In 1975 it cost the town $2,000 to rent three camels and three ostriches. This year no ostriches were available and camels alone would cost $3,000. That was the straw that broke the sponsors' back.
The races, designed to focus attention on the town made famous by the rich Comstock Lode, may be revived next year, perhaps in conjunction with old-time mine events like single- and double-jacking and maybe a little mucking.
If not, it's no great loss. Ostriches were about as common as great auks in the Old West, and while camels were used to haul supplies in some mining areas, they weren't much help around Virginia City because the rocks hurt their feet.
The war among the television networks for the sports audience will be fun to watch next winter, when CBS and NBC go head to head in basketball. CBS is pushing the pro game, assuming that the merger, with its addition of such superb players as Julius Erving and David Thompson to the established NBA headliners, will send ratings soaring, maybe to the high levels they reached several years ago. CBS will try for maximum audiences by dividing the country into four areas and stressing regional telecasts.
NBC, on the other hand, is strictly collegiate, and confident—so much so that it is scheduling Sunday afternoon telecasts of college games in direct competition with CBS' pros. NBC did this twice last season and both times outdrew the NBA. College games on Sundays got about 24% of the TV audience during the 1975-76 season compared to about 19% for NBA games. NBC will begin its Sunday college schedule in January and will put games on every week thereafter through the NCAA tournament in March.
These are some of the things that happened to the Hawaii Islanders during the last 20 days of the Pacific Coast League season. They led the league's West division, lost that lead, came back on the last day of the regular season to finish in a tie for first place, flew from Hawaii to Tacoma for a single-game playoff and won it to take the West division title. Their star pitcher, Diego Segui, quit the club before the playoff game and sued for back pay. Two players were receiving unemployment insurance because they were not being paid by the financially distressed club. The business office was padlocked by the Internal Revenue Service over a matter of tax liens. The club was sued by a sporting-goods manufacturer for $7,182 owed for jackets given away in an Islanders promotion. A restaurant named the Columbia Inn said it had already given the Islanders $5,500 toward the cost of the jackets and, hey, what happened to the money? Jack Quinn, part owner, president and general manager of the ball club, said the $5,500 had gone into the general accounting fund, but also revealed that the team's total indebtedness was around $167,000. A finance company went to court over a loan to Quinn. A Waikiki hotel sued for $2,260 in unpaid bills.
In Tacoma, the players celebrated their division-winning triumph with two cases of champagne that Manager Roy Hartsfield bought from the losing team (which had had the bubbly on ice in case it won) for $50—of his own money. In Salt Lake City, Pacific Coast League executives voted to relieve Hawaii of its franchise, which was their way of saying they were kicking the Islanders out of the league. But the Hawaiians, as West division champs, were supposed to play a best-four-of-seven series with Salt Lake City, the East division winners, for the PCL championship. The league decided that would be all right—except make it a best-three-of-five series instead, with all games in Salt Lake City. None of this flying to Honolulu.
The Islanders, still in Tacoma, discovered they were stranded, with neither enough money nor credit to get to Salt Lake City. Or anywhere. The San Diego Padres, who have a working agreement with Hawaii, came to the rescue and paid the transportation costs over the mountains to Utah, where the league said it would foot bills for lodging and meals.