When Chuck Noll, the Pittsburgh Steeler head coach, accused the Oakland Raiders of brutality above and beyond the call of duty in the Raiders' 31-28 win over the Steelers a couple of Sundays ago, he sounded a bit like a member of the high command of one belligerent army accusing the enemy of atrocities. As any combat infantryman can attest, instances of extreme brutality and cruelty occur on both sides in any war. The same thing can be said of football, particularly in the NFL (ask the Dallas Cowboys their opinion of the Steelers), where the rules of the game have been altered so much over the years that hand-to-hand combat—what word describes it better?—is an accepted and highly praised part of the action.
The phrase "makes the hit"—echoing the mobster's term for murder—is much in vogue. Implosive contact, with the implied promise of caved-in ribs, gut, head, legs or whatever, is one of the most attractive features of the game, for some spectators. Listen to Howard Cosell bleat with ill-concealed excitement after a defensive lineman has coldcocked a quarterback, or a defensive back has all but destroyed a wide receiver. Brutal contact is one thing pro football is selling; it's what Noll teaches his players to execute with vigor and efficiency; and if the Raiders exceeded the letter of pro football's strange law in beating the Steelers, Noll was only reaping the whirlwind.
September 26, 1976
Joe Paterno, the Penn State football coach, says a so-called "Super Football Conference," an overall governing body for the top college teams in the country, is going to be a reality in the near future. The NCAA, which classifies football-playing colleges into three divisions, tried vainly this past year to split Division I into two groups, one consisting of the six or seven dozen schools that think of themselves as really big-time in football, the other including those at a somewhat more modest level of competitive ambition. The plan collapsed when more and more of the presumably modest schools opted for Division I.
Nonetheless, says Paterno, the true Division I teams must be allowed to organize themselves. "There are about 75 or 76 schools that are trying to get together," he says. "I hope it can be done within the framework of the NCAA, but if not, it will happen outside that organization."
Paterno feels that right now the NCAA has far too many rules and regulations, many of them pointless, many of them unenforceable. "We've got a rule book that thick," he says, holding thumb and forefinger an inch and a half apart. "No one understands most of the rules, so they have to call the NCAA for an interpretation. They must have two or three guys at the NCAA office just to answer the phone and clarify rules.
"It isn't necessary. I think a new type of structure would do a better job—simplify the rules and have honest ones that we can enforce."
ROOT OF IT ALL
Basically, the super conference that Paterno is talking about is concerned with money, big-time football money. A press release from the Orange Bowl Committee, which is already talking up its Jan. 1. 1977 game, says the 11 bowls that climaxed college football last season paid the 22 teams involved (or their conferences) a total of $9.8 million—an average of nearly half a million dollars each. And the Orange Bowl people claim that because of a renegotiated, highly lucrative TV contract, their game could pay the participating teams close to $1 million each next winter.
That's a rather large pot. Obviously, the men being dealt cards at football's big table don't want people they consider to be kibitzers making up the rules of the game.
Conservationists may protest the gesture, but Canadian fur interests scored a promotional coup during the Canada Cup hockey extravaganza (page 48) by giving fur hats to all the players on each team. The hats, which would retail at about $150 each, were fashioned of different fur for each country. No one could say if there was a particular significance in the choice of fur, but it went this way: Canada, beaver; Czechoslovakia, raccoon; Finland, muskrat; Soviet Union, otter; Sweden, coyote; U.S.A., marten.
HEY, GETCHA COLD WINE
California, which has more people, more vineyards and more big-league baseball and football teams than any other state, has decided to parlay these elements. A state law, effective next year, permits the sale of wine by the glass at professional sporting events in stadiums with a capacity of 40,000 or more. While this means that folks watching the auto races at Ontario Speedway can call for a nice dry Chablis as the cars zoom by, the new law is really aimed at football and baseball crowds. It was the brainchild of Bob Lurie, co-owner of the San Francisco Giants, who plies the press with wine at pre-game meals. The bill was sponsored by San Francisco Assemblyman Willie Brown, locally famous for his classy lifestyle, and was pushed hard by Guild Wineries, one of the biggest of California wine makers. A Guild spokesman says, "We have nothing against beer at ball games. There are simply some people who don't lean toward it. We would like to provide an alternative."
Wine is the big alternative in the Golden State. Americans in backward, non-California parts of the country consume about 2.7 gallons of wine a year per adult. The average Californian knocks off more than 4½ gallons. Now he can quaff it at his stadium seat or at concession stands from elegant plastic cups.
About the only severe criticism of the legislation comes from people pained by the really terrific jokes that have arisen—a fan sending his wine back because it doesn't complement the hot dog and sauerkraut; a sommelier leaning unctuously toward a fan and murmuring, "I think you'll find this Cabernet Sauvignon an amusing little—wow, did you see that catch!"
Now that the professional track tour has been canceled, partly because some top athletes can earn richer prizes as amateurs (SCORECARD, Sept. 6), a somewhat sad and plaintive note is being sounded by the erstwhile stars of the professional circuit. They want their amateur standing back.
"We're up against the wall with pro track no longer operating," says John Smith, the world-record holder in the 440. "I have to look out for myself, and I'm doing that by trying to get back into amateur track. We'll do anything the International Amateur Athletic Federation wants, including giving back the money we made as pros."
Burly, outspoken Brian Oldfield, the best shotputter in the world, says, "We'll probably have to get our hands spanked a little for being naughty—that is, financially. We'll have to find a way to pay back the money we made. I'll need a sponsor to pay back my money."
The athletes sought out Frank Shorter, the marathon runner, for legal advice. Shorter suggested that they ask the AAU to present their case to the IAAF at its meeting in Holland in November. "This is all still in the talking stage," Shorter says. "We'll try to be as delicate and self-effacing as possible. I've talked to the AAU, and it has not been a terribly antagonistic situation. If everybody stays calm, I think everything will work out."
Ollan Cassell, executive director of the AAU, has made no firm comment, but reports are that he is sympathetic to the plight of the professionals.
"We're athletes," says Smith. "If we can't compete, we're at a loss. I hope the IAAF has the heart to let us back in."
As a rule, baseball managers are good at obfuscating when they are asked a tough question by the working press. Not exactly lying, you understand, but double-talking a little, shifting emphasis, changing the subject, doing anything to avoid a direct answer.
Not so Paul Richards, the leathery old manager Bill Veeck dragged out of retirement last winter to run the Chicago White Sox. Richards has not had too much success in the won-lost column this season, but his candor has been delightful. In a recent game against the Kansas City Royals, when Chicago Outfielder Ralph Garr tried to score from first base on a double and was thrown out by a mile at home plate, a difference of opinion arose between Garr and Third Base Coach Jim Busby. "I was holding him up," said Busby, meaning he had signaled Garr to stop at third. "He was sending me," Garr protested. When reporters asked Richards about the play, the manager disdained the usual gambit of covering for both coach and player, and said calmly, "Looked to me as though Busby was sending him. It was a flat mistake. Garr didn't have a chance."
In that same game, Richards started a rookie pitcher named Larry Monroe, a local boy who had 20 relatives and friends watching his debut as a starter. Monroe pitched well enough, giving up a run on a George Brett triple in the first inning but settling down in the second. Then Richards, who had started the young righthander as a ploy to get the Royals to load their lineup with left-handed batters, abruptly took the highly touted rookie out of the game and replaced him with a lefty. Later, the reporters asked about this surprising move. "I just didn't want to send him back out there again," Richards explained. "Brett and John Mayberry might have killed him the second time around."
You got your ears on, CBers? According to Donald L. Lucas, who is director of the Institute for Telecommunications Sciences, people with CB radios have about two years of fun left before things begin to go haywire. Beginning in 1978, says Lucas, long-range interference from increased solar activity—commonly referred to as sunspots—will render CB radios "nearly useless for their intended purposes," and the difficulty could last five or six years. He says the solar activity will cause CB signals to ricochet back to earth many miles from their source. "You can imagine," he says, "the mess caused by 20 million signals bouncing around the country at random."
But don't fret, Old Buddy, things may not become as staticky and confused as Lucas predicts. The sun's interference with electronic communication recurs in 11-year cycles, which means that veteran CBers have been through it before—and, they claim, with only minor or sporadic difficulty. Eugene Parker, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago, says predictions of a wipeout are greatly exaggerated. "Worrying about sunspots is like worrying about a full moon," he declares. "CBers will get through this next splurge with no trouble at all."
The $1-billion CB industry, which is waiting to cash in like never before when the new 40-channel sets (up from the current 23-channel models) become available after Jan. 1, is understandably nervous about pessimistic talk that could hurt sales. The industry insists that the added channels and "new technology" will help beat the sunspots, and that even if your CB range is cut in half during peak interference, you'll still be able to modulate with most of your trucker friends.
COFFEE, TEA OR SWEAT
Passengers on Lufthansa 747 and DC-10 flights are now able to tune headsets to a bilingual (English-German) channel and, without leaving their seats, take part in a 30-minute program of isometric exercise set to music.
Olympic Airways introduced dancing in the aisles. Lufthansa offers sweating in place.
THEY SAID IT
•Dick Vermeil, new coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, when asked what worried him most about his team: "My coaching."
•Bum Phillips, Houston Oiler coach, after passing a physical exam: "If I drop dead tomorrow, at least I'll know I died in good health."