- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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REUNION OF TWO FAST FRIENDS
"The art of running the mile consists, in essence, of reaching the threshold of unconsciousness at the instant of breasting the tape." So wrote Paul O'Neil in the lead story in the first issue of SI, dated August 16, 1954. O'Neil was covering a much anticipated showdown in the mile at the British Empire Games in Vancouver, B.C. between Roger Bannister and John Landy, who shortly before had become the first two men to break four minutes in the event. Before a crowd of 35,000 in Empire Stadium, newly built for the Games, and before one of the first international TV audiences for a sports event, Bannister beat Landy 3:58.8 to 3:59.6 in a confrontation still known as the Miracle Mile.
Bannister, a London neurologist who has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth, and Landy, a business executive in Melbourne, have been reunited several times since 1954, including a joint appearance in Vancouver in 1969 at the unveiling of a statue erected outside Empire Stadium in tribute to their famous race. Last week the two were back in Vancouver for a commemorative event that made those in attendance vividly aware of the passage of time. The Vancouver Whitecaps, the local NASL team, are moving in late June into the city's new 60,000-seat domed stadium, and they were playing their final game in now moldering Empire Stadium. At halftime of a 2-1 Whitecap win over Tulsa, a special mile race was held in which four runners broke four minutes, an occurrence now so common that the next day's story in the Vancouver Province didn't mention all the runners' names and times. If the stadium and the mile run had changed, so had the two guests of honor; discussing the statue, Landy said he liked it "better than ever" because "it's still got its hair."
Landy and Bannister exhibited a becoming modesty about their achievements. Landy suggested that interest in his historic race with Bannister had been "a bit overblown," and he declined to make anything of the fact that he ended his career with a better PR in the mile than Bannister did. "People will remember Roger Bannister rather than me," he insisted. "Running is really winning in the ultimate, and he won." For which fact his erstwhile opponent still seemed to be thanking his lucky stars. "Everybody built up the confrontation," Bannister said. "I had great respect for him and knew there was no avoiding it. I just hoped it would be a good race, and then, as soon as it was over, we would be good friends—as we indeed have been."
The question of whether to install lights in Wrigley Field, the only major league baseball park that doesn't have them, is the subject of a continuing controversy that has folks in the Windy City going around in circles. On the one hand, Cubs General Manager Dallas Green apparently believes that lights will make his team better; he notes that "constant adjustment from day to night and back" can cause "life-style" difficulties for the players. On the other hand, Green has indicated on at least one occasion that he would push for lights in a big way only if the Cubs became pennant contenders. Which comes first, the better team or the lights? And you thought the chicken-or-the-egg business was tricky.
Adding to the uncertainty is the existence of a neighborhood group called Citizens United for Baseball in Sunshine (C.U.B.S.) that opposes night baseball at Wrigley out of fear that it would increase rowdyism and noise. C.U.B.S. has purchased 300 tickets for a June 11 game against the Cardinals and plans to stage a "No Lights Day" protest demonstration at the park. Two weeks ago C.U.B.S. Chairman Christy Cressey spoke at a meeting of neighborhood residents and vowed to block the introduction of lights, saying, "Dallas Green doesn't always get his way. After all, he wanted a winning season, and he hasn't gotten that yet."
Of course, the desire for a winning season is exactly why Green says he eventually wants lights. Which brings us right back to where we started on this circuitous journey—in the dark.
TOO GOOD FOR THEIR OWN GOOD
After losing, by his estimate, nearly $1 million on the 76ers last year, Philadelphia owner Harold Katz concluded that there was only one way to remedy that situation: He had to improve the Sixers enough that they'd win the NBA championship. Thanks largely to Katz's off-season acquisition of Moses Malone, the 76ers, of course, did win the title, but they may have improved on the court too much, at least as far as the balance sheet is concerned. Katz says Philly cut its losses during the '82-83 season to "under half a million" but would have gotten out of the red if only they hadn't breezed so easily through the playoffs.