HOME TO ROOST
This is an article from the March 14, 1977 issue
George Allen's approach to his personnel needs has always been, "The future is now." He has ignored the college draft in favor of acquiring older, experienced players, and traded away future draft choices with abandon to get them. The Redskins have not had a first-round pick since they selected Jim (Yazoo) Smith of Oregon in 1967. They have no choices left in the first three rounds for 1977 and 1978, and for the following two years, they have only three altogether. His critics say Allen has mortgaged the Redskins' future. Allen has always responded by pointing to success.
But starting now, Allen is going to have to deal with a future of his own making. It all has to do with the modified version of the Rozelle Rule that is part of the new NFL contract. To review, the original rule provided that when a club signed a free agent—one who had played out his option—it had to compensate his former club. If the teams could not agree upon the compensation, Pete Rozelle imposed one.
The modification of the rule in the new contract was designed to eliminate Rozelle's role. From now on, compensation is to be in the form of predetermined choices in the current year's draft. If a team offers a free agent an annual salary of $50,000 to $65,000, it must compensate his former team with a third-round draft choice; $65,000 to $75,000, with a second; $75,000 to $125,000, a first; $125,000 to $200,000, a first and a second; and more than $200,000, a first in two consecutive years.
Allen says, "Rules and changes don't affect success. The winners will still win and the losers will still lose. The new agreement is not going to change my philosophy or my program one bit."
Perhaps. But in order to deal for his favorite kind of player, a free agent like Charles Young, Harold Jackson, Ron Jaworski or Brad Van Pelt, Allen must have draft choices in hand—first-round draft choices, not fourth, 10th, 11th and 12th, which are all he has right now for the 1977 draft in May. George Allen may have dealt himself right out of the game.
A SPECIAL GENIUS
A big spool of red tape for bureaucratic creativity goes this week to the NCAA, which announced, in a letter to the College Sports Information Directors of America, that it has just initiated a "Committee on Committees subcommittee."
THE LATEST SHOW
Seven years ago Wilfrid Sheed reviewed for SI a baseball documentary called The Glory of Their Times. He called it "one of the best sports documentaries yet compiled," but hardly anybody except a few critics like Sheed ever got to see it. The film, inspired by Lawrence S. Ritter's 1966 book of the same name and produced by Bud Greenspan, who did the recent 10-part series on the Olympics, was intended for television. It is an hour-long compilation of rare motion-picture footage, still photographs and newspaper headlines accompanied by recorded recollections of old-time players like Fred Snodgrass and Rube Marquard and public figures like William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson. As narrator Alexander Scourby says at the start, "It is the story of what it was like and how it felt to be a baseball player at the turn of the century."
The Glory of Their Times is a low-keyed, tasteful and edifying evocation of a special period of American history and the TV networks would have nothing to do with it—not without the addition of 1) Joe Garagiola, 2) Take Me Out to the Ball Game and 3) Babe Ruth's 714th home run for the 714th time. Said Greenspan in 1969, "I knew I was in trouble when they said they wished it was in color."
But the story has a happy ending after all. Public Broadcasting is showing The Glory of Their Times on the PBS network March 6 through 22. We are finally getting to see Fred Merkle's bonehead play in the 1908 Series and Christy Mathewson throwing his celebrated fadeaway. Listen closely and you can hear Rube Marquard chuckling and saying, "Muggsy McGraw couldn't lick a stamp."
It was worth the wait.
FIT TO BE TIED
From the moment it became clear that Grand Forks Central and Grand Forks Red River were going to meet in the finals of the North Dakota state high school hockey tournament, everybody knew the game was going to be a shoot-out. The schools are the only two in town and, naturally, bitter rivals with many scores to settle. Going in, Central's record was 14-10-1; Red River's was 18-5-1; and Central had won two of the three times they had met.
The tournament game began at 8:32 p.m. Saturday in front of a packed house. At 12:31 a.m. Sunday—almost four hours and eight overtimes later—with the score still 1-1, the North Dakota High School Activities Association, "in consideration of the welfare of the players," ruled the game and the championship a draw, and with the still full house cheering wildly, once-bitter rivals fell into each other's arms exhausted and laughing.
BEGINNING OF THE END
Dr. John B. Anderson was the head physician on the U.S. Olympic Committee for the Montreal Games. In an article in Frontiers, the quarterly magazine of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, he predicts that though 1984 will come, the 1984 Olympics will not. "I cannot but wonder if we are creating a medical Olympic Games which will probably lead to their demise," he writes.
Anderson contends that the increase in sophistication of sex manipulation through testosterone injections between the 1972 and 1976 Olympics outstripped the capabilities of testing methods, and that the same situation will continue into 1980.
"The cost of sex testing is astronomical," Anderson writes. "Between $2 million and $3 million per Olympiad. Each potential contestant must be screened at a cost of $15; if any questions arise, the further tests cost $50 to $75."
Speaking of female swimmers and gymnasts, Anderson says, "The extent of masculinizing effects can be precisely controlled through sex-hormone manipulation. Thus a female athlete can be biologically engineered for her specialty. This is apparently being done in some Eastern bloc nations." To Anderson the next logical step is gene manipulation.
In the end, though, he is an optimist. He thinks that in 1980 the world in general and athletes in particular are going to look around, size things up and say, enough is enough—and that will be the end of the Olympics.
Maybe. But athletes, coaches and nations, in particular, don't like to lose. A congress of West German sports physicians met in Freiburg last October and condoned the limited use of anabolic steroids. The USOC has established a panel of medical and sports experts to study, among other topics, the uses and effects of the steroids. The panel has not committed itself one way or the other, but a trend spotter would say the U.S. is headed in the same direction as the West Germans.
The end of the Olympics is predicted as often these days as the death of the theater, but for better or worse, every few years there's another A Chorus Line and another Olympics.
LIFE ON THE BACK BURNER
Conn Smythe, the retired owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs (why isn't it Leaves?), once said, "Hockey must be a great game to survive the people who run it."
For years the NHL survived its leadership very well. But lately the league is beset with declining attendance, revenue, interest and prospects for a network TV contract.
There is no single solution to hockey's problems, but a dynamo of a new league president wouldn't hurt, and Clarence Campbell would be first in line to welcome him. Campbell is 71 years old, has been the president of the NHL for 31 years and has been trying to retire since 1973. But the committee of four owners that named itself to search for a replacement for Campbell has not come up with a single candidate of note in a year of deliberation.
Meanwhile, Campbell works on. Last week he spent a day in the league's New York office, listening to opposing views in the matter of Carol Vadnais (N.Y. Rangers) swinging sticks at Garry Howatt (N.Y. Islanders) and Orest Kindrachuk (Philadelphia). With disaster looming on all sides—only about a third of the 18 NHL teams will break even this year—Campbell's entire day was devoted to handing down a five-game suspension to Vadnais.
Campbell has served the NHL long and well. Now he should be accorded the respect due an elder statesman and hockey's burdens should pass to younger, stronger shoulders.
FALL FROM RICHES
Also suspended last week was Jockey Willie Shoemaker, who got his five-day sentence from the Santa Anita stewards for permitting his mount, Rise To Riches, to drift out and cause interference. After 26 years, 30,183 rides and who knows how many suspensions, Shoemaker takes such setbacks in stride.
This setdown, however, could not have come at a worse time. Shoe had to miss Saturday's $150,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields, the $273,550 Santa Anita Handicap on Sunday (in which he was to ride heavily favored King Pellinore), Monday's split Florida Derby at Gulfstream, worth $233,000, and the opening of Hialeah. No one could remember a greater potential loss of earnings for a jockey. The big losers, though, are the owners who thought they had hired the best rider in the business.
The University of Maryland at Baltimore County defeated Loyola College of Baltimore recently in a dual wrestling meet, 51 to -1. To come up with that rare score Loyola had to lose all 10 of its matches and one argument with the referee.
Last week NBC-TV ran an ad in The New York Times announcing its weekend coverage of the Florida Citrus Open. It was illustrated by a picture of Jack Nicklaus in full swing. Nicklaus was not entered in the Citrus; in fact, he never plays the Citrus anymore. A few weeks earlier, CBS ran a brief filmed commercial previewing its telecast of the Phoenix Open. Prominent in the promo was a film clip of the Nicklaus swing. Nicklaus does not play Phoenix, either; the clip was from last year's Masters.
What is regrettable about these incidents, apart from the question of ethics, is that viewers who tune in to see the world's greatest golfer and discover he is not entered are more likely to wind up annoyed with Nicklaus than ticked off at the network hucksters.
THEY SAID IT
•Gary Player, golfer and rancher: "I have six kids and 100 quarter horses to feed, and I'm not sure which group eats the most."
•Rik Jones, pitching prospect for the Seattle Mariners, on spring training: "Heck, putting on a uniform, jumping around in the dirt and getting paid for it just ain't work."
•Julius Erving, when Red Auerbach observed that he keeps one eye on the basket and one eye on his man: "I keep both eyes on my man. The basket hasn't moved on me yet."
•Mack Calvin, Denver guard who is with his eighth team in eight pro seasons: "I feel like a boll weevil, always looking for a home."
•Frank Lane, baseball scout, on the trade of Rick Monday from the Cubs to the Dodgers: "Monday got about $125,000 from the Cubs last season and struck out 125 times. He got paid $1,000 a strikeout. This year he'll probably get $250,000 from the Dodgers, which means he's gotten a raise to $2,000 a strikeout."
•Calvin Murphy, Houston guard, on sinking free throws in front of hostile crowds: "The most beautiful sight in the world is that ball fading through the net, then the sudden silence. It's like taking on 15,000 people at once and beating them all."