YOUR FRANCHISE OR YOUR WIFE
This is an article from the July 24, 1978 issue
When the NFL owners get finished with their next piece of business, Jack Kent Cooke may lose part of his sports empire, but Joe Robbie may lose his wife. Oh, well, whatever happens it will be for the good of the old NFL.
The league is considering an amendment to its constitution that would prohibit not only owners but also their kin from investing in teams outside football. The reason for such a restriction, which no other sport places upon its owners, is, says NFL Executive Director Don Weiss, "to ensure that our owners direct their interests and energies into stabilizing and maintaining the growth of their franchise and the NFL. We feel they should make a choice. If they want to be involved with the NFL, it must be a 100% involvement, without any diversions or distractions."
The league's provincial "no outside ownership" rule has been in effect for 10 years, though it has gone unenforced. If this formal amendment is approved, and the Los Angeles Times reports that 24 of the 28 teams are in favor of it, Cooke (Redskins), who also owns the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings, and Lamar Hunt (Chiefs), who is a part owner of the Dallas Tornado and the Chicago Bulls, will have to choose: us or them.
That is a reasonable choice. But what about Robbie (Dolphins) and Ed DeBartolo Jr. (49ers)? DeBartolo's father owns hockey's Pittsburgh Penguins, and Robbie's wife has an interest in soccer's Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Does the NFL consider itself more sacred than the American family? Do "diversions and distractions" include fathers and wives? Would DeBartolo disown his father to keep his team?
Said DeBartolo Jr., "No comment. We're studying it."
SECOND TIME AROUND
A year ago when the first offspring of Triple Crown winner Secretariat got to the races they became the most closely watched group of 2-year-olds in history. But although many had been sold at auction for extravagant prices—one for as much as $1.5 million—once they got into starting gates they failed to live up to expectations. Because Secretariat himself had been so precocious, winning four races by late August of his first year, the supposition was that his get would win race after race. However, no son or daughter of Secretariat won a race in this country until Sacrebleu in December, and by the end of the year his nine runners had only two wins and $18,221 in purses among them.
Secretariat's second crop is composed of horses of a different color. In recent weeks Terlingua, a strapping filly, has won her first two races, the $44,800 Nursery Stakes and the $97,475 Hollywood Lassie, both at Hollywood Park. And last Friday at Belmont Park, trainer LeRoy Jolley, who handled both Foolish Pleasure and Honest Pleasure, sent out General Assembly, another Secretariat 2-year-old, who won his first race handsomely.
Indeed, there could be a similarity between Secretariat and Mill Reef, one of the best European runners of recent years. Mill Reefs first crop was highly priced, carefully watched—and fizzled. His second crop is racing now, and in recent weeks his son Acamas won the French Derby and his son Shirley Heights the English and Irish Derbies.
When Tal Smith, general manager of the Houston Astros, learned that the Cincinnati Reds had five potential Hall of Famers in their lineup—Tom Seaver, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and George Foster—he said, "Five Hall of Famers! That's unbelievable!"
Actually, that total is neither unbelievable nor particularly unusual. According to Hollywood statistical buff Cam Cottrell, who fills his hours keeping track of such things, there have been 45 clubs with five or more players who made the Hall of Fame. Ten clubs had six Hall of Famers, six had seven and the 1930 New York Yankees had eight: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, Bill Dickey, Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt, Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez.
Nonetheless, the 1930 Yankees failed to win the pennant. The champs that year were the Philadelphia Athletics, who had only five Hall of Famers: Jimmie Foxx, Eddie Collins, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Grove.
Dr. Clive Arkle, a monocled 56-year-old surgeon in the Royal Naval Reserve, is more than a casual gun fancier; he is a former champion marksman. So he was understandably put out recently when a North Wales judge refused to allow him to renew his firearms certificate just because he favors a bit of a taste every now and then.
Into Judge Lloyd Jones' courtroom, Arkle hauled a bagful of trophies and badges he had won in three decades of competition, including the 1966 Wimbledon trophy, for which he hit 50 bull's-eyes in 50 attempts at 600 yards.
"I was drinking 30 pints of bitters a day," said Arkle. "And that is how I achieved these trophies."
"Are you suggesting that it is better from a medical point of view to be affected by alcohol in competition?" asked the astonished judge.
The good doctor claimed nothing less and insisted his trophies were evidence of that. "Alcohol tightens up the eyeball, keeps it more round, makes the vision better and relaxes you," said Arkle, who only wanted to shoot rabbits in his golden years.
Judge Jones would have none of it, and refused Arkle his license for "intemperate behavior and lack of competitive activity."
Great Britain's National Rifle Association, of which Arkle is a lifelong member, stood squarely behind the judge. "I see no difference between drink and driving and drink and shooting, except the latter is even more dangerous," said Air Commodore Arthur Riall, NRA secretary.
Said the disarmed Arkle with a shrug, "Some people take tranquilizers. I happen to drink a lot."
On July 11, the day Walter Poenisch turned 65, he got a birthday cake and a hug from Fidel Castro, jumped into the water off Havana and headed north on a trip he had been planning for 15 years. On July 13, at 4 a.m., he staggered ashore at Little Duck Key, Fla. No sooner had he collapsed from the 33½-hour, 125-mile ordeal, than a brouhaha arose over Poenisch's claim to have been the first to swim the distance, because Poenisch a) wore flippers, b) used a snorkel, c) admitted he rested on his boat for a total of 30 minutes and d) had no observers from the media along.
Although Poenisch's feat is remarkable for a person of any age, it is not strictly swimming—flippers alone enable one to go 1½ times faster than bare feet and with less effort—as Diana Nyad took pains to point out.
Nyad is the young woman who hopes to swim from Cuba to Miami on July 21. She will swim without flippers or a snorkel, which greatly facilitates breathing in the slightest chop, following the accepted practices for such undertakings. Most notable among these is that the swimmer not touch anything except water except while being fed, much less ride on a boat.
In attempting to discredit Poenisch's achievement, Nyad has referred to him as a cheat and very overweight. For his part, Poenisch, like most experts, feels that Nyad—who has never swum more than 67 miles and three times has failed to swim the English Channel—has no chance of completing her swim. Clutching a Cuban flag in one hand and an American flag in the other, Poenisch feebly whispered after his swim, "If she goes more than 30 miles, I'll give her everything I own, including my home and car."
UP THE CREEK WITH A PADDLE
Fritz Sprandel of Allentown, Pa., a 34-year-old former bartender and carpenter who last winter became the first person to cross the U.S. by snowmobile, is now trying to become the first to cross the country by canoe. Three weeks ago Sprandel launched his craft—a 15-foot plastic canoe fitted with a 2-hp outboard motor—at Astoria, Ore., where Lewis and Clark ended their trip. If all goes well, by the time he reaches New York City on Thanksgiving Day, he will have navigated nearly 8,000 miles of 13 rivers, two creeks and a canal, with only 10 miles of portage.
From Astoria, Sprandel is taking the Columbia to the Snake to the Missouri to the Mississippi. Then he will go up the Ohio to the Allegheny into Pennsylvania and New York. There he will hang a right on the Hudson and paddle straight down to the Statue of Liberty.
Why is Sprandel doing this? To cheer folks up, he says. To "give them something besides rape, murder and the other lousy things they read about every day."
LET'S MAKE A DEAL
All of you budding superstars who dream of becoming rich like O.J. and Dr. J (page 34) ought to face facts. The odds are infinitely against you. If you are smart, you will forget golf, tennis, football, or what have you, and become an agent. Look, last year's Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell signed a six-year $1.4 million contract with the Houston Oilers. That's big money. Campbell's agent, 26-year-old Mike Trope, got 10%. That's not bad. But while Campbell went out to run laps. Trope wrapped up another contract. And another. And another. And pretty soon he had contracts for 23 of the 25 players he represented in this year's NFL draft. Value: approximately $10,250,000. Even if Trope's take on an average contract is modestly estimated as 8%—he works out different deals for different players—his cut this year is $820,000.
Now, in the six years since he negotiated his first contract as a 20-year-old USC junior—$1 million for Nebraska Running Back Johnny Rodgers from the Montreal Alouettes—Trope has negotiated more than 120 contracts, including those of five Heisman winners and three runners-up. Total value: $30 million. For Trope, the $2.4 million takeout is not even the best part. The best part is, the more he earns for his clients, the more clients he earns, and his fortune just grows and grows. Which is important because, as Trope says, "Remember, I'm only 26, and a lot of people my age are just finding out what they want to do."
THE GREAT HOIST
Over the years, man has raised Cain, the roof and ticket prices, but nobody anywhere has ever raised a football stadium. (In Black Sunday, they tried to raze one, which is not quite the same thing.) Now it's been done.
In a project that was started immediately after the end of last season, Penn State jacked up its football stadium 12½ feet to install permanent concrete bleachers at field level, which increases the stadium's seating capacity from 56,000 to 76,700. Contractors divided the stadium into 10 sections, ranging in weight from 600,000 to 960,000 pounds. The press box, a svelte 500,000 pounds, was hoisted separately. Thirty-eight hydraulic jacks did the dirty work, but it took two weeks to set them in place for each lift.
"If we had added to the back of the old stadium, it would have moved the spectators further away from the field," explains Clarence V. Knudson, project engineer for enlarging the stadium. "We did consider lowering the field, but it is located in a limestone area and we might have run into caverns."
But the main reason for jacking up the stadium was, predictably, money. The operation cost Penn State about $4.6 million, which will be paid off in about four years from revenues received from the extra seats. The last major obstacle to the on-time completion of the great hoist was overcome last week when a temporary strike was settled and work was resumed installing the new seats. Said a school official, "We were going to be ready for that home opener if we'd had to raise the dead."
THEY SAID IT
•Robin Roberts, Hall of Fame pitcher, describing his greatest All-Star Game thrill: "When Mickey Mantle bunted with the wind blowing out in Crosley Field."
•Jim Bouton, minor league pitcher, on Bowie Kuhn: "Bowie is the best commissioner in baseball today."