The main gate of Fort Campbell fronts on highway 41A. For some miles up and down route 41A there is a string of commercial establishments whose advertised desire it is to provide Fort Campbell soldiers with recreation on Wednesday afternoon or almost any other time. "It is a point of view," said Colonel McDade about the recreational attractions of route 41 A, "but my point of view is that from the standpoint of military efficiency, athletics are a superior type of recreation. Therefore my men are expected to play games on Wednesday afternoons, not drink beer."
The 68th Battalion office is filled with athletic trophies won by Colonel McDade's men. He and his unit have the reputation of currently being the best sports at Fort Campbell. "If everyone were like him, this job would be a cinch," says Elmer Blair, "but some of these people are pretty shortsighted. They don't see the overall value of sports. Sometimes they aren't very cooperative." At that particular moment, Blair had, among other worries, the problem of springing an enlisted man who did not serve in Colonel McDade's battalion to play in the Third Army Golf Championships.
As anyone who knows anything about the military knows, it is very difficult for an outsider lacking espionage training to locate a shortsighted, uncooperative member of any given military command. Even if he is able to uncover a few such mavericks, it takes a particularly naive or unfeeling personality to expose them. Therefore, in this instance, those holding a worm's-eye view of Army sports shall be protected by anonymity.
"I was in an outfit like that once," a company commander said, having been told of Colonel McDade's Wednesday afternoon field days. "The old man wanted to win every trophy from Ping-Pong on up, but he didn't want to hear that you couldn't get your work done because you had so many guys playing Ping-Pong. You had to sort of play it by ear and decide whether he'd chew you out worse for losing a game or screwing up a detail. Either way, you got chewed."
"Jocks," said a first sergeant contemptuously. "I don't want any jocks. They're just empty spots on the duty roster. When they are around they never know which end is up and they make trouble. Some guy works his tail off all day and he draws the same pay as the jock that's been sitting around the swimming pool. It's bound to make trouble. Don't give me no jocks."
"I got nothing against sports," said a red-haired private. "I played basketball in high school, I'll play some when I get home, other sports too. But this Army stuff is for the birds. I mean it's O.K. you go out with some of the guys, shoot a few buckets on your own, get a workout, but this organized stuff. I mean like you play all the games they want you to play you're not going to have any time to yourself."
There are, of course, other points of view. Outside the Campbell sports office there is a tall, blond, tanned boy, shirtless, in shorts, lounging on the steps taking the afternoon sun. He was introduced by Elmer Blair as a former a Big Ten basketball star, who the winter before had been the mainstay of the Fort Campbell five, was expected to perform the same role during the coming season, and was then going to play for an ABA team that had drafted him. And until then—in the off season his military mission is? "Oh, I mess around, help Elmer," the tall young man said. "Right-now I mostly teach tennis to the officers' wives."
"I guess maybe you could say," said Captain Tom Barton, apparently feeling something needed to be said, "that in the old Army there were spots for just ordinary athletes. Now you've got to be a superjock to benefit much."