The Guns of Autumn, the CBS News special that created such a furore last week, was bloody, brutal and shocking, but it was also a distortion. Preshow publicity had implied that the 90-minute special would be an expos� of hunting, or perhaps an explanation of it, or at the very least a thoughtful study of an activity that means so much to so many people and is abhorred by so many others. But only a small part of The Guns of Autumn was devoted to hunting; the bulk of it was about killing, which is not the same thing. Virtually tame bears were killed at garbage dumps, deer in a small-fenced preserve, buffalo in pastures, geese on the ground. In one long, almost unendurable sequence, inept marksmen tried with dreadfully slow success to kill an already dying deer. Men and women posing with carcasses of what they had shot were depressingly callous.
This was factual and appalling—ugly, stupid and cruel—but it was a cheap shot. As Nelson Bryant wrote in The New York Times, "If one were planning to portray the glories of love between woman and man in a television documentary, and then devoted the entire show to the antics of a drunken clod in a bordello, one would achieve the same level of truth."
In focusing on bad hunters and disgusting slaughters, The Guns of Autumn confirmed the opinion of antihunting people that killing animals is a vicious business, and it embittered those to whom hunting is a valued and legitimate pastime. Between now and Sept. 28, when CBS will air a reaction to Guns, the controversy is sure to build. And killed stone dead is an opportunity for a serious study of hunting with all its subtle, complex pros and cons—a documentary that could have had great value.
Brian Oldfield, the shotputter, surfaced in Santa Rosa, Calif. a couple of weekends ago at the 110th Scottish Gathering and Games. Oldfield, who had a taste of Scottish competition earlier this summer (SI, Sept. 1), accepted the invitation of the California Scotsmen and proceeded to dominate the strong-man competition, winning such things as the 17-pound stone put, the 28-pound weight throw for distance, the 56-pound weight throw for height (his toss cleared 15'6") and something called the Scottish hammer throw (the hammer looks like a standard track hammer: a ball on a wire). Brian was acclaimed " United States champion" for his overall performance but went down to defeat in tossing the caber, the classic Scottish event. The caber is a sort of telephone pole, and the manner in which it is tossed is as important as the distance. Ideally, you flip it so that it lands straight up on its other end. The winner, John Ross of Santa Rosa, hit twice straight up—at 12 o'clock, so to speak—while Oldfield's one good fling landed at 11 o'clock.
Undaunted by defeat, Brian put on the kilt he had picked up in Scotland and fit in beautifully at the party that followed.
A year ago when attendance at National Football League exhibition games turned out to be disappointingly low, the NFL said that was because of the players' strike. When a lot of empty seats appeared during the regular season, the NFL blamed that on the Federal regulations passed in 1973 requiring sold-out games to be televised locally, and the term "no-shows" became a permanent part of pro football's vocabulary.
Attendance at exhibition games has been disappointing again this year, even though there is no strike and the television rule only applies to nationally televised games. The Washington Redskins had only 18,444, 15,513 and 17,304 at games in RFK Stadium, where capacity is 54,747. One New Orleans Saints exhibition in the 74,472-seat Superdome drew 40,089, smallest home crowd in the Saints' history. The New England Patriots, up from last year's sparse figures, are still down 10,000 fans a game compared to earlier seasons in Schaefer Stadium.