Commercial Sport and Gambling
It is important that the man on the field be ethically straight and that his play be right and not merely entertaining.
Sport will retain its character, its unique quality as sport, only so long as the player and the fan and the kid who stands three hours in the rain to get Willie Mays's name on a crumpled program believe in its sacrosanctity.
William Saroyan said that baseball is 'caring.' The obligation of the athlete is clear; he must care. There is an almost spiritual quality to sport.
Man and boy identify with the sports hero; the hero must therefore be the quintessence of his sport. Says Sociologist Max Kaplan, 'I suspect that the fan rather enjoys scandal - but only so long as it does not touch or destroy his heroes. That is to say, himself.'
It would be absurd to expect unqualifiedly good deportment from an athlete. His world is often a rolling place, and rebellion is never far below the surface.
Roger Maris was an impossible character the year he hit 61 home runs. Bo Belinsky like nightclubs and Tommy Bolt hurls gold clubs. Big Daddy Lipscomb, the Pittsburgh Steelers' giant All-Pro tackle, died in tawdry circumstances, possibly of a combination of dope and liquor.
But it is not too much to expect the athlete-celebrity to at least try for a good conduct, since where he goes, what he does and who he does it with take on a measure of importance that reflects on his sport.
Like what Paul Hornung found out too late late that 'you just can't be like other people.'
If college and amateur leaders have contributed to the moral crisis of sports in their own spheres, so have the professionals.
These prosperous days, the major sports deal in very large amounts. Walter O'Malley's new ball park in Los Angeles is a $22 million showcase. Racetracks in this country handle $2.5 billion a year, and pro football is a $20 million operation.
Naturally, the athlete becomes a principal beneficiary. Big league baseball teams cascade hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses on big-eyed, little-tried talent. Examples are $175,000 for Bob Bailey of Pittsburgh, $130,000 - $150,000 for Bob Garibaldi of San Francisco.
This is not objectionable, so to speak. Commercial sport is a business, a part of the free-enterprise system, and the people who run it quite rightly should take as much money out of it as they can.
But eventually, it will be to their advantage to remember that sport is not a fast-buck business, a get-away quick racket. There must be a degree of dedication to the game, for hard-nosed business reasons as well as idealistic ones.