ON THE FITNESS FRONT
The associated press had a story out of California the other day which brought a couple of things into reasonably sharp focus: 1) the advent of the channel swimming season and 2) the decline and imminent fall of the American spectator.
The story, in case you missed it, had to do with a gentleman named Roy Sutter who paddled hopefully out into the blue Pacific late one evening en route from Santa Cruz Island to Port Hueneme on the mainland, 22 miles away.
He was well greased and strong and two hours later he was splashing contentedly through a group of surprised dolphins when someone tapped him gingerly on the shoulder.
"You will have to quit," said one of his crew members. "Everyone in the boat is tired and sick."
So the swimmer, who was still full of Australian crawl and not even ready for a change of oil, was hauled back into the boat forthwith and probably had to row it back to the island, in view of the condition of his crew.
This points up a sad state of affairs, or rather, two sad states of affairs, if you want to count channel swimming as one. The big thing here, however, is the collapse of the bystanders and spectators, who were resting quietly on their thwarts or oars, as the case may be, and still lacked the stamina to negotiate the 22 miles.
There has been quite a commotion about the parlous state of American youth lately, what with surveys which hold that the average European lad of 12 can touch his toes all day and the average American lad can't bend that far, but the splurge by American athletes in the Olympic trials proves pretty conclusively that whether or not you can touch your toes has little to do with your ability to cover a stretch of ground at high speed.
As long as toe touching is not an Olympic event, American youngsters seem likely to do as well or better than ever this year. While the toe-touching fans are deploring our lack of flexibility, the American younger generation continues to grow taller and heavier and stronger and fleeter, and probably that's one reason they can't touch their toes very well. They have grown too far away from them.
At any rate, the American athlete is still probably the best in the world, the American spectator is wasting away and unless someone with a strong and uncluttered mind like that of Avery Brundage does something about it, he may disappear forever into a darkened living room or a TV bar.