RANCOR IN THE RANKS
The bad feeling that has existed within and without the NFL Players Association since its 1974 preseason strike collapsed seemed about to erupt into internecine warfare last week.
"Fire Ed Garvey, that's my opinion," said a Houston player. "He's getting $57,000 a year and he's taking us for a ride."
"We don't have a players' union anymore," said another Oiler. "We've got an executive director's union."
September 12, 1976
"We're like a bunch of sheep being led by a wolf," said a Pittsburgh tackle.
The howl went up after the players' representatives, meeting in Chicago to consider a new contract proposal, wound up, at the urging of their executive director, Ed Garvey, voting to table it, thereby preventing the proposal from being voted upon by the entire membership.
The contract, which had been worked out by Miami Safety Dick Anderson, who is president of the NFLPA, and Dan Rooney, president of the Steelers and the negotiator for the owners, contained provisions for a 43-player team limit with a four-man taxi squad, a $7,000 raise in the minimum salary, the resumption of funding of the players' pension fund—which has been suspended for the two years that the players have been without a contract—and an increase of $3,000 in Super Bowl winners' shares.
The only fly in all that ointment was the fact that the proposal also included a major restriction of a player's freedom of movement. To get at the goodies, the players were going to have to cede back to the owners the significant victory they had won in 1975 when U.S. District Court Judge Earl Larson declared the Rozelle Rule illegal. The NFL has appealed the decision and the matter is still in the courts. Garvey feels that there should be no agreement until the "freedom issues" are settled.
But the fight has dragged on for two years now, and the troops are getting restless. A mood of conciliation, born of fear for the future, seems to be growing in the ranks, and Garvey is being seen by some as an obstructionist rather than a champion of players' rights against overweening owners.
One of the newly outraged, Jim Beirne, an eight-year Oiler veteran, said, "The owners made us an honest, earnest proposal.... It'll take a two-thirds vote to fire him [Garvey], and I'll bet we could get it."
Sometimes, watching Ilie Nastase doing his loathsome number, one wonders how much of it is real and how much show. At Forest Hills, during his three-set win over Hans Jurgen Pohmann of West Germany, and afterward in the dressing room, he proved once and for all that his piggery is genuine.
Some good may yet come of Nastase's boorishness. He makes it clear that the tennis umpire has to assume greater authority. The man on that high chair is supposed to control the match, and he is empowered, just as a baseball umpire is, to send a bad actor to the showers. But he is not doing it often enough. A Nastase can behave as he chooses, but he should know that antisocial antics are going to cost him dearly.
UNDERDOG OF THE WEEK
There ought to be a place in the Guinness Book of World Records somewhere for competitions between mismatched opponents—like the one last week between Mrs. Eleanor Youngly of Ventura, Calif. and her waterbed.
One morning at 5:30, Mrs. Youngly was hurled from her bed by an outsized wave that had built up inside the mattress. Not content simply to flip the lady to the floor, the waterbed, which rested on a raised platform, next flipped itself off its perch and pinned the outclassed and outmaneuvered Mrs. Youngly under 1,700 undulating pounds. The firemen who rescued her, "gasping but unhurt," said they had never responded to a waterbed emergency before.
All of which is to say that life is an invitation to a limerick.
Consider the saga of Eleanor
Whose waterbed suddenly fell on her
While she was unnerved,
Those who saw her observed
That the waterbed looked rather well on her
DOG DAY NIGHT
There has always been something about a streetlight, the old-fashioned neighborhood kind with a sturdy concrete post and a frantic halo of bugs on a summer night, that turns bored little boys into minor league vandals. Rocks, slingshots and BB guns have been the traditional missiles. Last week, however, police in Rocky Hill, Conn. discovered three children trying to shoot out the lights with blowguns.
Marketed as a toy, the blowgun is a five-foot-long aluminum tube that fires plastic balls tipped with an adjustable steel needle. It has a range of 200 feet and can penetrate half-inch-thick plywood, auto tires, small animals and, needless to say, other children.
The Rocky Hill lighting system survived the attack, but potential problems remain. Does the Constitution guarantee citizens the right to bear blowguns? Perhaps Rocky Hill should impose the familiar childhood curfew—everybody go home when the streetlights go on.
A fan who wants to see some of the best college football teams in the country without any hard traveling might do worse than to spend this fall in Indiana. Eight of SI's Top 20 teams (Sept. 6) will play in South Bend, West Lafayette and Bloomington, and Notre Dame (No. 18) will play five games at home. Here is the schedule:
Sept. 11 Pittsburgh (No. 10) at Notre Dame.
Sept. 18 Nebraska (No. 4) at Indiana
Sept. 25 USC (No. 5) at Purdue
Oct. 2 Miami of Ohio (No. 17) at Purdue
Oct. 23 Michigan (No. 1) at Indiana
Oct. 30 Ohio State (No. 6) at Indiana
Nov. 6 Michigan (No. 1) at Purdue
Nov. 13 Alabama (No. 2) at Notre Dame.
Notre Dame also is at home Sept. 18 (Purdue), Oct. 16 (Oregon) and Nov. 20 (Miami, Fla.).
But what, one asks, does one do with oneself on Oct. 9?
Well, one could watch the baseball playoffs on TV. But a real grid fan would choose from among Indiana Central at Butler, a game that could be a key battle in the Indiana Collegiate Conference, Northwestern at Indiana or Northern Illinois at Indiana State.
Robin Roberts, now a member of Baseball's Hall of Fame, told a story the other day to John Steadman of the Baltimore News American that would have been right up Bill Stern's oldtime radio alley, a story of how a stroll through the streets of New York changed the course of baseball history.
One afternoon in 1965 when Roberts was playing for the Orioles and they were in New York for a series with the Yankees, Roberts got tired of hanging around the hotel lobby reading the papers and decided to go for a walk. His walk took him to Fifth Avenue and past the office of the Commissioner of Baseball, then Ford Frick. Roberts decided to drop in.
"When I got there," he told Steadman, "I asked where the players' pension fund was kept on record. I saw a little room off to the side and one of the commissioner's own assistants handling our entire operation.
"And when I asked questions and did not get satisfactory answers, I started wondering if this was the way something so important to the players should be administered."
Roberts' wonderings led him to Dr. George Taylor, a University of Pennsylvania economist, whom he asked to recommend a full-time director for the Baseball Players' Association. Taylor came up with the name of a man who was a labor negotiator and assistant to the president of the United Steelworkers—this is the Bill Stern part—and that man, sports fans, was none other than Marvin Miller.
Except in a Bill Stern story, somebody usually had polio, and there was music for dramatic effect and then came a Colgate Shave-Cream commercial.
Though few of the Oakland Raiders have ever taken advantage of the fact, one merit of their training camp in Santa Rosa, Calif. is its proximity to Jack London State Historic Park, a memorial to the dashing turn-of-the-century author of Call of the Wild, White Fang and The Sea Wolf.
Recently, a newspaperman returning to camp after a visit to the park read to Raider Quarterback Ken Stabler a sample of London's prose as reproduced in a park brochure:
"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dryrot.
"I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."
"What does it mean to you?" asked the newspaperman.
"Throw deep," Stabler said.
People sometimes complain that in horse racing the really good colts are taken out of competition and sent to stud almost as soon as they gain a reputation. Look at Secretariat. Look at Wajima. Both were retired at three. The only horses that compete year after year are the geldings—Kelso, for instance, who was Horse of the Year five times and came out of a starting gate for the last time at nine, and Forego, who is going strong at six.
A current favorite of those who like older horses is Maxwell G., still racing in Chicago at the age of 15. Another such grizzled hero is 16-year-old Stonehenge, which recently broke a two-year slump by tottering home first in an 8‚Öì-furlong event at Commodore Downs in Pennsylvania. Track officials there claim Stonehenge is the oldest winner in thoroughbred history.
Now Maxwell G.'s supporters are trying to arrange a match race between the two graymanes. We hope the race comes off and, if there is a trophy, that it will be presented by George Blanda.
DOWN AND OUT, PART II
Last week, when we left the Seguin Toros of the Gulf States League, they had gone to sleep on the beach at Corpus Christi rather than submit to yet another 165-mile bus ride home to Seguin to save their owner, Dr. Damaso Oliva, the cost of food and lodging.
Now it turns out that Dr. Oliva had an even more ingenious method for reducing the overhead. He charged opposing owners for showing up. Terry Ferrell, owner of the Corpus Christi Sea Gulls, says that Oliva demanded from him and got $550 to produce his team for a scheduled game on Aug. 17.
The next week Oliva tried again, but this time Ferrell says he refused to pay. True to Oliva's word, the Toros failed to show and the game was forfeited.
Oliva told Ferrell that the money was to pay for the Toros' travel expenses for two extra road games and for the loss of two home dates, both schedule changes brought on by the collapse of another franchise.
Now Oliva is subject to at least $350 in league fines, and nobody is taking up a collection. On the other hand, there would not seem to be much future in fining a turnip.
THEY SAID IT
•Dave Bristol, Atlanta manager, when obliged to replace Andy Messersmith in the seventh inning of a 2-2 tie because of a blister: "He'd rather have eaten green flies than come out of that game."
•Jack Billingham, Cincinnati pitcher, after his fourth loss on national TV: "I'm so bad on national television my parents even turn me off."
•Lee Corso, Indiana University football coach: "There's a direct correlation between the hate mail you receive and the guy on the corner's ability to win or lose money."
•Bobby Murcer, on life as an outfielder with the non-contending San Francisco Giants: "I wish I could say something positive about the situation here. I don't mean that in a derogatory way."