Supporters of Oklahoma, unable to see their team on live television for two years because of probation, have been pacified by such originals as the perfect gift for the fan who has everything, even children, the Sooners of Oklahoma souvenir coloring book, $1.25.
Many suppliers of souvenirs insist they are providing a necessary service rather than contributing to college football's "Big Business" image. You can get a baby diaper with the Harvard crest ($1.25), a picture of Bear Bryant ($10), a felt football, a Go Somebody car tag and a UCLA Nitee ($5.50) for approximately what you would pay for a couple of hours of group therapy.
You've read sports science fiction. Electronics has taken over. The stadiums are gone. The Louisiana Superdome is filled with water and used for porpoise housing. Shea, Three Rivers, lightless Wrigley Field, cozy Fenway are paved over and forgotten.
The notion is not so preposterous once you've seen VideoBeam, a device being manufactured by the Advent Corporation, a small firm in Cambridge, Mass. VideoBeam consists of a six-foot-by-four-foot screen coupled with a receiver-projector. The screen stands against a wall: the projector sits eight feet away. You plug an aerial or cable-television connection into the receiver-projector, pick your channel and a huge, bright picture flashes on the screen. Televised sports are transformed. The action can be seen far more clearly than from the best stadium boxes. Players are large as life, action dramatically enhanced.
There are a few drawbacks to VideoBeam, and some competition, too. Earl (Madman) Muntz of used-car fame and the Sony Corporation have also introduced big-screen TV. These models cost less (Muntz' sells for $1,595; Sony's for $2,500) than VideoBeam's ($4,000) but both have smaller screens. So VideoBeam is the big-ticket product in its field. Its developer, Henry Kloss, is the "K" in KLH, one of the best-known high-fidelity names. Kloss left KLH to form Advent in 1967, and his new company soon established an excellent reputation for stereo gear.
VideoBeam has had its tryouts in Boston bars. "It's building business," says one area bartender. "When the Stanleys are on you won't be able to get into the place." Now the company is expanding its distribution and VideoBeam is available nationwide. You can buy one for your home, but first carefully measure the living room (the projector must be exactly eight feet from the screen). Advent says VideoBeam is as reliable and durable as any color TV, but admits that the screen is delicate. Kloss has visions of millions of renovated rec rooms with theatrical settings. "Tell me how many Ping-Pong tables there are in the country," he says. "We'll replace them all with VideoBeams."
If he does, spectator sports could be affected dramatically. There won't be much reason to go to a stadium, unless you are out of hot dogs. You simply cannot follow the action of most sports as well in person as you can on Advent's screen. To be sure, VideoBeam is big, bulky and expensive. But so were the early TV sets; and no science-fiction writer would have dared to predict in 1940 the role of television in sports today.
What can I say? For a short period in my life (1954-59), I dreamed that some day I would appear on a baseball card wearing a Yankees cap.