SI Vault
August 15, 1955
A selection of memorable writing from the new national weekly which also recalls some highlights of a golden year in sports
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
August 15, 1955

An Si Sampler

A selection of memorable writing from the new national weekly which also recalls some highlights of a golden year in sports

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue


The art of running the mile consists, in essence, of reaching the threshold of unconsciousness at the instant of breasting the tape. It is not an easy process, even in a setpiece race against time, for the body rebels against such agonizing usage and must be disciplined by the spirit and the mind. It is infinitely more difficult in the amphitheater of competition, for then the runner must remain alert and cunning despite the fogs of fatigue and pain; his instinctive calculation of pace must encompass maneuver for position, and he must harbor strength to answer the moves of other men before expending his last reserves in the war of the homestretch.

Few events in sport offer so ultimate a test of human courage and human will and human ability to dare and endure for the simple sake of struggle—classically run, it is a heart-stirring, throat-tightening spectacle. But the world of track has never seen anything quite to equal the Mile of the Century which England's Dr. Roger Gilbert Bannister—the tall, pale-skinned explorer of human exhaustion who first crashed the four-minute barrier—won here last Saturday from Australia's world-record holder, John Michael Landy. It will probably not see the like again for a long, long time.


Both man and the amoeba have a common, overriding problem—control of their environment. The amoeba has kept his problem minor by being easily satisfied. Almost any old wet place will do for him and he takes such food as comes along, never sending anything back to the kitchen. His reproductive method works fine. Everything comes out even. You divide one by two and you get two. The amoeba does not have to prove to himself that he is a good amoeba, good at controlling his environment.

But men do have to prove that they are good. They do not reproduce by splitting themselves in two. Theirs is a more complicated arrangement, involving partnership deals and provision for proper rearing of the young. Very often the world environment, as the afternoon papers are quick to point out, is not suited to this purpose. The business of living is likely to raise doubts, fears and anxieties in the higher animals, whereas the amoeba is always supremely confident of his ability to handle any situation. He is suited to his way of life and he is immortal.

But move up the evolutionary scale a bit and you find that there is constant need for reassurance. A dog requires a bit of applause when he has done a good job of bringing in the bird. To another animal this might be a poor reward for giving up a duck dinner, but a dog understands glory.

It is an artificial arrangement, this business of a man shooting a bird and a dog retrieving it, and that is what makes it a sport. A sport is a design for living in an artificial environment, hedged with self-imposed disciplines and filled with the fear of failure and the hope of success.

While the chancelleries strive to control the world environment of man, individual man can make a world of his own—in the shape of a baseball diamond, a football field, a tennis court or a golf course. There he observes the special rules of artificial life and death. He lives to glory if he breaks par and then, refreshed with intimations of immortality, returns to his desk and the problems of the real world, purged for a little while of doubt and fear, pleasantly aware that there are areas where he is master of his fate and captain of his soul.

This is all based on the assumption that the greens committee is not a pack of idiots.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9