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April 10, 1967 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1967-04-10
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- - - - - w
4, -$ U.







The Long , Hard Season o f D ave St rack

AGAINST the background of a des-
olate Ann Arbor evening . . .
strung up in its ignominy . . . a
makeshift icon . ., flapping in a
cold March wind.
A kangaroo court . . . a hasty
verdict . . . a mob lusting for ven-
geance . . . a lynching, spurred by a
catalyst - unknown - sanctioned
only by the inherent destiny of a
man engaged in a profession which
breeds irony as its lifeblood.
There is no justice fora man who
must win, for it is inevitable that he
must someday lose. And time, the
great healer, looms instead as a
shadowy anathema.
The 1964-65 Michigan basketball
season had burgeoned a 13-1 confer-
ence mark and a Big Ten champion-
ship, a 21-3 overall record, and a
bid to the NCAA post-season tourna-
ment when Coach Dave Strack,
United Press International Coach of
the Year,, was hung in effigy for
the second time within three months.
The Wolverines, led by the two
greatest hardwood performers in
their history, Cazzie Russell and Bill
Buntin, and supported by a cast of
Oliver Darden, Larry Tregonning,
and George Pomey, had been named
the number one team in the coun-
try by both major wire service polls.
But in their last regular-season
contest, with Strack relegating Rus-
sell's fever-ridden but uniformed
body to the bench, Michigan dropped
a decision to an also-ran Ohio State
squad and failed to become but the
third team in Big Ten history to
be undefeated.
And the legacy of a coach was
again made manifest, by the brutal
actions of a thoughtless group of
students. He must win, not once,
not now, but forever. Or, at some in-
evitable moment, he will be branded
a loser.
David Hessong Strack. Indelible
is a last-place Big Ten mark of 2-12
and an overall record of 8-16, the
Wolverines' worst finish since the
dawn of the Buntin-Russell era and
the first time Michigan had been
shut out of a share of the conference
championship in three years. A bit-
ter pill for a man to whom victory
had become seemingly automatic.
Yet, the irony that is sports ...
"I used to receive a number of
nasty calls and critical letters,"
Strack reveals. "Now, this year,
nothing," his voice trails off. "I guess
it means that there just wasn't the
interest in the club. Nobody cared
enough to get upset."
Eight straight Big Ten losses to
close the season and not even a dirty
But a wound of greater magnitude
was festering inside Strack as the
season progressed. Overt criticism
might have been welcomed in com-
parison. Perhaps any sort of atten-
tion would have been coveted.
A typical locker room session fol-
lowing a contest in the Cazzie Rus-
sell era found a dynamic head coach
of the Wolverines, confident and

poised, facing a deluge of reporters
and fielding difficult questions with
quick, sharp retorts.
Following the game in which
Michigan hosted Iowa to close out
the recent season, Strack appeared
visibly shaken. Groping for words
and choosing his language carefully,
he was finally able to mutter, "I
just thought that maybe we had a
chance . . . I wish I could wipe some
things I don't like right off the his-
tory books."
A handful of reporters were on,
hand. On hand to hear that "Maybe
next year .. ." But also on hand to
hear that Strack, as in his years of
college basketball dominance, would
not single out any player for blame.
On hand to hear that "We made the
same mistakes.. ." But also on hand
to hear that, as always, no names
would be mentioned unless to con -
mend a performance.
There were, indeed, fewer names
mentioned. But, as always, no dia-
tribe was launched about bad offi-
ciating, no complaints concerning
costly calls.
One name, however, had been
prominent in post-game sessions
throughout the season. That of Dave
"I guess the breaks are just even-
ing up for me," he would sigh, "but
I feel sorry for the team. I can coach
for thirty years but these boys can
only play for three. Winning has to
be 'now' for them."
NEVER reluctant to answer ques-
tions . . . but finding the ques-
tions hard to answer. Never embit-
tered . .. but often too saddened to
be embittered. Never defeated . . .
but occasionally even thinking
thoughts of defeat.
"It's hard to admit, but before
the game against Indiana (the con-
ference co-champions) I thought we
might get blown off the court."
Instead, the Wolverines threat-
ened the Hoosiers until the last min-
ute of play. But only to lose once
again, to merely come close, and, in
so doing, to simply aggravate the
agony of defeat.
"If the team had just collapsed
when they were down, this season
wouldn't have been as tough to
take," Strack shakes his head. "But
these guys never gave up, and all
they got was a slap in the face,"
But a team can return the slap in
the face. It can swing elbows- and
strain for rebounds. It can fight
back. It can even win the game.
A coach must sit. Or jump red-
faced off the bench. Or chew out the
referee. Or clap his hands till they're
blistered. But he must watch, and
except for strategy maneuvers is
powerless to influence the outcome
of the game once action begins. And,
in his mind, he must win. That is
what he is getting paid for. Perhaps
no one else has as much at stake.
"It's difficult to call a coach who
always loses successful," Strack hes-
itatingly decided. "Of course it de-
pends partly on the talent available
to him, but some coaches pop up to
the top year after year. I guess some

Michigan Daily Sports Editor

She notes: "A movie critic, hap-
pily,is more likely to get into argu-
ments with readers, to infuriate
them or delight them, than a critic
in any other field, because we are
all movie critics. We are not all cri-
tics of poerty or music or literature,
because our educational system des-
troyed our confidence in our iudge-
ment in these areas. The attitude
that movies are just a net-time has
helped save them from srnademic dry
rot. 'Appreciation' courses have par-
alyzed reactions to modern music,
painting, poetrv. and even novels:
but movies, ignored by teachers as a
Saturday-afternoon vice, are one of
the few arts (along with jazz and
popular music) Americans can res-
pond to without cultural anxieties.
"This, unfortunately, is beginning
to change: at art houses and-film
festivals, audiences are beginning to
show the same kind of paralysis ...
They no longer trust themselves. Ul-
timately, if this fear of authority de-
velops even in movie audiences, our
responses will contract, movies will
join the paralyzed high arts."
Kael wants to go back to the days
when we saw "movies" rather than
"films" or "cinema." She does not
believe there was a golden age of
film-making. But there was a gold-
en age of film-viewing, with simple
reasoning. enioyment of effects but
not affectations, the Dickens and
Sherlock Holmes readers rather
than Ian Fleming readers.
She is considered most convincing
by her admirers and, as seen in the
vicious reactions she elicits, most
disarming by her enemies. While in-
cluding the "normal" discussions of
films, her reviews, often addressed to -
her opponents, contain other dimen-
One of the most noticeable ploys
she uses is an appeal to your "rea-
son"-implying that you wouldn't
disagree with her if you had really
given some honest and mature
thought to the problem. One some-
time admirer remarked: "Her oh-
come - on-now-honey-you-must-be-
kidding debate style has never been
Even more disarming in her style
(yet no more relevant to the points
she tries to make) is her guessing at
the opponent's motives. She often
bases her criticism of an "art" movie
on the premise that the followers are
phonies and pseudo-intellectuals;
and bases her defense of a mass-
audience oriented movie on these
same motives in the film's detract-
ors: "Perhaps the reviewers have
been finding so many faults with
'Lolita' because this is such an easy
way to show off some fake kind of
erudition: even newspaper reviewers
can demonstrate that they've read a
book by complaining about how dif-
ferent the movie is from the novel."
This mode of attack is useful in
warning those who may be deluding
themselves with some sort of "ap-
preciation" but often leads to a ne-
glect of the film itself. Perhaps she
reverts to this ploy when she cannot
see any justification at all for the
film, and thus finds it difficult to
consider substantive criticism seri-
The one characteristic of her style
which is most prevalent, and which
gives her essays their spark, is her

extreme bitterness. Her essays are to
be read in an alternately loud and
quietly sarcastic voice. Sometimes,
quite justifiably, she seems to lose
control of herself: "In this country,
the movie reviewers are a destruc-
tive bunch of solidly, stupidly res-
pectable mummies-and it works ei-
ther way, maternal or Egyptian.
The personal rapport she main-
tains with her readers alternately
flatters and deeply hurts them. The
responses she received for her highly
critical article on "Blow-Up" were,
she said, "for the most part personal
and vicious." Her personal style,
which leads her admirers to refer to
her as "Pauline," also affects the
reader personally, like an insult or
One of the more reasoned letters
on "Blow-Up" sharply criticized her
mode of analysis of the film: "Of
course this is the familiar method of
the 'put-down'--if you're an inverted
snob, simply lift out of context all
the comments of the film critics
which run counter to your anti-art
premises (pooh-poohing of symbol-
ism, levels of meaning, etc.) then
comment on the comments. In this
way you can easily demonstrate that
every critic except Pauline Kael is
precious, overintellectual, and just
too artsy."
It is wrong to say that Pauline
Kael is "anti-art". She fears, howev-
er, that the level of the art is in dan-
ger of being relegated to a position
among the "paralyzed high arts."
Pauline's fears are, indeed, well
founded. Motion pictures, which us-
ed .to be the common property of this
society, are being polarized into two
camps: the high-culture "art" film
and the intellectually insulting con-
sumer products. Perhaps the loss of
a common cultural art is the price
that must be paid for progress in
film-making. But perhaps the dicho-
tomy which this creates is mainly
harmful. We forget that Greek dra-
ma and Elizabethan drama were the
property of the masses, not of "in-
tellectuals" and scholars.
There are complex theories on the
cinema: but these are always self-
referential (systems whose conclu-
sions depend on their own premises)
and thus incontrovertable but per-
haps irrelevant. The high-blown
phrases and complex theories of
those who "appreciate" the art may
be talking the movies to death.
With the proliferation of techno-
logical systems and the direction
which the money-makers are giving
to mass movies in this uniquely over-
producing economy, those who really
care about the movies are driven to
the halls of scholarship on the film.
It's impossible to tell wher-e to lay
the blame-with the Hollywood mar-
keters or the art-house audiences.
But it is clear that most modern
films with any significance will not
be suitable to the tastes of the public
at large.
Because of the nature of the cine-
ma-the fact that films must be
seen by thousands in order to repay
the film-maker's expenses - this
seems like the one art which, in the
twentieth century, can maintain its
relevance to the whole society. But
even this culture is on the verge of
splitting and Pauline Kael's crusade
to preserve its unity and richness is
probably in vain.

"Movies are going to pieces and I4
that my own prefereices or lthe pr
of others for coherence and iit ai
going to make much difference."

Richard Ayers, a sophomore majoring in classical stud-
ies, is chairman of Cinema Guild. Ayers, as an admirer of
Truffaut, Godard, Antonioni, Resnais and Warhol, has
conducted a love-hate relationship with Pauline Kael for
the last few years.

9- A I 1 1, k A A A -7 1 k i r'






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