A number of issues were raised and nothing was settled in last Saturday's heavyweight fight between Bill Sharkey and South Africa's Kallie Knoetze. The ruckus over whether or not Knoetze should have been permitted to enter the ring generated more passion than was displayed in the fight. (Knoetze pounded his way to a fourth-round knockout, displaying a style that is pure Chuck Wepner.) There were 2,348 fans inside the Miami Beach Convention Center, some 100 protesters outside, and the fight was offered to a national audience on CBS-TV's Sports Spectacular.
The main furor came from U.S. civil-rights groups, most notably The Reverend Jesse Jackson's Operation PUSH. Knoetze was an "agent of apartheid,' " Jackson said, as well as a "convicted criminal." and his appearance violated the spirit of President Carter's human-rights policy.
There is a confusion of purpose here that violates the spirit of humans' rights. If certain groups in this country feel that excluding South African athletes will bring about the collapse of the South African regime, they have every right to protest, peacefully. But perhaps, as advocates of equality, they should also protest the appearance of Gary Player, Sally Little, Cliff Drysdale, and Frew McMillan as well as Knoetze. Although Knoetze is a more obvious target for protesters, having been, as a cop, directly involved in the enforcement of apartheid, as an athlete, whatever his beliefs, he is really no different from other South African athletes. Whether or not a South African athlete has a criminal record—and under that country's law, Knoetze was guilty only of misdemeanors—is neither here nor there.
And if there are groups that wish to protest the appearance of athletes who are ex-cons, their native country is beside the point. Finally, if there are groups that want to exclude ex-cons from the ring, they should have picketed Sharkey as well; he served four years at New York's Ossining and Wallkill Correctional facilities for manslaughter.
Bobby Riggs notwithstanding, tennis has never been a betting game. There has been no tennis equivalent of the $2 Nassau. Now, however, a kind of tennis gambling that originated in England has surfaced in Miami. It works like this:
You are playing singles with, say, $2 riding on the set. Suddenly you have broken your opponent's serve and you find yourself leading 3-0. You can at this point, if you choose, double the bet. Your opponent must decide on the spot whether he wants to risk $4 on his chances of pulling himself out of the hole. If he accepts the challenge, you play on. If he refuses the bet, he loses the original $2, the set is over, and a new set with a new bet begins.
If, perchance, your opponent does accept, turns the set around and finds himself ahead, say, 4-3 and 30-love, he can then double you. If he does, the bet is now $8 that you cannot pull it out. And so it goes, even unto tie-breakers.
Our spies tell us the game has no name yet but that its primary characteristic is unbearable tension.