The U.S. Olympic Committee's 482-member House of Delegates will consider action on President Carter's proposed Olympic boycott at its annual meeting in Colorado Springs this weekend. By way of helping that body make up its mind. Sears, Roebuck and Co. last week said it would withhold payment of a $25,000 pledge to the USOC unless the committee supports the boycott. Although Sears officials denied that the White House had applied undue pressure, they allowed that Presidential Assistant Anne Wexler had requested in a phone call to Board Chairman Edward R. Telling that the contribution be delayed. With the USOC's fund-raising efforts already slowed by the boycott movement. Sears' announcement distressed Olympic Committee Executive Director F. Don Miller, who accused the company and the White House of "sheer blackmail."
The Administration's frustration on the Olympic issue was plainly showing in all this. With Soviet troops still occupying Afghanistan, it might be construed as a sign of weakness for the U.S.—and in an election year, for Carter—to relax opposition to participation in the Moscow Games. Nevertheless, amid signs that public support for Carter's Olympic stand may be eroding, the USOC has been stepping up its resistance to a boycott.
Although USOC officials said a few weeks ago that they would go along with the President's determination of "what's best for the country," they more recently have been saying that they would support a boycott only if Carter termed such a move a matter of "national security," which would appear to be an overstatement of what has been advanced essentially as a symbolic protest. The USOC has meanwhile argued that the U.S. shouldn't commit itself to a boycott when so few other countries seem willing to do so—even though the Administration maintains that many of those other countries are waiting for the U.S. to act first.
It is debatable whether the USOC's delaying tactics justify the strong-arm methods the White House apparently used in the Sears case. The Administration is now said to be considering other extreme measures to prevent U.S. athletes from competing in Moscow, including currency restrictions, revoking the USOC's tax-exempt status and legislation giving the President sole authority for sending teams abroad. Another sign that the boycott movement may be faltering is the widespread lack of enthusiasm for the White House's proposal for an alternative Olympics, which now gives every indication of being a dead issue. One more telling development: Administration officials, among them Defense Secretary Harold Brown, were saying last week that, yes, a USOC refusal to support a boycott would indeed damage national security.
MASTER OF THE MASTERS
Finishing among the top 24 at the Masters guarantees a golfer an invitation to the tournament the following year, and for the average touring pro, cracking that select company is quite an achievement. Clearly, Sam Snead is not average. Snead has placed in the select 24 at least once in each of the five decades of the Masters' existence—the '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s. He was 18th in 1937 and 20th in 1974, with two dozen other top-24 finishes in between, including three victories. By comparison, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson were top-24 finishers in four decades, and Arnold Palmer and Julius Boros, among others, in three each.
This week in Augusta, Snead, age 67, goes for a sixth decade. Chances are he won't make it, but no matter. Just by competing in the tournament in a sixth decade he will set a record that may well stand forever.
UP FRONT, PLEASE
NBA and NHL teams have, as usual, raised ticket prices for the playoffs. The Atlanta Flames, who charged an $11 top for regular-season games, have increased prices by 25% for the first round of Stanley Cup play (to a $13.75 top) and by 50% for subsequent rounds (to $16.50), assuming, of course, that the Flames get that far. The Philadelphia Flyers hiked prices from $11.50 for top-scale seats during the regular season to $17.25 in the playoffs, also a 50% increase.