AFTER THE BATTLE
The strange strike and the sudden truce between players and owners after a year and a half of intransigent disagreement (page 55) made the bizarre nature of labor-management relations in the National Football League glaringly evident. "Players" is a nice neat term, but there are 26 different clusters of players in the league, and each cluster, or team, consists of nearly four dozen talented, strongly opinionated, often selfish individuals. "NFL" is an even tighter-sounding term, seeming almost monolithic behind such labels as "Pete Rozelle" or "NFL Management Council," but it, too, is comprised of 26 cells—26 separate, independent companies, most of them run by self-centered, self-protective, just-as-selfish individuals.
No wonder then that there has been near anarchy in labor-management talks through this long, dreary period. And no surprise that when Randy Vataha led the impulsive New England Patriots out on strike the so-called leaders of both sides were jolted into a measure of reality. Obviously, progress toward a settlement could have been made much earlier.
Perhaps there will be less pettiness in the future—no more paternalistic spouting by shortsighted owners, no more to-the-barricades threats by militant players. What is required now, above all, is a greater degree of mutual respect. That, of course, cannot be negotiated or legislated. It has to be earned.
September 28, 1975
STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD?
When 7'1" Wilt Chamberlain was playing in the NBA most people did not know that he weighed nearly 300 pounds, all of it lean and hard. A weary opponent, who did, said one day in awe, "You have no idea how strong he is."
A week or so ago in New York, where he was promoting a Russian-American volleyball game, Chamberlain was waiting for an elevator in Madison Square Garden. When its doors opened, Wilt watched as two workmen tried to pull a heavily laden dolly out of the elevator, over the uneven slit between it and the corridor. Dave Anderson of The New York Times reported that the workmen pulled and heaved for almost a minute without success. Wilt said quietly, "You look like you need a little help." He lifted one end of the dolly off the floor and almost effortlessly pulled the thing into the corridor.
Chamberlain smiled, got on the elevator and went his way. In the corridor one of the workmen said in awe, "I never saw anything like that in my life. This is an 800-pound load."
One of the first season-ticket orders for Seattle's new National Football League team came from a prison inmate. He wrote that he would be free for the 1976 opener and didn't want to be shut out.
HERE COME THE JUDGE
Judge Roy Hofheinz, whose nose has been out of joint since construction of the Superdome in New Orleans made Houston's Astrodome the second-biggest roofed stadium, acted pretty silly during a Rice football game at the Astrodome. Rice's band, known as the MOB (for Marching Owl Band), has gained a measure of fame for its satirical halftime shows. Usually the targets of the satire laugh along with everybody else, but the judge was not amused when the MOB referred to the huge Astrodome as the "world's smallest indoor football stadium" and played When the Saints Go Marching In to remind people of that Louisiana place. Or when it told everybody that Hofheinz' Houston Astros were last in the National League West and then called attention to leaks in the Astrodome roof by playing Raindrops Keep Tailing on My Head.
That did it. The judge spoke to his wife, who spoke to a stadium official, who told the Rice student narrating the show over the public address system to confine his remarks for the rest of the show to the names of the songs that were being played.
"We didn't spoof anything that hadn't been spoofed before," said Bert Roth, the MOB's director. "After all, the Astrodome wasn't built by Roy Hofheinz. It was built by the taxpayers of Harris County. I can't see anything sacrosanct about a public building."
But the judge do.
Just before the football season opened, Florida Coach Doug Dickey was beaming over the improvement shown by sophomore Center Mark Totten. Then—boom—Totten was hurt in practice, his knee was put into splints and he began hobbling around on crutches, his future as a football player very much in doubt.
Two days later Totten's crutches slipped and he fell down some dormitory stairs. "I heard something snap," Totten says, "and I thought, 'Oh, oh, what do I do now?' But almost immediately my knee unlocked, the swelling went down and I felt O.K." The next afternoon, without crutches, he was back in uniform, practicing again. Apparently the accident on the football field had caused a piece of cartilage to jam Totten's knee, and the irritation created a buildup of fluid. When he fell down the stairs the cartilage was knocked loose. The knee was subsequently drained, and the healing was almost immediate.
"Damndest thing I ever saw," says Dickey, who had reason to marvel at Totten's radical cure. Two years ago Dickey underwent knee surgery and while convalescing he, too, fell down a flight of stairs. Only trouble was, he had to have two more operations, and his knee is still a little stiff.
LABOR OF LOVE
Anne Bounds of Yakima, Wash. made it to the finals of the women's singles competition in the Larson Park Tennis Open in Yakima this summer before losing. This accomplishment was noteworthy because Mrs. Bounds was 6½ months pregnant at the time.
She did not leave it at that. When she was eight months pregnant she played in another tournament, this time in Oregon, was eliminated in an early round and decided that it was too great a burden for her to play singles. When she entered the Yakima Valley Open a couple of weeks later she confined herself to doubles. Mrs. Bounds had been encouraged in all the activity by her doctor, but perhaps the last effort was too much. About halfway through her first-round match she suddenly dropped to her knees and quietly told her partner that this was it. They forfeited and nine hours later Mrs. Bounds gave birth to a baby girl.
The baby had arrived 22 days early but the timing was brilliant; the Yakima Valley Open is commonly referred to as the Labor Day tournament.
IT SURE HURTETH
In doing work for his doctorate in English, a scholar named Richard Lederer came across a passage about football written by Phillip Stubbes, the essayist who was a contemporary of Shakespeare. Stubbes never saw Mean Joe Greene or Dick Butkus, but he had some vivid things to say about hard-nosed aspects of the game. The football Stubbes described was apparently an early version of rugby, even though rugby was not supposed to have been invented until 1823 when a chap named William Webb Ellis picked up a ball in a soccer game and ran with it. Maybe Ellis, who has a monument to his memory on the Rugby School campus, is an English counterpart of Abner Doubleday, acclaimed for inventing a sport that already existed.
In any case, 250 years before Ellis, Stubbes wrote as follows (the spelling has been modernized): "For, as concerning football playing, I protest unto you, it may rather be called a friendly kind of a fight than a play or recreation, a bloody and murdering practice than a fellowly sport or pastime. For doth not everyone lie in wait for his adversary, seeking to overthrow him and to pitch him on his nose, though it be upon hard stones, in ditch or dale, in valley or hole, or what place soever it be he careth not, so he may have him down? And he that can serve the most of this fashion he is counted the only fellow, and who but he? So that by this means sometimes their necks are broken, sometimes their legs, sometimes their arms, sometimes one part thrust out of joint, sometimes another, sometimes their noses gush out with blood, sometimes their eyes start out of their heads, and sometimes hurt in one place, sometimes in another. But whosoever scapeth away, the best goeth not scot-free, but is either sore crushed and bruised, so as he dieth of it, or else scapeth very hardly. And no marvel, for they have sleights to meet one between two, to dash him against the heart with their elbows, to hit him under the short ribs with their gripped fists, and with their knees to catch him upon the hip and to pitch him on his neck, with a hundred such murderous devices, and hereof groweth envy, malice, rancor, choler, hatred, displeasure, enmity and what not else? And sometimes fighting, brawling, contention, quarrel picking, murder, homicide, and great effusion of blood, as experience daily teacheth. Is this murdering play now an exercise for the Sabbath day?"
What sayest thou, Pete Rozelle?
A collection of very tough athletes representing Josef's Restaurant of Hillside, Ill. won the Amateur Softball Association's national 16-inch slow-pitch tournament in Marshalltown, Iowa a few weeks ago, and the way they did it should shame major league baseball players who grumble about playing doubleheaders. Because this year's tournament was run off in three days instead of four and was delayed by rain to boot, games were played one after another like freight trains going by.
Josef's, which lost its first game in the double-elimination event, had to go into the loser's bracket and fight its way back up, and in so doing produced an almost unbelievable feat of endurance. Starting at noon on the final day, Josef's played seven games in 14 hours, won all seven and wrapped up the championship at two in the morning. Slow-pitch softball is free-swinging: Josef's averaged 15 weary hits and 11 exhausting runs a game in that marathon stretch, yet finished strong. The team's last two victories were by scores of 16-2 and 10-3.
At 2:15 a.m., after they had received their championship trophy, the players looked around, saw no one else to play and, according to Manager John Cannata, "went back to the motel and drank until 7:30 in the morning."
Environmentalists, who anger some people and delight others and who seem to lose more than they win, have a signal triumph to cheer about. For 10 years they have been fighting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about a dam the corps wanted to build in the gorge of the Red River in eastern Kentucky. The engineers said the dam was necessary for flood control and water supply. The environmentalists said it would destroy an area that was not only beautiful but the site of some of the rarest plant life and archeological treasures in the hemisphere.
The argument went back and forth, and the dam became a political issue. Former Governor Wendell Ford, a Democrat, was for it. When he left office to run for the U.S. Senate he soundly defeated the incumbent, Marlow Cook, a Republican who was against the dam. That made the environmentalists nervous. But the new governor, Julian Carroll, also a Democrat, has announced his opposition to it, and the Corps of Engineers has thrown in the shovel, saying it will set aside its plans rather than oppose the governor, who is a big favorite to be reelected this November.
THEY SAID IT
•Conrad Dobler, St. Louis Cardinal guard, on charges that he had bitten a rival player: "I can say with a clear conscience that I have never knowingly bit another football player. For one thing, I believe in good hygiene."
•John Unitas, on the suggestion that NFL rosters be returned to 47 from the present 43: "We carried 33 men when I broke in. They should go back to 33 or 35 and make some of these people play football instead of sitting on their backsides and collecting fat checks."
•Bronko Nagurski, disagreeing with Unitas: "There's a lot of people who like to play football, and his idea would put them out of jobs. I don't like to see anyone out of a job."