William Johnson's article After TV Accepted the Call, Sunday Was Never the Same (Jan. 5) was excellent. His description of the bidding war between the networks for the NFL and AFL games made me feel as though I had personally experienced the tensions and surprises. That last week in January 1964 had a great effect on professional football. I think it was a good one.
William Johnson really got down to the nitty-gritty in his report of the behind-the-scenes moves in pro football's television war. The characters involved will not soon be forgotten: Harry Wismer and his idiosyncrasies, Bill MacPhail and his ploys, Roone Arledge and his wit. However, the iron rule of the cynical Pete Rozelle will be remembered as long as football exists.
Rozelle nurtured his blooming plant into what is now America's No. 1 national pastime. The tube was the ultimate and, instead of being rushed into long-term, heavy TV contracts, he gradually assessed the league's future and took it from there. No one is about to tell Mr. Rozelle how to operate his industry the way other sports are able to influence their respective hierarchies. In an empire where lesser men would have failed, this energetic commissioner succeeded. My hat is off to him.
East Dubuque, Ill.
"Let's pause for a moment...." Those wondrous, magnificent words of wisdom (?) splaying a sponsor's commercial have now become one big fat irritating interruption of what was once an enjoyable event of TV football.
January 19, 1970
William Johnson states, "There are always at least 19 [commercials] over the four quarters of a contest." This means a minimum of 20 minutes a game devoted to watching people smoking, shaving, beering, etc., which hardly adds to sports entertainment. The result: less appreciation of the football event. Will our advertising media kill the goose that lays the golden egg? Or is just plain greediness making pro football viewing less and less enjoyable?
Let's not pause too many moments or it will be back to the beach on Sundays for Joe Doaks and family. Or shall we invent a TV set that automatically turns off the commercials?
Your series on TV and sport is a sad but no doubt accurate account of American business operations with their total disregard for a fair price or responsible management. The economic spiral is obvious and simple, and it starts when three TV executives concoct totally exorbitant offers to televise sports. To offset this fantastic cost, TV charges industry its proportionate share, plus profit, for advertisements. And the parasitic and supercilious advertising industry takes its percentage, which is very sweet by now.
At the same time, the industries that are paying to advertise on TV are poring over their profit and loss figures and coming to the startling decision that, to offset the inflationary advertising costs, they must increase the prices of their products. Other industries, competitive and noncompetitive, related and unrelated, take account of this new marketplace price and conclude that if Americans will pay 84¢ for a box of, say, soap flakes, surely they will pay 84¢ for a pound of hamburger or a tube of toothpaste, a plastic toy and so on, up and down the price scale.
The next step is that these same Americans—now called the labor force, the labor unions, the white-collar workers, even the stockholders and, altogether, the paying public—recognize their individual need for added income to "pay the going price." They must go to their employers to demand, in one form or another, higher wages and/or higher dividends.
And let's not forget that the superplayers in the arena are also uniting under the TV spotlights and taking their money on the run. That of course sets up an obvious work parallel to all the other positions and professions of the workaday world.
I have a solution to this inflationary spiral, and it's as simple as three TV executives writing $14.1 million on a piece of paper. I call for a moratorium, a blackout, a lockout, a nationwide short circuit. Let's shut off the television. My initial bid is for a month—and if that doesn't have an effect in the marketplace, let us increase the bid by 100% and go for two months.
This could work, and it could work very fast. I suggest the month of July. August would be a great backup, and September is America's trump card. Let's do it!
On the same day I received my copy of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED with its in-depth study of television and sport, I received a letter from Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn acknowledging an analysis I sent to him revealing that the baseball attendance picture in Cleveland isn't as bad as it looks, considering that the Indians have followed a suicidal television policy for years. I was gratified to see SPORTS ILLUSTRATED concurring with me and adding that the televising of home games in Cleveland in the early '50s led to a plunge in attendance.
In my letter to Mr. Kuhn I pointed out that the city of Cleveland for years has been victimized by a lot of bad nationwide publicity because of its deceptively low baseball attendance. A look at the facts shows:
1) The Indians have televised weekend home games for 20 years. (How can you give your product away and sell it at the same time?)
2) Most major league teams, except in the large population centers, televise no home games at all, or a modest few.
3) Cleveland actually outdrew Pittsburgh in total combined 1968 and 1969 baseball attendance despite the fact that the Indians televised almost every weekend home game and the Pirates none!
Ideally, comments on your articles ought to be of a sporting rather than a political or controversial nature, but Brock Yates' portrayal of Automobile Executive John DeLorean as a socially concerned liberal reformer with political possibilities (New Kind of Wheel at GM, Dec. 15) requires a bit of political demythologization.
Mr. DeLorean is described as "committed to social change" and quoted as advising disaffected college students: "It's futile to drop out of a system simply because one doesn't agree with what's going on. What you do is get involved. Change things. Make them right."
This seems like sound advice. But its credibility is severely compromised by the fact that it comes from a man whose social contributions include the charmingly exploitative sentiment: "We can make cars that will run 100,000 miles with minimum trouble and expense. Therefore we've got to build a new product that will lure the customer out of his old car before it's worn out." Aside from the fact that Detroit has yet to market the 100,000-mile miracle car referred to by Mr. DeLorean, the latter sentiment is based on some pseudo-Keynesean prattle—"This is the thing that keeps America dynamic"—which, because of its insensitivity to the quality-of-life standards that a rational economics must subserve, would outrage John Maynard Keynes as much as it does the Ralph Naders of today. The quality of American life is not at all enhanced by the "muscle cars" marketed by Mr. DeLorean's under-21, "tanned California sun-buds...broads." It is even more degraded by the air-pollution contributions of Mr. DeLorean's product.
Finally, Mr. Yates should spare us the pieties about Mr. DeLorean's "pioneer programs to open his factory's doors to the hardcore unemployed." These programs have been quantitative and qualitative failures. Such programs are being continued by the manufacturers, but in a manner redesigned so that a small amount of corporate seed money will draw in massive government, i.e., taxpayer, support. Thus, a DeLorean-type "social concern" promises to blossom into a financial and public-image bonanza for our private manufacturers. When Mr. DeLorean says, "The countries that are making unusual progress toward eliminating hunger and poverty are basically imitating American managerial skills." he conveniently, or ignorantly, fails to mention that the appropriation of these skills is integrated into a system of public, not private, ownership. And, of course, he has fashioned his own noose with these same remarks. For why isn't the United States, with its wealth of managerial skills, one of the countries that is making unusual progress toward eliminating hunger, etc.? We can readily guess that it's because people in control of our industries, like Mr. DeLorean, lack any but a profit-oriented imagination and really are, according to their own description, "pretty conservative guys."
EDWARD A. RENO JR.
Instructor in Philosophy Fordham University
I read with great interest your article on John DeLorean of General Motors. He appears to be a most outstanding, intelligent and energetic person, which accounts for his speedy ascent up the ladder of success. He has my admiration and congratulations.
But I would like to inquire as to whether, with all his talents and attributes, he is using them to solve the problem of the disposition of the old cars clogging our roads and junkyards, which arc slowly smothering us, or the elimination of the car pollutants that are poisoning all of us to death.
More and more does not necessarily mean better and better, except possibly to GM and Mr. DeLorean. It is devastating to the rest of us.
JEANNETTE S. EGAN
Old Greenwich, Conn.
Address editorial mail to TIME & LIFE Bldg., Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.