Arguments on legislation before Congress that would lift pro football's TV blackout of home games have degenerated into bombast, as politicians' arguments so often do. Senator John Pastore of Rhode Island, a supporter of the legislation, became so carried away that he called the situation "a national crisis."
Generally, proponents of the bill seem to be arguing that it comes down to a choice between "blackout" and "right to see" home games. Blackout is bad, right to see is good. Yet the proposed legislation clearly accepts the idea that pro football is entitled to bar local TV; it says a team can do this if it has not sold all tickets to the game 48 hours before kickoff. The principle of blackout is thus condoned, and the public's right to see on TV every game it wants to see is denied.
Congress also recognizes the need of pro football to protect its financial structure. Indeed, one of the arguments for the legislation holds that more liberal use of TV would bring the clubs even greater revenue. Pro football disagrees. It worries now about overexposing the game on the tube. It remembers what happened to professional boxing because of television saturation. It recalls what local telecasting did to home attendance of the Los Angeles Rams in the 1950s. It knows how much revenue from parking and concessions is lost when in bad weather thousands of ticket-holding fans become no-shows, and it anticipates how much greater the no-show factor would be if there were a possibility of seeing the game on television. And it is keenly aware how important the noise and excitement of capacity crowds are to the "entertainment package" that TV buys.
October 15, 1972
In sum, pro football says any local telecasting of home games will inevitably lead to serious financial loss. Arguments to the contrary, says NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, amount to "the rather remarkable contention that the clubs are stubbornly resisting the opportunity to make more money."
What they are resisting is a direct threat to the continuing stability of a sport that by and large has run itself with commendable efficiency, enjoys widespread popularity and is presently in excellent health. That it should be endangered by emotional political argument in an election year is deplorable.
IT'S COLD OUTSIDE
According to an NCAA guide to colleges, the tennis coach of Alaska Methodist University is Jack Frost.
The baseball trivia item of the year and possibly the most overwrought baseball phrase of the decade (Four-Ply Clout Division) are both found in the same sentence of a recent Detroit Tigers publicity note: "Aurelio Rodriguez, only player in the majors whose first name contains each vowel, has been wielding a molten mace of late...."
THAT EMPTY FEELING
Along with the blow to its pride it suffered during the Canada-Russia hockey showdown, the National Hockey League got hit in the pocketbook, too. With so many big names off with Team Canada, attendance at preseason exhibition games fell off sharply. When the Boston Bruins met the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal's Forum, where a record 19,000 saw an exhibition game last year, fewer than 4,000 people were on hand. The Stanley Cup finalists drew only 3,500 when they played in Halifax, and when they met in Boston, where sellout crowds are commonplace, there were thousands of empty seats.
Other teams did even worse. In Kitchener, Ontario, where the annual Rotary Club game usually draws a sellout 6,500, only 1,927 saw the New York Rangers play the St. Louis Blues. The Philadelphia Flyers played three games in Ottawa's Civic Center, which seats 9,355. They drew 2,475 with the locally popular Toronto Maple Leafs, 774 with the California Seals and a rattling 321 with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Everything happens, sooner or later, on a golf course, but the things that were visited upon Dick Smith in the Philadelphia Sectional PGA championship were almost beyond belief. On the first day his caddie stumbled and kicked his ball a few feet. Following the practice and tradition of golf, Smith called a penalty on himself. Then assuming the ball was supposed to be returned to approximately its original position, he did the lift-and-drop-over-the-shoulder routine.
The caddie's error cost Smith one stroke, which was duly added to his score. Then, after discussing the incident, the tournament rules committee decided that lifting and dropping the ball was a mistake, too, and one that demanded an extra two-stroke penalty. Smith was thus zapped with three strokes.
This seemed rather extreme, and the next day the committee asked a U.S. Golf Association official for an opinion. The USGA man said a player cannot be penalized twice for the same offense, so off came the two added strokes. But the discussion continued, and on the third day the committee phoned Commissioner Joe Dey of the PGA. Dey said Smith should have been penalized all three strokes or else he should have been disqualified.
But Smith was playing fine golf, right there at the head of the pack, and the committee was reluctant to accept this Draconian ruling. Someone pointed out that the rules of golf are ordained by the USGA and that Dey, although once the USGA's executive director, was no longer a part of that organization. A call now was put through to P. J. Boatwright, Dey's successor as high priest of the USGA. Boatwright confirmed Dey's opinion. The tournament committee sadly and finally penalized Smith the three strokes.
Even though his score kept going up and down like a yo-yo, Smith held his poise and, despite the added strokes, finished in a tie for first place. But even the end of the tournament was wreathed with indecision. Because of scheduling conflicts, the playoff for the title did not take place until a couple of weeks later. It went off without incident, poor Smith losing by two strokes to Dick Hendrickson. We hope that during it, Dey and Boatwright were at their phones, on standby.
CONFLICT IN KANSAS
When Ewing Kauffman, owner of the Kansas City Royals, fired Manager Bob Lemon he said part of the reason was Lemon's public reprimand of two of his players in August. "I would have told the press I was just resting them for a while," said Kauffman. He also said he wanted someone younger as manager. Lemon is 52; his replacement, Jack McKeon, is 41.
But Kauffman apparently made his mind up about Lemon back in May, almost three months before the disciplinary incident. The Royals were playing in California, and a Los Angeles paper quoted Lemon as saying, "For the first time I'm glad I'm old. I'm just a couple of years from retirement and I'm going to get out as fast as I can run. I'm going to take my wife and settle on some remote island. I'll buy a little beer bar and just sit there and think. I hope we don't even have any customers."
Kauffman read the story. The Kansas City owner is the epitome of the driving, ambitious executive—positive thinking is his creed—and Lemon's comment jarred him (the manager later said he had not been talking about retiring but only about "what I would like to do when I retire"). Even so, the dismissal seemed arbitrary and illogical, since Lemon's two years as manager were the most successful in the club's history.
One observer suggested the firing was the inevitable result of the conflict between the mechanistic techniques of business management (Kauffman's pharmaceutical company has been extremely successful) and the more casual methods used in baseball. Kauffman favors things like computers and psychological and physical testing. In Lemon, who has been in baseball since he was 17, Kauffman met, if not outright resistance, then at least a lack of understanding and conviction. Exit Bob.
Still, the owner may have opened a can of worms. When he said he wanted a younger man, he motivated the U.S. Department of Labor into wondering whether the Age Discrimination in Employment Act had been violated. A Department of Labor spokesman said, "It is not necessary for Lemon to file a complaint, and he has not done so. We can take action ourselves if we see something. We read of the firing in the papers. It was interesting reading."
There seem to be two particularly noteworthy aspects to the wandering Rick Barry's return to San Francisco and the Golden State Warriors. One is the determination, bordering on obsession, of Owner Franklin Mieuli to get Barry back. Mieuli needs cash at the moment and he could have yielded Barry to the New York Nets for something approaching $1 million. Instead, he has taken on a player with fragile knees and guaranteed him $1,343,000 over the next six years on a no-cut contract. It's an iffy gamble. Equally remarkable is the comment made by Barry, a basketball gypsy who has chased the dollar from team to team and been an inspiration for other players to do the same. At the end of a press conference in San Francisco, Barry said blandly, "The exorbitant salaries for pro basketball players these days is amazing. They're getting out of line."
Henry Iba, the U.S. Olympic basketball coach who was harshly criticized after his team's defeat by the Russians (SCORECARD, Sept. 25), received an apologetic letter from Coach Lefty Driesell of Maryland, one of the critics, saying he had been misquoted. Iba was unmoved. "I told Lefty it had been my experience that newspapermen don't often misquote coaches," he said.
He defended his coaching methods. "There was nothing wrong with our plan," he insisted. "We just played poorly for much of the game. If I had it to do over again, I would play out the three seconds again, even though the game should have been over twice already. There is no way Russia can score in that length of time if the clock is run properly." He said stopwatch timing of the film showed that 4½ seconds elapsed between the pass-in and the basket. He said, too, that instead of getting two seconds back on the clock after they called time, the Russian coaches should have been charged with a technical foul for running on the court to attract the officials' attention. He said further that international rules call for the clock to start at once if you have a man in the circle at the other end of the court, as the Russians did, but the clock did not start. He said the officials had no right to force a U.S. defender to back off from the man passing the ball in, which also occurred. He said the Russian stepped across the line when he threw the ball in. And he said a U.S. defender was knocked to the floor.
For all this, Iba said the success of the American appeal to the Olympic basketball authorities next February depends on the makeup of the board hearing the appeal. "If they're open-minded," he said, "I don't see how in the world they could fail to rule in our favor. But who will be on the board?"
THEY SAID IT
•Toni Fritsch, Austrian-born Dallas Cowboy placekicker: "How much English I have means very small. What means much is that the Cowboys need three points. All I have to know is that I get three points or they say goodby."
•Abe Lemons, Oklahoma City University basketball coach, on college football coaches apologizing about running up high scores: "I thought that's what they were supposed to do. When players shave points, they wind up in jail."
•Jerry McGee, pro golfer, discussing the cutoff figure for 1973 player exemptions: "It will take approximately $41,394.11, but that's just approximately."