During his years in the public eye, Bing Crosby has demonstrated a well-publicized enthusiasm for horse racing (he helped finance California's Del Mar Track), for baseball (he is an owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates), for golf (he annually conducts a tournament at Pebble Beach) and big-game hunting (he has published an article on the vicissitudes of pursuing Rocky Mountain sheep). But the other day, as a guest on Ed Murrow's TV show Person to Person, Bing confessed that his favorite sport was none of these.
"Oh, Ed, I think fishing, really," Bing said, when the question was put to him. "Conditions vary, and fish vary and their temperament varies and their desire to bite or feed varies with the feeding conditions on the stream or lake or ocean or wherever you happen to be. It's always a challenge and a problem and you've got to keep thinking. It's a complete relief. It's very difficult to take any problems fishing...they disappear as soon as you get that line on the water."
Bing proved that he meant it by refusing to say a word more. "Ed," he apologized, "I wouldn't want to tell you about [my favorite spots] because there would be a lot of traffic headed [that way]."
A vote for rugger
Anglo-American relations have reached new heights of amity in many fields, but few Englishmen have yet shaken the feeling that U.S. football is mayhem conducted by padded madmen?and few Americans the tolerant impression that rugby is a sort of basketball played on a soccer field. This mutual suspicion is understandable enough; hardly anybody on either side tries the other's game and the number who have played both, seriously, is infinitesimal. This fall, however, Rhodes Scholar Vincent W. Jones, a six-foot-three inch, 227-pound ex-Dartmouth tackle, won his blue in rugby at Oxford and after catching his breath came to a conclusion that may well startle many of his countrymen: rugby is tougher and a lot more fun.
Jones, a Californian of many enthusiasms and interests (he is a Phi Beta Kappa, a sports car driver, a big-game hunter and a mountaineer who flew to Africa last summer to climb Mount Kilimanjaro), did not sit in judgment, however, without puncturing at least one of England's fondest illusions?that good rugby backs would run wild in U.S. football without pads and helmets. Says he: "They wouldn't last 30 minutes." He entered a few other demurrers, too. He finds that the rain-drenched, almost rootless English turf gives terrible footing. He could not grow accustomed to the fact that Oxford provides no showers for muddy, sweat-drenched players after a game. "You are expected to walk all the way back to your own room to change if you don't die on the way."
Nevertheless, he chose rugby as the more interesting sport. "As a lineman in football I'm just a pawn. In rugger I take part in the tactics; I can pass and even make like a fullback and score. Rugby practice is relaxation?football practice at home is grim routine." Jones gave his reasons for feeling rugby was the harder game: "It is 80 minutes of continuous running and shoving; it takes more endurance. There is only a five-minute intermission and you don't lie down in a dressing room, you stand on the field. There are no substitutions. Rugby demands more continuous awareness of what you have to do next. It's exhausting. Of course, you get more physically beat up in football but you aren't completely exhausted."
Jones, who is the first American since 1931 to win a blue in rugby, did not go to England unprepared. He began playing the game in Bermuda during vacations, continued it at Stanford while studying law and toured Australia with a U.S. rugby team before going to England. Even so he was hardly prepared for some of Oxford's attitudes.
When he was invited to play with the varsity team for the first time this fall he naturally presumed that he would?as at Dartmouth?be expected to turn up for practice daily. He did not know that one does not mingle in practice with the team before receiving an engraved three-by-five inch invitation card from the captain. "The secretary took me aside," Jones recalls, "and said in a fatherly tone, 'Vince, we know you have good intentions but you really must work out on your own unless you receive an invitation.' " The secretary called him aside again after he had enthusiastically shaken a fellow player's hand after a score. "Vince," he was told, "we don't want to turn this into an emotional game like soccer."
But for all this other-worldly atmosphere, Jones confessed as he warmed up in the dressing room before this year's Oxford-Cambridge game at historic Twickenham ( Cambridge won, 3-0) that he had never felt as keyed up in three years of varsity football in the U.S. Later he confessed to a sense of genuine bliss. The dressing room at Twickenham boasted ten large, old-fashioned white bathtubs, and after the game the players climbed into them, two to the tub, and sloshed in companionable luxury.