- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
BREAD, GAMES AND THE "TIMES"
The farther one gets from the sports pages the less sense some newspapers have been making about The Fight and even about boxing in general. A couple of days after Joe Frazier became undisputed heavyweight champion The New York Times demanded on its editorial page that prizefighting be outlawed, with this particular bout shrilly characterized as a "bloody divertissement reminiscent in terms of extravagance, irrelevance and false glamor of the declining days of past civilizations." On the opposite page was a protest by James Reston—vastly more renowned as a political pundit than as a sports expert—against the $30 price charged in some theaters for a closed-circuit television ticket. Lowering the price, Reston urged, would have permitted more poor people to see the fight. The Times' two points of view do not seem to jibe.
Reston's argument on behalf of the poor fascinates us more than the ban-boxing editorial, since the latter has become a familiar and boring stance in the Times. He suggests that because crowds of blacks clustered around Madison Square Garden and some closed-circuit venues, unable to get in because of high prices, there may be "a question of public safety involved in this monopoly." In other words, the blacks may someday riot. Blacks have in fact rioted at times but for reasons other than the high cost of fight tickets. Reston has presented an unfair and far-fetched intimation, especially since blacks, as a group, have been among the best behaved of fight fans. Let Reston someday observe what can happen in Los Angeles when a Mexican loses a close decision or, for that matter, when a Puerto Rican loses in New York.
From a business standpoint, the high cost of fight tickets, taking inflation into account, may well have been economically necessary, and not alone because championship matches always have commanded high prices. The Wall Street Journal, five days before the fight, published a long analysis of the promoters' financial prospects and cast doubt on the rosier pre-fight profit estimates by listing an extensive series of items (closed-circuit commercials between rounds, for one) that just did not pan out as revenue producers. The promoters in this case took a big and courageous gamble.
The Times naively falls for the line that network TV is "free." Beyond that, it is of course a fact not unique to our era that the poor are being priced out of luxuries. Not many indigents are to be seen buying tickets to Broadway hits or picking up the tab at restaurants like Washington's Rive Gauche or New York's Colony.
Two years ago Jack Kent Cooke, the owner of the Los Angeles Kings, fired his coach, Red Kelly, regarded by some as the best in the sport. Last year, when Charlie Finley took over the Oakland Seals, he fired Frank Selke Jr. and Bill Torrey, two of the most knowing front-office men in hockey.
Now comes Clarence Campbell, president of the National Hockey League, talking about hockey's "have-nots" (obviously meaning the Kings and the Seals) and saying he will call for a meeting of a special committee of general managers in June in which the "haves"—Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago and New York—would seek ways to help the have-nots. The idea would be to have the haves sell players to the have-nots, thus strengthening the have-nots and weakening the haves.
The history of the situation is that Los Angeles finished second in the first year of expansion, barely losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in the West. Oakland finished in second place in the second year of expansion and made the playoffs again last year. Then came the firings. Now Oakland has the worst record in the NHL and Los Angeles is in sixth place, ahead of only Oakland, in the West Division.