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January 04, 1960
The Great Game of Politics
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January 04, 1960

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The Great Game of Politics

The awards have been awarded; the rewards reaped; last year's scorecards have been mercifully incinerated along with the Christmas wrappings; and the time has come once more to bed down the past and wake up to a new year—and a new decade. For those of us whose profession and delight it is to contemplate the world of sport, which includes most of the world, the prospect is bright with promise.

During the decade we have just begun, we confidently expect that more people will find more time for more play than ever before in the world's history, and it will be our job to report and share in their enjoyment and occasional frustrations. In this inaugural year of that decade the greatest experts in the world of amateur sport will gather in Rome and in Squaw Valley to compete in the 17th Olympic Games and to provide a feast of vicarious enjoyment for spectator and sportswriter alike. Best of all, perhaps, from our point of view is the fact that in 1960 we will be active participants in a vital and absorbing pastime which Americans, virtually unaided, have made the greatest and most important sport in the world: the nomination and election of a President of the United States.

This is no mere figure of speech. As played in this zesty and sometimes zany land of bravery and freedom, the great game of politics (which comes to a head like the Olympics only once every four years) is in every sense a sport. It inspires the sportsman's competitive urge, the sports fan's exaggerated partisanship; it is marred by the same temptation to play dirty and ennobled by the same sense of fair play. It partakes equally of sportsmanship and gamesmanship and is prompted by an overpowering will to win; but in the winning, at its best, politics like sport can and does achieve and accomplish more than momentary triumph. It is no accident, therefore, that all of the front runners in the upcoming presidential stakes of 1960 are amateur sportsmen of note and enthusiasm. This, perhaps, is why they are front runners.

Nelson Rockefeller, one of the liveliest of all the candidates to date, has now declared himself out of the race, but the sporting oomph that was his when we pictured him at the helm of his racing sloop off the coast of Maine may yet carry him to the White House. Dick Nixon, by now the sole hope of the Republicans, is well known to our readers as a dark-horse golfer of some potential and an inveterate spectator sports fan. In the months to come we will learn and report more and more about a onetime southpaw Yale tennis star named Stuart Symington who can still play a fast game of weekend tennis and shoot golf in the mid-70s. We'll be telling you about a young man named Kennedy from a competitively inclined Boston family who won his H on the Harvard swimming team and later won a Navy and Marine Corps medal for dragging a shipmate three miles to shore when his PT boat was sunk off the Solomon Islands.

We'll be telling you about a man named Hubert Humphrey whose major, and perhaps only, weakness lies in buying elaborate and expensive fishing equipment with which to attack the sportive denizens of Minnesota's teeming lakes, and about a quarter-horse hand from Texas named Lyndon Johnson whose principal passion is shooting deer. And we'll find time again to mention Adlai Stevenson's tennis (at which he's not bad at all), even though everyone knows that his major sport for years has been running for president.

Since we are a sports magazine and not a political journal, our interest is in sportsmen and not politicians. We doubt, however, that any man is a sportsman only incidentally, so in getting to know better the sportsman who will occupy the White House we will know better the man who will run the country, and this seems to us the proper province of all magazines and all Americans.

Along with other sports fans, therefore, at the beginning of the year, not decrying partisanship but reserving judgment, we cry to all sportsmen whether competing at Rome or Squaw Valley, at Los Angeles with the Democrats or at Chicago with the Republicans, or, finally, in the Electoral College Bowl: "Happy New Year and May the Best Man Win!"

Blooding in the Snow

Flopped on the top of a half-bare mountain at Aspen, the United States Alpine ski squad appeared to be hopelessly snakebit. Despite the presence of the finest male downhill skier the country has ever produced and half a dozen of the best women skiers ever assembled in one clump, nothing was going right. First, there was almost no snow; no snow in Squaw Valley where the Olympic Winter Games will be held next month, no snow in Sun Valley or Alta where major warmup races were scheduled, only the residue of an October flurry at Aspen. A shipment of special racing skis was late. A dyers' strike held up delivery of parkas. Declining a U.S. invitation to come and play, Europe's skiers decided to stay home, competing in their own big races right up to Olympic time, thereby depriving the U.S. team of badly needed and hoped-for competition against European talent. Then, to top it all, Buddy Werner, the white hope of the team, broke his leg.

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