FIREMEN’S TO TOURNAMENTS.
A correspondent recently asked in our columns, “What is the use of Firemen’s Tournaments ?” He cited the recent Iowa Tournament, where the hose races were a subject of discord, as an illustration to show that they were not an unmixed good. His illustration proves nothing except that gamblers and tricksters may manipulate a hose race as well as a horse race; that professional runners may be imposed upon judges as qualified Firemen, and that “jockeying” may be employed to evade clearly-established rules quite as well as to pull a horse and make him lose a race. We regard all honestly-conducted competitive trials between Firemen or fire apparatus as conducive to the efficiency of the Fire Service; yet when such trials are made a medium for gambling, they are pernicious in their effects. When ambitious Companies of Firemen come together for the purpose of engaging in a friendly contest to exhibit their proficiency in drill, in handling ladders, in running with and laying out lines of hose, such exhibitions are calculated to stir up a spirit of emulation and to enlist other Companies in the commendable rivalry. But when Companies are made up of professionals who, surreptitiously or otherwise, secure the privilege of entering such contests for the purpose of winning money by betting on themselves, then such events become mere gambling speculations, and should be discountenanced by respectable Firemen.
In the Fire Service, the element of time is an important factor in the successful performance of duty. Especially of late years there has been an active rivalry between Departments and Companies in the matter of quick hitching, getting to fires and getting to work. Companies using horses have adopted every possible device for accelerating the work of harnessing and getting out of the house ; Hose Companies practice running, laying hose, putting on the pipe and connecting with the engines or hydrants ; Hook and Ladder Companies practice in removing ladders from the trucks and elevating them, as well as in running. All these are commendable things to do, are strictly in the line cf duty, and the spirit which prompts competitive trials of skill in these particulars is most worthy. Tournaments which tend to bring legitimate Companies together for such competitive exhibitions we regard as of value to the Fire Service. But they require to be very carefully guarded to prevent gamblers and tricks’ers from defeating the very end that is in view, viz., the honest success of the most proficient Company. The rules governing such contests require to be very strict and carefully worded, so as to exclude professionals or those men who, being expert at a particular thing, are enlisted in a Company solely because of that expertness, and not because of their good qualities as Firemen. Contests of this nature should be confined to the active, every-day duty men, and professional experts should be ruled out. No Company or member of a Company should be permitted to make bets on the result of any contest. The fact that a Company is betting on itself, either to win or lose, should be sufficient to prevent its entering for the contest, while an individual making bets on the event should be prohibited from participating with his Company. By stringent rules, rigidly enforced by the judges, the gambling element would be eliminated from such trials, and the best Company would be more likely to win.
A few years ago the “ national game ” of base-ball was brought into contempt because a lot of professionals made a business of playing, and a game of base-ball between prominent clubs became as much of a sporting event as a horse race or a rowing match, and a source of profit to the pool-sellers. The players themselves were gamblers, and instances were numerous where they were paid liberal sums to sell the game. All persons who took an interest in honest, manly sport were disgusted, and base-ball fell into disrepute. It is reviving again somewhat, for it is a noble game in spite of the abuses engrafted on it, but we hear of fewer professional players than formerly, less trickery and less gambling connected with it. There is always the danger that a Firemen’s Tournament may degenerate into a mere trial of wits between sharpers unless the rules are made stringent and the judges selected have the moral courage to enforce them. It has heretofore on some occasions taken both moral and physical courage for a judge to stand up in the midst of an angry, excited crowd, that had large sums of money at stake, and give a decision in accordance with the facts and which he knew to be right. We know of one. man who stood for some time in fear of his life before such a mob of losing gamblers, his offence being that he had given an honest decision, and one that was subsequently conceded to be honest. If Firemen’s Tournaments are to be conducted like the general run of sporting events, in the interests of gamblers who back particular professional experts, the sooner they are abandoned the better it will be for the Fire Service. But if they can be so hedged about with safeguards that professionals and gamblers can be excluded, and honest merit alone encouraged, then we believe in promoting and maintaining them. Competition stimulates ambition and excites emulation. Evidences of the good done to the Fire Service by competition can be found in almost every city in the land. There is more attention paid to drill and discipline than ever before, the men are neater in their dress, less boisterous in their manners and more efficient in extinguishing fires. The interest manifested in the various State Associations is furiher evidence of the improvement in the Service that has been made in the past few years, while the fact that great improvements have been made in apparatus and appliances for extinguishing fires, many of them by Firemen themselves, is additional proof of the value of competitive trials of skill and merit. The Fire Service of the country was never before in such effective condition as to-day, never did better work than during the present year, never was more respected by the public at large. We attribute this improvement to the increased interest the Firemen themselves have shown in their business, to the excellent influence exerted over them by their various Associations, and to their competitive exhibitions of skill. We hope to see more of them in future, but under such conditions as will exclude the gamblers and those professionals who make a living by their special expertness, but who are not Firemen in the practical sense, although they may be members in good standing of legitimate Fire Companies.
—The extension of the fire limits of Minneapolis to Second Avenue south as far back as Seventh street is being urged.