THE MONEY GAME
Making Sport of Us All (Dec. 10) by Bob Briner seems destined to rank as one of the most important articles SI has ever published, for it brings to light a subject vital to the development of every young child: hero worship.
How can a kid growing up today idolize a pro basketball player who has a multimillion-dollar contract but sits on the bench because he has a no-cut clause? I believe high school and college athletics will soon surpass professional sports in spectator appeal. It is good to see a boy want to pattern his life after a local high school hero, whom he can see and talk to and get tips from. And there is nothing better than watching a crowd react at a college game because it knows the players well, knows them as human beings and knows that it will get a smile, not a sneer, in return after the game. Professional sports are about to self-destruct. They've taken the happiness out of their own games.
Your article on the money game in professional sports was long overdue. I have argued with friends over the last several years as to whether or not professional team owners are making profits. As Bob Briner points out, some of the players' salary demands exceed paid attendance. Here in San Diego, 3,200 is the seating capacity at Golden Hall where the basketball Conquistadors play. Filling this arena every game could not even pay Coach Wilt Chamberlain's salary. It is true that athletes have a limited playing career, but why should these players become instantly wealthy? Why should contract renegotiation be a one-way street?
It is a very short-run viewpoint for players and their agents to milk owners—and fans—for every cent. Professional sports seem doomed to extinction before too long unless this trend is halted.
Bob Briner's attempt at fixing blame on the owners for destroying sports through leniency to players is directed at the right party, but for the wrong reasons.
It would have been impossible for Briner to have written this piece 15 years ago, when the owners of the major sports maintained a monopoly on their product, and when players were obliged to perform for what their owners offered. Players had no alternative, as no counteroffer was forthcoming from any other quarter. With the rise of the American Football League (and sister leagues in basketball and hockey), competitive bidding developed among owners for the services of the same athlete, with a concomitant wage spiral.
The lure of TV money, an expanded leisure market, the discovery that losses incurred in a sports venture could be written off against profits in other investments for tax purposes—these factors account for the influx of capital into the sports industry. New leagues were created by entrepreneurs to break the monopoly of entrepreneurs. However, now that the reality of laissez-faire has broken the monopoly at the bargaining table, Briner blames...the athlete.
This is not the place to debunk the simplistic and self-serving myths of the Manchester school of economics (athletes hustle only when they are hungry; workers produce only when they are paid subsistence wages). But what is relevant is that Briner's proposal of salary cuts for motivation's sake echoes arguments used historically by the bourgeoisie, i.e., high wages lead to boondoggling and wreck free enterprise.
Mr. Briner would have been a bright young theorist at the turn of the 19th century; as his ideas apply to sports today, they can only provide the owners with a rationale for breaking players' associations and for stripping professional athletes of their capacity to bargain. Briner fails to see that the workings of the free enterprise system, when actually adopted by the system's proponents, produce the very conditions he finds deplorable.
New York City
Bob Briner does not realize that the behavior of athletes mirrors the behavior they see in the rest of society. Today the dominant goal is getting as much as you can and the heck with everybody else, so why should athletes be different? Are they somehow immune to the forces that influence all of the rest of us?
Finally, as Briner must be aware, renegotiation is an honored behavioral pattern, especially in defense contracts (look at the C-5A, the F-111, the F-14 and F-15), as are guaranteed loans, such as the one provided Lockheed. Once again, are we to assume that athletes are somehow immune?
Granted, athletes are greedy. Granted, agents are greedy. But are they to blame? Or have they learned only too well the lessons we have taught them? And do we punish them too severely when we find out that our athletic heroes are mortal?
DONALD A. COFFIN
Philippi, W. Va.
Nearly 2,000 years ago the Apostle Paul beat Bob Briner to the punch when he so aptly inscribed in I Timothy 6:10: "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evils, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many a pang."
You were late, Bob, yet very timely. Thank, you for getting to the root of the professional sports problem.
DOUGLAS Y. VALENZUELA
Multnomah Baptist Church
As a close friend of Dan Jenkins', a PGA member and an ex-member of the Tournament Players Division Policy Board, I would like to make the following observations concerning the article regarding (I can't say covering) the World Open at Pinehurst (144 Holes, 500,000 Bucks and 1 Flop, Nov. 26).
Miller Barber, who I thought won the tournament, deserved a little more than to be mentioned in two paragraphs of a fairly lengthy story. It was nice to hear that, incidentally, he "was hitting the best shots of his life." Miller is a great player, a fine man and a credit to the game. His record in all of those departments proves that to be true.
Also, I thought that somewhere in the story, the two fantastic scores of 62 shot by Gibby Gilbert and Tom Watson on the revered Pinehurst No. 2 might have been mentioned.
Dan Jenkins was absolutely correct when he said this was a tournament "with heavy pretensions" from the start. However, when Bill Maurer and Pinehurst made their offer, I feel the TPD Policy Board and Joseph C. Dey Jr. were acting for the good of all the TPD players by negotiating the format and later approving it. I don't believe the board can go around asking the top five players how their schedules look, that week.
Also, the idea that a world tour is here I just don't buy. I don't know of one TPD player who has paid his own money to go play outside the U.S. for the prize money alone. The longest "overseas" trips I know of to play for "prize money only" were to Hawaii and the Bahamas, and even the Hawaiian Open had to pay travel allowances during its early years on tour.
This is the first letter I have ever written to SI, and I have enjoyed many years as a reader and subscriber. Keep up the good work.
Your article on the Harlem Globetrotters (The Bouncing Ball, Dec. 3) brings back memories of the "poverty days" of Abe Saperstein and the original team headed by Inman Jackson, Runt Pullins and Easy Easter. I was Saperstein's first advance publicity man while I was sports editor of the Winona (Minn.) Republican Herald. The publicity consisted of one short story and a "mat" of the team. Back in the late '20s and early '30s Minnesota was the Globetrotters' prime territory. They played all the small towns they could book, including Fountain City, Wis. (pop. 880) and Lanesboro, Minn. (pop. 1,014). Bigger stops included Winona, Rochester, Austin and a once-a-year game in Minneapolis.
The Trotters carried only five men, with Abe as the driver, and if one of the men got hurt, as happened in Arcadia, Wis., Abe would play. When he did, it was easy to see where the Trotters learned their fancy ball-handling, because Abe himself, all 63 inches of him, was a whiz.
One special series I remember involved a team I managed called the Minnesota Coaches, headed by Ed (Moose) Krause, now Notre Dame athletic director, who was serving in his first coaching job at St. Mary's College in Winona. In this series (and in practically all of the games they played at that time) the Trotters played it straight until they had the game salted away. Then they'd pull their usual comedy stuff. In the Coaches series there were to be no shenanigans. The Trotters won the first game in Minneapolis, but the Coaches, led by All-America Krause, came back to get a good lead in the second game at Lanesboro, and then played some Globetrotter tricks of their own, in violation of the agreement. So the Trotters were out for revenge in the final game of the series at La Crosse, Wis. and really made the Coaches look bad, to the point that the game became such a donnybrook that, as the referee, I had to stop it early. It was only the second time I had ever seen Abe Saperstein lose his cool.
BERNARD J. Duffy
How did Frank Deford know? Yes, it was about 25 years ago that I saw Marques Haynes dribble, and I have told my son about it many times.
My father and I had gone to the Chicago Stadium to see one of those legendary Globetrotter-Minneapolis Laker games. There was electricity in the air, which I didn't fully understand. This was more than theater. It was the white championship team against the outcasts, and it was very serious basketball. The champions were not there to be the brunt of tricks and comedy routines. There were to be no tricks that night. But there, late in this game filled with meaning, Marques Haynes did his dribbling while two of the best players in professional basketball tried fruitlessly to take the ball away from him. They finally had to foul him to stop him.
As I recall, the Globetrotters won by one point with a last-second shot by Ermer Robinson. I still get goose pimples when I think back to that game.
Having been an avid Trotter fan for more than 35 years, I couldn't help but recall one of the games that I saw played in Chicago about 25 years ago. It was part of a doubleheader (the first game was between two college freshman teams), and the Trotters were playing the Minneapolis Lakers. The game was straight basketball; no reems, no tricks, just good, solid basketball.
The Lakers had George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Vern Mikkelsen and Slater Martin. From the tip-off it was the Lakers' night. I remember how strange it seemed to see the Trotters not doing their thing.
The Lakers beat them going away, and I seem to remember them taking Mikan out with about five minutes left (he had about 30 points, which was a pretty good night in those days). It was one of the best games I have ever seen, but it certainly left me somewhat deflated because up until that night I thought the Trotters never lost.
Prairie du Chien, Wis.
I read Frank Deford's article on the Globetrotters with special interest. I feel the public should be aware that there are several outstanding comedy basketball teams in the nation other than the Trotters. The Philadelphia Jesters comedy team, currently starting its ninth year of play, presents a continuous show including trick shooting, dribbling, ballhandling and, most important, comedy in and out of the realm of basketball. We have five of the original players who started with us in 1965.
We play all types of opposition, including college all-stars, service all-stars, faculty and town teams. And please note that our opposition is not rehearsed, and our comedy is improvised according to the opponents. We are undefeated in more than 200 games. Thus I resent the portion of the article that reads, "The Globetrotters have the whole field to themselves, except for a few vagabond station-wagon outfits that hustle games against local disc jockeys in high school gyms."
We replaced the Trotters as the attraction at the Spectrum in Philadelphia when the Trotters were on strike. Also, we have raised thousands of dollars for charitable organizations. It seems that our type of attraction never gets any publicity from national magazines such as yours, and the Globetrotters get it all. Why not do a story on the Philadelphia Jesters, the best in the East, and the Harlem Clowns, the best in the West?
LEW DI LEO
I have read with some interest the article They Led the Life of Riley (Nov. 19). Robert Cantwell picked up a few high points about Fort Riley's famous Cavalry School, but he missed the boat—or the stage coach—on a few others.
The dear old Walter C. Short who was head of the horsemanship department at Riley and one of the greatest of the world's horse masters was not the Walter C. Short whose conduct at Pearl Harbor was questioned. There were two Walter C. Shorts. The cavalry one was retired for age (64) in 1934.
Cantwell mentioned some people who went through the Cavalry Basic Training Center. He failed to mention others who, in one way or another, were connected with the Cavalry School. To name a few: the Lorillards, father and son, Henry Cabot Lodge and Hap Arnold, who was chief of the Air Corps. There were other well-known horsemen, too, such as John Barry, Sloan Doak, Harry Chamberlin, William W. (Red) Erwin, Lewis (Beef) Brown Jr., Johnny Hen.
I spent a number of years at Fort Riley and the Cavalry School. I was on the staff and faculty when it was reorganized in 1920, graduated in 1923, was an instructor in tactics for four years and commanded the 10th Cavalry at Camp Funston at the time of Pearl Harbor. There is much I have forgotten. Charles Lindbergh, Captain, USAR, trained at Marshall Field, a part of Fort Riley. A Mr. Churchill dominated and ran in a magnificent manner the horseshoeing and black-smith school for many years. He was a major, USAR. The Second Cavalry Division was organized and trained at Camp Funston. It had four regiments of horse cavalry, the 2nd, 9th, 10th and 14th. It disappeared into mechanized and other units during WW II.
PAUL R. DAVISON
Colonel, USA, Retired
La Jolla, Calif.
Apparently Bob Cantwell couldn't for the life of him unscramble his own notes for Rose Mary Mechem (LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER, Nov. 19) when he dropped in the name of "Adrian Rourke" as the husband of Helen Wills. It wasn't Adrian Rourke, but it was Aidan Roark.
Professor William J. Beausay's work on the personalities of athletes in various sports is interesting, although the conclusions he draws are a bit disconcerting (Winning One for the Ripper, Nov. 26). Apparently Dr. Beausay believes that the goal of sport is to develop a breed of supermen who will perform in superbrutal form, to the delight of the masses of passive spectators.
I believe that sport has a greater purpose, i.e., the development of character, and that it should be designed not for only a few select athletes but for the enrichment of every man, woman and child. In this regard, it is particularly disturbing to consider Beausay's suggestion that distance runners might be trained to become more aggressive and proud in the hope that they will lower the world mile record by a few seconds. Considering the current state of national and world affairs, perhaps we would do better to replace Beausay's hostile, impulsive and nervous linebacker with his tolerant, self-disciplined and composed distance runner as our model of the most desirable athletic personality.
As a regular reader of SI who happens also to have a Ph.D. in psychology with a specialization in psychological measurement, I found the article by Gwilym Brown misleading and, in places, insulting. The latter complaint is irrelevant, but the former requires attention, because statements such as those made by Brown imply a great deal more accuracy and finality than Beausay's findings merit.
Beausay's results are presented as group averages. These may be very inaccurate for any given individual. There should be some indication that linebackers vary in their levels of hostility. Also, the instruments used are by no means perfect measures. There are no measures of personality characteristics that could truly be called adequate, and there would certainly be disagreement among qualified psychologists as to what Beausay's tests actually measure. They are coarse indicators at best.
Finally, and most important from a practical point of view, Beausay took his measures just before his athletes were going into combat. Results of this kind say nothing about what athletes are like in their normal lives, only that they differ from the average man in the street when they are primed for competition. I wonder whether linebackers are any more hostile before a game than are those avid fans who are sitting in a traffic jam outside the stadium as the game starts. Perhaps the proper conclusion to be drawn from Beausay's findings is that professional-class athletes have learned to alter their psychological states to fit the situation.
ROBERT M. THORNDIKE
Having devoted considerable energy to generating support for the notion that a knowledge of personality characteristics can markedly increase our capacity to predict performances, I applaud Professor Beausay's efforts to define the critical components of personality that contribute to athletic achievement. A check of NFL and NHL game statistics will show that teams taking the most penalties (presumably manifestations of hostility and aggression) consistently sport superior won-lost records.
It should be emphasized that Dr. Beausay's Super Psyching (and here he would, I think, agree) is based on the manipulation of dynamic traits—motivations and interests—rather than descriptive temperament traits as measured by questionnaires such as the Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis. Which simply shows that coaches are probably correct when they "...ascribe victory and defeat to whether or not a team was 'up' for a particular game," and reaffirms my conviction that in the final analysis what we supposed experts in psychology are practicing is little more than common sense.
NICHOLAS F. SKINNER, PH.D.
Department of Psychology
In your article Professor Beausay uses Dave Wottle as an example by which he stereotypes all distance runners. The professor should do a little more research on runners. Some people here can tell him that our hometown boy who made good (Frank Shorter) certainly was not timid, nonaggressive or a follower when he won the marathon in Munich. Good article otherwise.
Love it, love it, love it! I'm sure Dr. Beausay knows what he's talking about when he describes quarterbacks as extreme perfectionists, a pretty cool bunch, lighthearted, free of themselves, compassionate, self-disciplined and above all, the prize catch for the little ladies.
If you haven't guessed, I am an ex-quarterback.
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