Overheard in a bar:
“There were four of us, but we all died as children.”
“TODAY,” said Joseph Isaacs, Vice-President in Charge of Design, “I’ve asked Felix Orsay, Chief of the Innovative Design Section, to this Directors’ Meeting in order to tender him a small token of recognition for his tremendous contributions to National Motors and to the automobile industry as a whole. The immediate impetus for this occasion is a radical new design initiative which I will disclose later, but it is only one of the greatest in a long line of his outstanding contributions to our company.
“I know you have been concerned at the ever increasing sales of foreign cars in our country. Felix Orsay may have just provided the design innovation to turn the tide.
“Some years ago I asked Felix how he continually came up, year after year, with innovative, meaningful, viable design proposals. As usual, he modestly disparaged his contributions, but then turning serious he told me something very profound that I will always remember. ‘Joe,’ he said, ‘I’ll tell you my professional secret. One day I happened to notice how many white-wall tires there were and it struck me like a revelation that anyone who would pay $30 to $50 extra to have thin white stripes on his tires was a person looking for major improvements and, best of all, that there are millions of such people. I felt a deep responsibility to provide for the needs and requirements of these discerning people. My professional success stems from my dedication to that simple desire to serve.’
“Now, Gentlemen, I will try to keep this brief, but I feel I must list a few of the major innovations first developed by Felix Orsay. You will recognize that several of them have been partly responsible for the reputation that National Motors proudly bears as the industry leader.
“A few of his innovations are:
“One: The hardtop convertible.
“In all honesty, I must admit that I opposed this innovation. I was afraid we would be ridiculed for calling a non-convertible a convertible. But Felix was right, his vision was greater than mine.
“Two: Spoilers for street use.
“A spoiler, as you may know, is a little wing on the rear deck that on racing cars at speeds of 100 miles per hour helps hold it on the ground. Only a genius would have seen that there existed a heavy requirement for their use in street driving. Gentlemen, they retail for $90 and never have to be repaired in the guarantee period.
“Three: Name decals.
“Of the hundreds of automobile designers only Felix had the genius to see that discriminating consumers would pay extra to have on their doors large decals proclaiming not the customer’s name but our model name for the car; Stag, Osprey, Aardvark, and the like. Were it not for such benefactors as Felix, these customers would have no way of displaying their pride in their choice of cars.
“Four: Accent and racing stripes.
“It was subsequently discovered that customers needed racing and accent stripes so desperately to add to their cars that they were willing to pay $45 for a pair of thin stripes. Gentlemen, there is more profit for us and more customer satisfaction in these decals than in the automobile itself. Our unselfishness in making them available has paid off handsomely.
“Five: Wall-to-wall trunk carpets.
“You might think this an inevitable extension of wall-to-wall carpets in the interior, but only Felix thought of it, and for months only National Motors was able to provide this option for its customers.
“Six: Carpet savers.
“This appears to be a natural extension of the idea of seat covers, but part of genius is in not overlooking the obvious, We were the first to provide optional rubber pads to cover and protect the deep pile carpets of our cars.
“Seven: Opera windows.
“Felix is the brain behind the design change that replaced the side glass by steel and then provided, as an option, the little windows of various intriguing shapes, to the great benefit of car buyers and manufacturers.
“Eight: Vinyl tops.
“Again I must admit to a regrettable lack of foresight. I did not see that everyone would be eager to pay $100 to $150 to have a piece of vinyl glued to his steel top, but when you think of it you can see that this carries the idea of the hardtop convertible to its logical heights. Felix’s foresight and perspicuity have been so effective that now cars not having vinyl tops look odd and their drivers wear a look of shame. The taste of the American automobile buyer can never be underestimated.
“This sets the stage for what may well be his greatest contribution, the one, as I said, that provided the immediate motivation for this presentation. It is my pleasure and privilege to announce that next model year, as an option, all National Motors cars will have a:
“Vinyl roof protector!
“This is a clear plastic film molded in place over the vinyl roof. It allows the full beauty of color and texture of the vinyl to show yet it completely protects the vinyl from stains, scuff marks, rips, and tears. All this protection is to be available at very modest cost, scarcely greater than the cost of the vinyl roof itself.
“Felix Orsay, it gives me great pleasure to award you this small token of our appreciation for sustained excellence in automotive design. It is men like you who have made National Motors the world’s leading innovator and who have made it possible and profitable for National Motors to give the American car buyer exactly what he deserves. We thank you.”
They’re At It Again
THE GRAMMARIANS are after me again. I had hoped that they were intimidated by my offensive Boxwooder No. 68 and, indeed, it was some time before the hue and cry resumed. Vic Moitoret keeps up a low level sniping attack. I did not, of course, dare to hope to intimidate him. I don’t even want to think about what it might take to intimidate Vic. Anyway I have now been attacked from a new source with a technique that I do not have a clue as to how to defend against. The new source is William Danner, publisher of Stefantasy (non-NAPA, unfortunately) , and the technique is to assume I meant something that never crossed my mind and then show that the statement I made does not mean what he claims I meant to say. Or, in another case, a similar technique is applied to my spelling.
In the first of these he accuses me of misusing imminently for eminently though I had no intention of meaning eminently. He does admit the possibility that it was not a mistake, but then I can only wonder what led him to think it might be. Is there something about me that leads people to think that I say imminent when I mean eminent? If so, how can you tell? Then he says that a sentence in which I was describing two daughters in “My Grandfather’s Monument” is incorrect because of a number fault. I said, “They had been unable to make a suitable marriage,” and that is just what I meant. Between them, they had not been able to make one suitable marriage. The sentence as Bill Danner would have it: “They had been unable to make suitable marriages,” could mean that one of them had been able to do so, but the other had not. That’s not what I meant.
Let me quote him on my spelling of a city name in that same story: “Several places you misspell the name of my native town. It’s ‘Pittsburgh’ and has been lo, these many years since about 1906. It was originally spelled with an h and, then for a good many years without it, but has had an h since before you were born. Shame on you for two weeks!”
There are, in the United States, at least ten places named Pittsburg and one named Pittsburgh. If a town is spelled Pittsburg in a letter, as it was in that story, why would one assume that it referred to the only city of that name in the whole country that is spelled with an h? Nothing in the story requires that the Pennsylvania city is the one, and, indeed, the internal evidence of spelling would imply that of all the eleven possibilities that one is most unlikely since it is unlikely that the grandfather would not have known how to spell the name of a town nearby. He may have learned it in school before 1906. Who knows?
Suppose I had put an h on Pittsburg, would I not, with my luck, have been besieged by letters from Pittsburg, California; Pittsburg, Illinois; Pittsburg, Indiana; Pittsburg, Kansas; Pittsburg, Kentucky; Pittsburg, Missouri; Pittsburg, New Hampshire; Pittsburg, Oklahoma; Pittsburg, Oregon; Pittsburg, Texas; and God knows where else berating me for incorrectly spelling the name of their hometowns? From now on, in my stories, I am going to call all my cities Bearwallow. There’s only one of those, and I’m not telling where it is.
In fairness to Bill Danner, I should say he pointed out several errors for which I can only plead ignorance or carelessness. But that’s just my point. I furnish a fertile field that grammarians may tauntingly reap. There’s plenty for everyone; there’s no need to imagine or manufacture any.
THE RESPONSES of athletic directors to the recent ruling of HEW that sex bias must be eliminated in college athletics was exemplified by that of Jim Keyhoe of the University of Maryland. According to the Washington Post, 5 June 1975, he said: “I see no ability of the women to generate income. If HEW wants to make money available, I’d be happy to comply.”
The assumption that Keyhoe and other athletic directors and coaches make that college sports have to make money may, at first, seem peculiar, but these men are not so dumb. If football and basketball were not big-time, big-money sports, coaches would be making salaries comparable to those of history teachers, and athletic directors might not be needed at all.
The Post reported that in the last fiscal year, the University of Maryland spent $23,624 on women’s athletics. Total athletic expenditures were about $2.4 million. So what’s so unfair? The women already receive almost one per cent of the total.
The whole business of turning college athletics into farm operations for professional sports is certainly open to question. I liked Howard Henderson’s remarks about it in his Lingual Groove Vol. 1, No. 8, but wish he had developed his ideas a little further. I have long had the idea that colleges should either go professional or go amateur for their sports; the present system of deceit is a burden to everyone, and is, God knows, the worst possible example to set before young people. They don’t need colleges to demonstrate to them that crookedness should be a way of life.
As I write this (November 1975), the newspapers are reporting rumors of point shaving in football at the University of Kentucky. It says something of our society that I’m sure not many of us would be surprised if the rumors turned out to be true, I was at the University of Kentucky in the late 1940’s when the story first broke about point shaving by their basketball players. Kentucky, at that time, had (and, for that matter, consistently has) one of the best teams in the country. The town, as well as the college, identified closely with the team, and both felt shock at the accusations of point shaving by their wonderful team. Slowly people went from shocked incredulity to angry belief in the players’ guilt. The indignation of both towns people and college people (including administrators) was freely vented in the newspapers and on the radio.
I was an ardent fan, and my sense of betrayal was as deep as anyone’s, but after a while I did begin to think about it a little. Every player on the team held a job in a store or a company in town for which he was paid but not expected to do any work. Every player had a brand new Ford convertible. They were showered with money and goods. All this was against the conference agreements. They were undoubtedly recruited illegally. They were all a part of a conspiracy. Now my point is that the coach knew it, the athletic director knew it, the college president knew it, and almost everyone in the city knew it. Where was the indignation for all this wrongdoing?
The very structure of their environment was an illegal conspiracy. Was it going too much further to accept money to hold the score down. Not to lose, mind you, but simply to hold the spread down. In the first case they were part of an illegal conspiracy with the college and in the second with gamblers. Is there any real difference?
The sad truth is that any college administration that is willing to spend enough money and is, at the same time, willing to turn a blind eye to illegal recruiting and illegal academic practices can, by hiring a coach who is known to produce winners, immediately become a power in the college football or basketball scene. No athletic director and no college president can long remain unaware when these things are taking place.
Howard Cosell, no matter what you may think of him, is a knowledgeable sports observer. In the Washington Star, 2 November 1975, he said: “The universities and colleges, have been totally corrupted in the quest to be No. l, winning at any cost. Big-time football, big-time basketball, inherently corrupt.”
Any sport, even if not big-time, can be corrupted simply to further the coach’s ambitions. The Federal City College of Washington, D.C. has (November 1975) discovered wholesale irregularities in its soccer recruitment, including an entrance exam taken by a substitute, and has forfeited nine of its 1975 soccer wins. This was done with no pressure from the NCAA. To his credit, the college president said: “I’d rather not have a championship team than think my people thought it was worth cutting corners or breaking rules to get it.”
Two of the shameful aspects of current practices are that we make conspirators of administrators who should be above such things, and we impress upon young athletes a moral code that says it is ok as long as you don’t get caught. And what is it all in aid of?
Howard Henderson in Lingual Groove proposes colleges go professional with a strictly enforced salary scale and that they get their players by draft from the eligible high school graduates. He also recommends that sports be completely separated from the academic part of college. Let the players go to college if they wish but let it have no bearing on their football or basketball playing for the college. I’m sure many coaches would welcome the relief from their recruiting burden. Think what it must be like for a man to have to spend his life toadying to seventeen year old boys. I’m sure he’d rather be coaching, but it is well known that the winning is done in the recruiting and not in the training. In the District of Columbia it is reported that high school coaches spend much of their time recruiting junior high students. Imagine that!
Of course the main reason many athletes want to go to college is that colleges are now performing the function of a farm system for professional football and basketball. But the prospect of a pretty good college player making any pro team is very poor. Thus many of them wind up with neither a sports profession nor an education from their college experience. I recall the poignant words of a young man who had realized that he was not good enough for the pros. He said, “Here I am, twenty-two years old, and I’ve never done anything but play football. I don’t know anything but football.”
It would also be possible for colleges to turn amateur. The mechanics for doing it are simple. All they have to do is take the money out of football and basketball. The quick way to do that is to quit charging admission to the games. Twenty-five years ago Johns Hopkins did not charge for their games. If any non-student wished to attend, he simply wrote for a free ticket. Now, I believe they charge $2 for their games. Obviously, the athletic department is supported by college just like the history department. You may sneer that nobody wants to go to a Hopkins game. But why should Hopkins or any other university be in the business of entertaining the public in the first place?
A peculiar recent phenomenon is the rapid growth of rugby in American colleges. Do you know why? It is attributed by many to the fact that there is no money in rugby. The players are doing it for fun, College football and basketball are big business and not even fun for the few who get to play. For rugby many teams are willing to buy their own equipment and pay their own travel expenses.
Football is certainly not necessary to a school. In fact, some of the best schools (MIT, Cal Tech, University of Chicago) do not have intercollegiate football or basketball. MIT, for example, has a vigorous intramural sports program involving great numbers of students rather than the few involved in big-time sports.
I had long thought that there was no hope for improvement of the college sports situation. I am not so naive that I have any hope that colleges would quit their present practices simply because they know they are corrupt and morally debilitating. But suddenly there is some hope. Football is getting so expensive that at many schools it no longer pays for itself. It could happen that school administrators will seize upon the HEW demand for elimination of sex bias in sports as an excuse to release the tiger’s tail. Who knows what marvelous side effects the women’s liberation movement may stir up?
Someone once said: “Football bears the same relationship to education that bullfighting bears to agriculture.”
Hand set in Deepdene. Display type is Swing Bold. Inks are Van Son Ivy (with a little Mixing White) and 40904 Black. Paper is an unknown 50-lb stock that is very difficult to print on. Makeready was tedious and the results not very satisfactory. Also, it seems to emphasize the differential wearing of my type. But I’ll either have to learn to use it or you’ll have to bear with me for I have 25,000 sheets of it. Published by Jake Warner and 475 copies printed by him on a 10×15 C&P.
The Boxwood Press
Greenbelt, Maryland 20770