- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
SEE NO EVIL?
The Frank picture at the top of the opposite page is not pretty. It shows in brutal clarity the aftermath of an ugly incident in the Sugar Bowl football game. Sadly, this incident will probably serve as memory's peg for a fine game in which Tennessee, a very good football team, lost to Baylor, which had played all year on the narrow border of greatness and crossed over on New Year's Day.
When Baylor Fullback Larry Hickman kicked Tennessee's Bruce Burn-ham in the face, he spoiled forever an afternoon which might have been a satisfying, warm memory. Hickman, a 19-year-old sophomore, gave way briefly under the tremendous pressure of a bowl game; the ethical code of football was not as strong, for a few seconds, as the age-old law of the pack which says you must protect your own. Burnham was involved in a melee with Baylor players and Hickman answered instinct, not reason. His remorse was quick and deep, and he served an immediate penance on the Baylor bench ("It seemed like I sat there five years"). His wholehearted apology and Burn-ham's forgiveness were warm grace notes to a sad song.
The incident, unfortunately, was shushed to some extent; squeamish television cameras swung hurriedly away from the action, and the sequence was deleted from official game movies. In closing their eyes (and the eyes of television watchers) to what happened, TV was following an old self-imposed rule, one usually justified on the ground that it "spares the families." This is a shortsighted argument. By swinging its cameras away from Hickman's mistake, his removal from the game and his subsequent honest penitential dejection on the bench, TV kept from its public some of the truth of this particular game—and of an object lesson of more than particular application. Ignoring such incidents can lend a sort of tacit approval; spotlighting can help weed them out and, incidentally, spare families—and players themselves—the pain of future kicks in the face.
Hockey players have been known to go berserk too, but, as National Hockey League games went out on a national network for the first time last week, there were no blinders on the cameras; TV cameramen were instructed there was to be no censorship. This is as it should be.
ROBINSON STEALS HOME
One of the characteristics that marked Jackie Robinson as an unforgettable baseball player was his Sense of Presence, of knowing precisely what to do in crises, especially in the face of a surprising or unexpected or dramatic turn of events. It was part of his nature as the first Negro ballplayer in the major leagues to be constantly on the alert, to be continually thinking about the next step, the next out, the future.
This is probably as much the reason as any other why his decision to retire from baseball was splashed in banner headlines across the sports pages of the country. Robinson had quietly made plans to retire, had arranged through a trusted friend for a lucrative and satisfying job. He had also agreed, in exchange for a considerable sum of money, to give the exclusive story of his retirement, when it occurred, to Look magazine. Up to this point it was a relatively simple arrangement.
But on the very day he signed a contract with the Chock Full O' Nuts restaurant company to serve as vice-president in charge of personnel, he learned from E. J. (Buzzy) Bavasi, vice-president of the Brooklyn Dodgers in charge of personnel, that he had been traded to the New York Giants.
This was an unexpected and tantalizing turn of events: first, because he was committed to retirement from baseball; and, second, because he was committed to sell the story of his retirement on an exclusive basis. If he told Bavasi, who is not widely known for taciturnity, that he was going to announce his retirement in three weeks, he would very conceivably destroy the exclusiveness of a story he had been paid for. As a matter of fact, the story was in the process of being written.