Alan Eagleson, the ebullient agent-attorney, fulminated last week that the Boston Bruins would just have to be "more realistic" than to offer his client, the incomparable Bobby Orr, a mere $450,000 a year to buy the rights to Bobby's hockey life. "More realistic" than $450,000 a year? Humbug. But at least such figures produce a small insight into what is and what is not realistic in the dazzling stratosphere of million-dollar sports deals.
First, Eagleson's basic complaint was not realistic—it was mere sports-page sound and fury. Orr's $200,000-a-year contract runs to the end of the 1975-76 season, and no negotiations have yet begun, no offer has yet been made. However, on to realism. The Bruins' entire gross last year was less than $5 million. To give Orr $450,000 means he would get nearly 10% of the team's gross income. No business can operate on that kind of economics—not realistically.
Bruin Managing Director Harry Sinden says the club plans to offer "every last dollar we can afford to pay Bobby" sometime next week—and it will be nowhere near $450,000 a year. In the meantime, it has been reported that the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association have offered Orr $6.5 million over five years to jump leagues. That averages out to roughly $1.3 million a year, which means the club would have to gross $13 million in order to pay Orr on the basis of 10% of gross. Unrealistic? You bet. The Fighting Saints will be lucky to accumulate one-fifth that amount in a season.
August 3, 1975
Joe Zannino is a funeral director in Baltimore and a cockfighting enthusiast. Recently he was interviewed on the subject of his beloved sport:
Q: Isn't cockfighting inhumane?
A: Cockfighters are the most humane people in the world. We all have dogs. We take better care of our dogs than anyone because we understand animals.
Q: What's the difference between those who fight dogs and those who fight chickens?
A: Fighting dogs is inhumane. Roosters have been bred to fight for thousands of years. Which is worse: To let two roosters fight that want to fight, or a fox hunt where 20 dogs run one poor fox to death? That's certainly against the fox's will.
Q: Ever been arrested for cockfighting in Maryland?
A: Once. The charge against us was running a disorderly house. I can tell you this, there was nothing disorderly about that house until the cops came. Then there was chaos.
Q: Where do you think your sport will be 50 years from now?
A: We just want to be allowed to do what they're allowed to do in France, in the Philippines, in South America and the Virgin Islands. There's no cockfighting in Cuba. Wherever Communism comes in, cockfighting goes out; when Communism goes out, then cockfighting comes back. Maybe that tells you something about our sport.
Oakland Raiders have perhaps spent as much time in the courtroom as in the locker room in recent days. Last week the case of the U.S. vs. George Atkinson in the embezzlement of $3,200 resulted in a hung jury in a San Francisco Federal court, and though the case may be re-tried in the fall, the Oakland back returned to the Raider training camp at week's end. The next day, a superior court judge dismissed a $9 million suit brought by former Linebacker Terry Mendenhall against the team and its physicians. Though the court is still hearing testimony on Mendenhall's claim that he should be paid for lost time due to an injury, the judge dismissed Mendenhall's charge that he was a victim of illegally dispensed drugs.
Several other Raider-related cases are: 1) General Partner Wayne Valley vs. Managing General Partner Al Davis, which contends that Davis' new contract with the club is illegal; 2) Limited Partner Louis Borroero vs. General Partner Wayne Valley, claiming that Valley acted against the Raider partnership's limited partners on two separate occasions; 3) Raider Center Jim Otto vs. a man named Stark, in which Otto was awarded $10,000 as a result of an auto accident; 4) and 5) the same Jim Otto vs. Purcell Heating and Refrigerator in which Otto claims, in two suits for $292,000 each, that the firm set his house afire while in the process of cleaning his furnace.
A global conflict has been raging this spring and summer, unseen and unheralded by most of the world. It is the rope-skipping war between one Katsumi Suzuki, 37, of the city of Kumagaya, north of Tokyo, and Rabbi Francis Barry Silberg, 32, of Congregation Emanu-el B'ne Jeshurun in Milwaukee. It has been a desperate, seesaw affair, a man-to-man confrontation with 10,000 miles in between. It began on May 29, when Suzuki skipped rope 37,427 consecutive times in four hours, 22 minutes and 50 seconds, thus shattering the world record held by Rabbi Silberg.
The rabbi could not accept this standing still. On June 22 he skipped rope 43,473 times in five hours. New record. Suzuki refused to be beaten. A short (5'2"), slight (105 pounds) fellow, he began to whip himself into shape through Zen meditation ("essential for rope-skipping success") and a secret diet of raw fish delicacies ("the flying fish would be best").
At 4:50 a.m. one day last week, Suzuki appeared in white headband, navy-blue shirt and pink trunks, and mounted a raised wooden platform in Kumagaya's municipal exhibition hall. The platform was decorated with a large Rising Sun flag. Suzuki began skipping. By nine a.m. he had skipped 43,474 times, breaking the rabbi's record. He went on skipping until 10:01, when he stopped with a lung-bursting 48,169 skips. His wife and assembled members of the Kumagaya Rope Skipping Enthusiasts Society burst out in a chorus of passionate banzais.
And Rabbi Silberg? With hopes of starting an international rope-jumping alliance, he is planning a trip to Japan next summer. While there, he also intends to shatter Suzuki's record.
Alaska has never been thought of as prime country for women, but recently females have been outdoing themselves in the 49th state. For starters—or finishers—a woman won a major marathon race. In the annual Midnight Sun Marathon in Fairbanks, Marian May, 21, set a course record of 3:02:41 while defeating a field of 52, most of them men. Next, word came that Anne Porter of Juneau, also competing mostly against men, had boated a 51-pound 11-ounce salmon to win first place in the annual Haines King Salmon Derby. And finally, reports sizzled over the wires that Alaska Sunshine Caille, a 2-year-old Holstein from Mayanuska Valley, had set a state record with a year's production of 20,300 pounds of milk and 664 pounds of butterfat. Alaska Sunshine was not competing against men—but she probably would have won anyway.
STRIPPED OF THEIR RIGHTS
You may recall that the National Park Service banned nude bathing on the Cape Cod National Seashore this year (SI, May 12), saying that the vast increase in bathers at skinny-dipping beaches had caused chaotic parking problems, excessive litter and damage to sand dunes. No fewer than 12 people challenged the ban in court; they claimed there just had to be constitutional guarantees of freedom to appear bare in public, just as there are guarantees of free speech and freedom of assembly.
Not so, ruled Federal Judge Frank H. Freedman in Boston. Rather sharply, he stripped the strippers of constitutional protection, saying, "The personal right to bathe in the nude is not of such significance to be considered a fundamental right."
Few thoroughbreds get a ceremonial interment with flag at half-staff, as did Ruffian at Belmont Park. Quite the contrary. At Florida tracks, for example, a horse that dies of a natural cause, such as a heart attack, is shipped to Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach, where it becomes fare for the lions. Horses that are destroyed by phenobarbital, because of injuries, are too tainted to be used as food and wind up in a glue factory. La Prevoyant, a filly that won all 12 of her starts as a 2-year-old and had lifetime earnings of $572,417, ruptured a lung after running in the Miss Florida Handicap at Calder in Miami last December. She was hauled away by the Charles Lowe Processing Co.
For years, the height of Mt. Everest has been 29,028 feet. Last week Peking Radio reported that a team of Chinese surveyors and geologists had determined that the altitude of Everest is actually 29,029.24 feet. Ah, so...the Chinese are finally beginning to break some world records.
WIND, SAND AND SPORTS STARS
A week or so ago the government of Saudi Arabia entered into a $9 million contract with the Whittaker Corp., a California conglomerate. It called for Whittaker to launch a three-year program to educate the Saudis in sports—specifically basketball, swimming and track and field. Although American experts have often been hired by foreign governments to help their sports programs, the size, scope and cost of this agreement is staggering. What's going on here? Are we to expect a gusher of Olympic athletes from a well where formerly there was naught but oil? Or is this simply a high-priced ploy to give bored sheiks and princes a new way to spend their time?
Well, to begin, Whittaker Corp. deals in a grand potpourri of goods and services: metals distribution, chemical coatings, pleasure boats, biomedical sciences, etc. Among other things, Whittaker has been operating three hospitals in Saudi Arabia for the past year. But sports? Robert Murray, manager of corporate communications for the company, says, "We'd be the first to admit that we're not experts in the sporting field, but we're looking for qualified people to go over there to coach."
The Whittaker vice-president who consummated the deal, Paul B. Dinkel, is reluctant to discuss the people the firm has contacted as potential coaches. But some are blue-chippers. Parry O'Brien, triple Olympic gold medal shotputter, was talked to about being a "consultant." So was Dave Maggard, athletic director at Berkeley; and Bob Timmons, head track coach at Kansas; and Tom Jennings, head coach of the powerful Pacific Coast Track Club. Whittaker's offers are tempting indeed. Said Jennings, "It was a tremendous deal—$60,000 salary per year for three years, $25,000 per year cost-of-living expense, a job for my wife with a large salary and a tremendous benefit package besides."
Whittaker's $19 million (which is $7.6 million more than the amount available for the entire U.S. Olympic program) will also be spent on equipment and various facilities, including a national stadium with swimming pool, track and basketball court. The basic thrust of the program will be to introduce these alien sports into the Saudi primary and secondary schools. From there, perhaps, Olympians will gush—or at least trickle.
THEY SAID IT
•Joe Torre, on catchers: "Most people don't understand catchers. For example, Jerry Grote is a catcher who hits. Johnny Bench is a hitter who catches. There is a big difference."
•Horst Muhlmann, the Philadelphia Eagles' German-born kicker, on why he's not sure U.S. pro football will ever go to Europe: "It's hard to understand what is going on."
•Steve Busby, Kansas City pitcher: "I throw the ball harder than Nolan Ryan. It just doesn't get there as fast."
•Rosemarie Boudreau, explaining why she's the bat girl for the American Legion Sher-le-Mon team in Cumberland, R.I.: "It's a lot more fun than hanging around the pizza parlor waiting for nothing to happen."