A feast of fine football was served up to the nation in the various college Bowls last week to celebrate the new year and the new decade, and as we settled down to enjoy it we let ourselves believe for a moment that the '60s might be truly different. Maybe they will, but before the best of the Bowl games was even half done it became sadly evident that some of the futility and the foolishness of the '50s and the '40s and their predecessors is still with us.
The ugly racial flare-up in the Cotton Bowl at Dallas was over almost before it began. The snarled insult by a Texan that stirred a Negro player on the Syracuse team to quick retaliation was not heard beyond the sidelines. But the quick glimpse of flying fists and suddenly unleashed hatreds had made its impression on TV screens all over the country and left a small ugly memory to fester for the year to come.
At about the same time as the fists were flying in Texas, an ambassador of ill will flew back to the U.S. from a three-week golfing tour of South Africa. He was Tommy Bolt, the man who said in 1958 when he won the U.S. Open, "Now that I'm champion I can do what I please." At that time this magazine wished publicly that the PGA might order Tommy off the links long enough to learn some manners, and there is no reason to amend the wish in the first week of 1960. As U.S. golf's unofficial envoy to the South Africans, the onetime Open Champion sulked, swore, complained, fretted, insulted and bludgeoned his way through the weeks of exhibition rounds with British Open Champ Gary Player with such studied ill grace that the President of the North Transvaal Golf Union declared: "I have never met such a badly behaved golfer in my life."
Meanwhile, as a world plagued with misunderstanding and acrimony crawled into a new decade of potential hope, a team of Swedish basketball players, eager to try their skill in the U.S.,-were told in effect by the poohbahs of U.S. amateur officialdom to get the hell-and-gone back home.
The official reason for this blunt inhospitality, according to the Amateur Athletic Union's secretary for international relations, Daniel J. Ferris, was that the Swedish amateurs had grossly violated the rules of the AAU by financing and arranging their American tour more or less independently of the AAU. This questionable offense was given added emphasis by an old feud between Ferris and a world-traveling U.S. basketball enthusiast named Jim McGregor, who had taught the Swedes some of the tricks of the American game for a brief period in Stockholm. At McGregor's urging, young Ake Nilsson, founder and president of the eight-year-old Swedish Basketball Federation, got in touch with a number of small colleges with Swedish and Lutheran traditions here, and arranged for his unfledged amateurs to play basketball with them. At the very start of the negotiations, Nilsson wrote the AAU of his intentions and asked its blessing. The letter—curt to the point of rudeness—which he got in reply from Ferris said only "Your undated letter" (it was, in fact, quite clearly dated) "requesting permission to arrange a series of games for a Swedish basketball team in the U.S. is at hand, and we will be glad to assist you in arranging such a series if you desire such assistance."
Not having been brought up by his Swedish parents to read the Rules of the AAU along with his family Bible every morning at breakfast, young Nilsson took this letter as an implicit go-ahead and continued with his plans. Some weeks later, after a flurry of correspondence between himself, the AAU, the International Amateur Basketball Federation and other interested parties, and with his team keyed for a takeoff, Nilsson was told that under no circumstances would his team be allowed to play in the U.S. Certain it was all a misunderstanding, the Swedes came over anyway, and last week saw in the New Year at a whacking fine party at the Elks Hall in Hickory, N.C. Busily practicing in the Lenoir Rhyne College field house, they were still hopeful that the greatest nation on earth might find some way to permit them to play a harmless game of basketball with some American boys.
In the view of the Rhadamanthus of the AAU, this was an impossibility. "The die," said Dan Ferris, "has been cast." In Mr. Ferris' mind this kind of inflexibility may be tantamount to the famed integrity that got the original Rhadamanthus his job on the bench. But it might be well for him to remember that Rhadamanthus, son of Zeus and Europa, was a judge in the Land of the Dead. Mr. Ferris' mandate is, even though he seems not to know it, in a land of the living, where there are considerations more important than the letter of a rule. "We came here," said the bewildered leader of the Swedish basketballers, "seeking fair play." It would certainly make one augury of the New Year brighter if we thought that he was getting it.
While combing over the delinquencies of other people, we are struck by one of our own. We have never written a line about Edgar Allen Diddle, who is now the winningest basketball coach going.