fierceness

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One thing for sure," says Jack Scott, educator, sports activist and runaway, "everyone will think twice before hassling us now. I mean, I can't wait to meet Pete Rozelle and see that new look of respect when he knows that Patty Hearst and the SLA are behind us."

Scott, looking wan and about as violent as a kumquat, was back among the visible last week, alive and well enough to indulge in grim humor, a luxury he could ill afford while being sought for questioning by the FBI as the alleged protector of Patty Hearst. Indeed, the leading—and now the most notorious—champion of the radical sports movement knows all too well that there are more hassles ahead and they could be the most trying of his controversial career.

So here he is up from the underground, 33 and reed thin, reddish fringe beard and halo of thinning hair, looking for all the world like Mr. Peepers at a PTA meeting. But what happened to those sinister black shades? Who disguised that menacing shaved skull? "That picture," says Scott, referring to a wirephoto that accompanied such headlines as SCOTT: ARMED AND DANGEROUS, "set the tone for depicting us as crazed, gun-shooting nuts." The offending photo, he says, was taken in 1973. "I had shaved my head because of a bad scalp rash," he explains. "They must have 40 or 50 other pictures of me in a suit and tie but they picked that one I guess because they thought that's what a criminal should look like."

The photo only served to add to the mystery of the man. Syracuse University sprinter. Ramparts sportswriter. Ph. D. in higher education from Berkeley. Co-founder with wife Micki of the Institute for the Study of Sport and Society. Author of Athletics for Athletes and The Athletic Revolution. Oberlin College athletic director. Sponsor of Dave Meggyesy's Out of Their League, a condemnation of the evils of win-at-any-cost football. And most recently the houseguest and confidant of Bill Walton.

"It would be pretentious of us to speak of our work as anything but part of a long tradition," says Scott in a soft, almost somnolent way. Though he traces the origins as far back as a 1929 Carnegie Report, which decried the blatant commercialism in major college sports, what is known as the radical sports movement was inspired by the civil rights agitation of the mid-1960s, came thrusting to the fore with the Black Power salutes of John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and was swept along in the subsequent tides of antiwar protests, the counter culture and Women's Liberation.

Scott began attracting attention after the 1968 Olympics by charging, with tongue firmly in cheek, that many authoritarian coaches "have problems with latent homosexuality." In such ponderous-sounding forums as Intercollegiate Athletics and Higher Education: A Socio-Psychological Evaluation, a course that Scott taught at Berkeley in 1970, he formalized his assault on organized sports as "one of the most conservative, narrow and encrusted segments of our society." In his writings he railed against payoffs and the "quasi-militaristic manner" of "racist, insensitive" coaches who rob sport of its "best justification—that it's fun to do."

Meggyesy, a former Syracuse star lineman who quit the St. Louis Cardinals to huddle with Scott for four months and complete Out of Their League, weighed in with a virulent insider's attack on the "dehumanizing conditions" and "violence and sadism" of big-time football. The controversy stirred by the Meggyesy broadside in 1970 loosed in turn a salvo of similar books, for example, Vince Matthews' My Race Be Won and Paul Hoch's Rip-off the Big Game. "Until that time," says Scott, "the only athletes who wrote about sport were those who had gotten the best out of the system and were prone to be adulatory. It was like Rockefeller trying to take a hard look at America."

Scott's Oakland apartment soon became a kind of halfway house for disenchanted athletes. Chip Oliver, who split from the Oakland Raiders to write High for the Game, a drug-oriented account of his brief, spaced-out fling in the NFL, passed through. So did George Sauer Jr., the gifted wide receiver who left the New York Jets in 1971 at the peak of his powers because, as he stated in a release he prepared with Scott, the system was designed "to keep players in a prolonged state of adolescence."

That gave Scott a reputation as the coach of the cop-outs. Still trying to shake the tag, he says that Meggyesy and Sauer made up their own minds to quit while Oliver dropped out and wrote his book long before he met him. "Somehow everyone thinks that we're trying to convince people to quit," says Scott, "but in fact the whole thrust of our work is for people to be allowed to participate in sports. After all, you can't change a system by leaving it."

Nor can you walk right in and start radicalizing. The growing acceptance of many of Scott's theories was borne out in 1971 when the University of Washington offered him an assistant professorship in women's physical education. However, fear of his possible destructive influence prevailed. Under heavy pressure from the faculty, the school withdrew the bid. Scott sued and settled out of court for $10,500.

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