Professional football clubs are increasingly apprehensive about the effects of player-agent negotiations and collective bargaining. One test case, of sorts, has failed. Five Cleveland players—John Wooten, Leroy Kelly, John Brown, Mike Howell and Sidney Williams—announced two weeks ago through a lawyer that they were being treated as peons and would boycott the club until it met their demands. Former Cleveland Fullback Jimmy Brown, who supported the joint bargaining, said the athletes were only "exercising their right to protest a get-strong policy, which owners have adopted since the merger of the AFL and NFL. When the merger was passed players no longer held a fair bargaining position." After holding out for a week—through which Cleveland Owner Art Modell held out just as strongly for his right to bargain with each man individually—the players gave up their group action.
But the club owners, far from feeling the crisis has passed, believe it may, in fact, just be beginning. "We haven't been faced with any serious holdouts this season," said Kansas City General Manager Jack Steadman, "but maybe our turn is coming. We seem to be headed for a ruinous situation." In Atlanta, the Falcons' general manager, Frank Wall, declared, "Players are only hurting themselves by going into negotiations through an agent or third party." In Los Angeles, Elroy Hirsch said, "If such stands continue, they could be the downfall of professional football."
These are the expectable attitudes of managements faced with the threat of any kind of unionism, but far more to the point were the views of Dallas General Manager Tex Schramm: "The unionism approach is certainly evident. I think this would be very bad for the players and I would resist it, but only from their standpoint. For management, there would, in fact, be great advantages. Wherever you run into a union problem, you will find it is not going to benefit the outstanding performers. In our business the outstanding athlete is the one who will win for you and the one who attracts people. The ultimate in unionism is that the minimum becomes the maximum, and in that context, unionism will penalize the outstanding players in the league."
August 13, 1967
Last week a labor lawyer of some repute made a tough assessment of the Cleveland situation. He said groups like the one that faced Modell would always be unsuccessful, because, at heart, the athletes wanted to play football and had to. "What are they going to do if they don't sign?" he asked. "Wait on tables?"
He was oversimplifying the situation, and so was Schramm. There are tough times ahead.
Three weeks after British Cyclist Tommy Simpson collapsed and died while competing in the Tour de France, French authorities released their findings on the cause of his death. The immediate cause was heart failure, but a contributing factor was dope.
"Cyclists have been taking dope for 50 years," five-time Tour de France Winner Jacques Anquetil says. "I take dope. So do all leading bicycle riders. Those who say they don't are liars. Obviously, we could do without dope in a race, but then we would pedal by at 15 mph [instead of around 25 mph]. It wouldn't look like much of anything. Since we are constantly asked to go faster and to make an even greater effort, we are obliged to take stimulants. People ask too much of us."
Among those interested in high-quality performances are the companies who hire leading cyclists to advertise their wares. Tommy Simpson made $100,000 a year, most of it from Peugeot, the French auto manufacturer, and BP, the British petroleum firm. When he died, he was wearing trunks embroidered with the name of Peugeot, and on the shoulders of his jersey were the initials BP. Ironically, this year, Tour officials had tried to put an end to the huckster frenzy that has pervaded the 22-day, 2,990-mile race in the past. They insisted that cyclists compete on national teams and tried, unsuccessfully, to ban the advertisements for ball-point pens, refrigerators, aperitifs and other products cyclists normally wear on their jerseys. But sponsors successfully protested that the Tour was their premier showcase. When The Economist reported on Simpson's death it headlined its article: DEATH OF A SALESMAN?
There is nothing wrong with commercial affiliations in sport, and nothing surprising about athletes driving themselves to their utmost to become $100,000-a-year heroes. But no sport can tolerate its participants taking dope to improve their performances. It is easy enough to stop. But Anquetil is right. The authorities just don't want to stop it.
Four young golfers teed off on the 2nd hole at Shawnee Country Club in Topeka, Kans. last week, and when they had sunk their putts, they figured the best score in the foursome was a 112 by Jim McClure. Stan Zimmerman took 114 strokes, his brother Steve 116 and Tom Perry 127. Far from being crestfallen, they were elated. They had played an 11-mile hole, from the tee at Shawnee, through downtown Topeka, across another golf course and through a mile of corn and wheat fields before finally holing out on the 13th green of the city's municipal course. They lost 25 golf balls and hit three houses and two automobiles, but caused no serious damage. The best shot was a 500-yard putt made by Stan Zimmerman—who stroked it carefully down a hill on Golf Park Boulevard. The photographer assigned by the Topeka State Journal to go the full distance with the golfers was ideally suited for an 11-mile jaunt. He was Jim Ryun.
The big reason the surfing boom isn't bigger is that there are too many spots where the surf's no good—like Lincoln, Neb. Or Nishitama, Japan, which is up in the hills 30 miles west of Tokyo. Nishitama was no good, that is, until last month, when Summerland, the world's first indoor surfing pool, opened.
The pool is 209 feet long, 82 feet wide and is covered by an 85.2-foot-high plastic dome. The wavemaking gizmo is in a tank connected to the pool and consists of two floats that go up and down every three seconds and exert a pressure of about 100 tons. When the surf is up at Nishitama four-and-a-half footers have been reported.
So are Japan's 10,000 surfers stoked? "For the true surfing satisfaction," said one last week, "the pool is too small, the wavelength too short and the waves too low."
Ah, so, but Summerland President Takehiro Fujimoto never counted on making a yen off surfers. The pool is only 4 feet 10 inches deep at its deepest (or, rather, least shallow) point, so it is ideal for children. Indeed, last week Summerland was literally jumping with kids (at 83¢ a head) who couldn't care less about riding a wave. All they wanted was to get knocked down by one.
GUILT BY ASSOCIATION
Jockey Walter Blum, the leading rider in the country in 1963 and 1964, is currently serving a 35-day suspension "for conduct detrimental to the best interests of the public and racing." The ruling, which was made by the stewards at Hollywood Park last month, said Blum "associated with undesirable persons and made false statements to the board of stewards."
Transcripts of the jockey's testimony before the stewards are now available, and they reveal that Blum was seen in the company of:
•Mario Gentile, a master of ceremonies at Baltimore strip joints, who has been arrested and convicted three times for the possession of narcotics, was sentenced to 3½ years in the Federal penitentiary and is barred from racetracks.
•Tony Amerino, alias Tony Dale, alias Tony Reno, alias Tony Merino, a nightclub entertainer, onetime associate of Mickey Cohen and a convicted tout (he was once picked up posing as the brother of Jockey Joe Culmone).
•Adam Bagdasian, alias Louis Peters, an Edgewater, Md. restaurant owner who is a convicted con man and tout. Bagdasian served one year in Federal prison and is waiting to be sentenced in a Baltimore Federal court on an income tax evasion conviction. He failed to declare $15,000 he had made from two individuals in a phony horse-race investment scheme. During his trial in June, Bagdasian's lawyer described him as "a self-employed tout" and as a man "who made his living selling tips on the track."
Of these acquaintances Blum says, "They just seemed like typical racetrack guys. They liked to have a good time, and they liked to bet on horses. Sure, I told them I liked certain horses I was riding—just as every jock tells his friends if they ask him. But they never suggested that I do anything wrong. If they had, I would have run from them. I never knew these men were undesirables. If the stewards knew they had records, why didn't they call me aside and tell me?"
Though his judgment in selecting friends is debatable, Blum may well be innocent of any actual wrongdoing. The Hollywood Park stewards went to considerable lengths to point out that his riding performances were not at all suspect, only his associates. And the penalty he received is harsh: he says it may cost him $100,000 in riding fees. But it is severe measures like this that insure the integrity of racing and the success of the sport.
Whatever it proved—perhaps only that the worst team in the AFL is better than the worst team in the NFL—an AFL club drew blood last week. In the first exhibition game between members of the rival leagues, the Denver Broncos upset the Detroit Lions 13-7. NFL partisans may fall back on the dusty excuse that an exhibition is an exhibition is an exhibition, but the time for such excuses may be running out. Admittedly, the Lions did not enter the game figuring it to be more than a workout. Detroit newspapers spoke of the team's "soft" exhibition schedule (three AFL teams), and the team and even the coaching staff was grandly overconfident. On the bus to the University of Denver stadium, the Lions were girl-watching and throwing their hotel keys out the windows to be returned by other parties. But there was less levity once the action turned to football. At one point in the game, Wayne Walker threw the ball at an official after his failure to call a penalty. Alex Karras was ejected in the second quarter after he kicked Cookie Gilchrist following a running play.
"Maybe we had the idea we were playing rinky dinks," said William Clay Ford, the owner of the Lions. "Maybe it was good for us." Denver's new coach, Lou Saban, simply said it was an "honor" to defeat an NFL team. "I only hope we don't get too inflated." Considering the Broncos' 4-10 won-lost record in the AFL last season, this does not seem an imminent danger.
It is rather obvious that the Lions were the inflated ones. At last, the NFL must wake up to the fact that the AFL teams have not only come to stay, they have come to play.
The University of Minnesota has just completed a seven-year survey on the mating habits of wild ducks. Among other things, the university's Kinsey report reveals that shovelers and teal have homosexual tendencies and mallards are the most passionate of ducks, the female often, quite literally, dying of love.
THEY SAID IT
•Ron Laird, U.S. race walker after he went off course in the Pan-American Games' 20,000-meter walk: "I knew something was wrong when I came to a locked gate."
•Marianne Moore, renowned poet and baseball fan: "The Yankees are having an off season, but their timber is there. As The Boston Transcript said of the Harvard crew, "Win or lose, their speed is marvelous'."
•John Griffin, Denver defensive back, referring to the competition for starting jobs: "You sure don't see many guys in the training room this year. You wouldn't catch me in there unless a bone was sticking out."