THE FORBES CASE
The mistrial in the Dave Forbes case (A Nondecision Begs the Question, July 28) satisfied none of the participants. However, in terms of justice and extralegal impact the result may have been the most appropriate one. To acquit Forbes would have had the effect of condoning a brutal act by one man against another. To convict him would have singled out Forbes for punishment for behavior differing in only slight degree, if at all, from that conditioned since childhood in most hockey players. Such behavior is both expected and rewarded by pro hockey management, which knows its value in increased ticket sales, television revenue, etc.
A significant, positive by-product of the proceedings is the media and public attention being given to hockey violence. Though the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision, the knowledge that a majority was prepared to vote for conviction on aggravated assault is important as an expression of public response. All this should put added pressure on professional hockey to clean up its operations. The case might also encourage coaches and players at other levels of the game to think about the effect of violence on themselves and on their sport. And maybe fans will try to figure out what need in themselves is served by paying money to cheer on men who are bloodying one another.
I cannot see how Forbes could possibly be found innocent. Forbes' attorney stated that all boxers would be guilty of assault. Wrong. Hitting is the object of their sport. A boxer would be guilty of assault if he pounded an opponent lying on the canvas, which is expressly against the rules. Any athlete assumes that his fellow athletes will follow the rules, at least to a degree. If a sport allowed for killing, its participants would forfeit their right to prosecute for murder. If hockey rules had permitted conduct such as Forbes displayed, there would be no case. However, they don't. But "that's hockey, right?"
If the district attorneys' offices throughout the country spent as much time vigorously prosecuting criminals as has been spent trying to prosecute Dave Forbes, there would be less crime.
I think what Forbes did was inexcusable. If the NHL made its penalties for flagrant stick violations stiffer, such violations would no longer occur. But it is up to the NHL, not the district attorney's office. This is far too dangerous a precedent to set.
If Dave Forbes is convicted, they may as well drag in every hockey player in the U.S. and Canada and convict each one. What's more, they should put every contact sport on trial.
The article on Don Canham (No Death for a Salesman, July 28) was superb, but it left out the smartest move that Canham ever made—hiring Bo Schembechler as head football coach of the University of Michigan. Bo was virtually unknown on the national scene, although he had a fine record at Miami of Ohio when Canham picked him in 1969. He has become the winningest coach in college football (58-7-1). His Wolverine teams have not lost a home game since 1969, having gone unbeaten in 35 straight.
Canham is a master merchandiser, but Bo Schembechler has given him the No. 1 product to sell: winning football.
Football News-Basketball Weekly
Grosse Pointe, Mich.
What a man! University of Michigan Athletic Director Don Canham is the messiah who has come to save intercollegiate sports from oblivion. Frank Deford has written a fascinating tale of campus big business that would impress the gnomes of Zurich.
We were pre-dental and pre-medical students at the University of Michigan. We both had participated in track in high school and felt we had talent. Coach Don Canham gave us an audience that consisted of two questions—which track events were we talking about, and what were our best times in each.