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Because they are all suffering from the same ailment, one common to both the burlesque stage and the comic strip, the four sportsmen pictured above may seem pretty funny fellows. "Hey," their best friends might well cry out to any one of them, "who hung the mouse on ya?" and ribald laughter would echo from all directions. For there is something deep and perverse in Homo sapiens which inevitably finds something comical in the sight of a black eye on the face of his brother.
Yet from the clinical point of view, the black eye is the ugly and defacing external symptom of internal hemorrhage that may well signify serious and lasting injury, so what's to laugh at?
Put plainly and bluntly, the answer is nothing whatsoever.
The figures in the cartoon above were not just chosen at random to make this philosophical point. Depicting from left to right minor league baseball, prizefighting, flat racing and harness racing, they represent four professional sports wearing black eyes last week.
Harness racing got its latest black eye at New York's Roosevelt Raceway when a horse named Speedy Pick won the $50,000 National Pacing Derby—and then was discovered to have been heavily doped with a stimulant-pain killer called procaine. The discovery, in a routine post-race examination, presented Governor Nelson Rockefeller's newly appointed harness racing commission with not only a whodunit but a what-to-do-about-it.
Minor league baseball collected its black eye in the South, where the leading hitter of the Chattanooga Lookouts, Jesse Levan, got himself banned for life this July for trafficking with gamblers. Since then, Minors President George Trautman has been busy running down a hatful of rumors of other player roundheels in the Southern Association.
Flat racing's shiner comes from the West Coast, where an ex-jockey and assorted associates are awaiting arraignment for conspiracy to bribe jockeys and dope horses at Caliente and Santa Anita.
Boxing's black eye sometimes seems chronic. This week the New York State Athletic Commission begins its belated investigation of just what it was authorizing when it authorized the Patterson-Johansson fight. Investigators are following odorous trails in other states, and Congress itself is beginning to show signs of shocked attention.
Even now there are those who think the boxer's black eye pretty funny and who see comical aspects in the Santa Anita dopings, where horses were jabbed that were not even scheduled to run. But those to whom the sporting public has entrusted its interests have no cause to laugh. Their job is to inquire with vigilance into wrongdoing, to identify the mugs who are soiling sport and to throw them out forever.