The National Endowment for the Humanities earned the "Fleece Award" last week from Senator William Proxmire (Dem., Wis.). The dubious honor was bestowed on the organization for awarding a $2,500 federal grant for a study of why people are rude on tennis courts. The federal funds were given to Arlington County, Va., which wanted to determine why some players hog the courts and why others become frustrated when they have to wait. The study involved hiring a professor of ethics and philosophy and a professor of sociology as consultants. A survey of some 300 players on their attitudes toward local tennis regulations was also mandated.
Said Proxmire, in something of a non sequitur, "By watching Ilie Nastase or Bob Hewitt throw their tantrums on national television, taxpayers could have saved the expense."
WIN, PLACE, SHOW AND TELL
For years Arlene Tabor tried to get her fifth-grade special-education students at the Cochran School in Louisville involved in their studies. She brought insects, chickens and rabbits to class, but the students, predominantly inner-city kids with learning and behavioral problems, failed to respond.
Then, Mrs. Tabor hit upon a natural for Bluegrass Country: She took the class to Churchill Downs and to several horse shows. When the school had its Career Day last year, none other than race caller Robin Burns from the local harness track showed up with an armful of coloring books published by the U.S. Trotting Association. Inspired, the students voted unanimously on the site of their next field trip: Louisville Downs.
The night the class went to the races a pacer named Mushroom Steve broke stride during a race, finished dead last and was loudly booed by the crowd. The kids were angry and rallied to Steve's defense. "They identified with him," says Mrs. Tabor. As 13-year-old Vance Butler said, "Ever since I've been in school, people have been going past me."
The next day the students decided to adopt the pacer as their mascot and formed a 4-H club, the Friends of Mushroom Steve. Mrs. Tabor knew she had a winner. She began to structure her courses around the harness horse, designing new textbooks, such as Mushroom Math and Static from Steve. She put a picture of Steve on the bulletin board and used it as a visual aid to tell the story of Lew Williams, a successful black harness driver. "For the first time," says Mrs. Tabor, "the students are learning to relate to people and voluntarily reading their textbooks." But no tip sheets. At least not yet.
ON TOP DOWN UNDER
Ask an Australian to name his favorite American and he will almost certainly not say Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Ali or Barbra Streisand. The more likely choice will be Manfred Moore.
Yes, Manfred Moore, a 26-year-old native of Martinez, Calif., who has been in Australia only since late February. In these few months, however, Moore has become a household word in New South Wales and Queensland. He is the first U.S. pro football player to compete in Rugby League football in Australia and he has taken the game by storm.