So there I am, a loyal fan, crammed into a rock-hard seat, nursing my econo-size bucket o' suds, which is a lukewarm gyp at any price, and I'm feeling nasty. I mean, I've just fought my way through a traffic jam for the privilege of paying three bucks to park within 10 miles of the stadium. Then, with my heart still pounding from climbing up to the Himalayan upper deck, here's this surly usher dressed like Captain Kangaroo trying to hustle me for a tip for brushing my seat with a dirty rag. "Get lost," I tell him. "Better you should go dust off all those poor slobs who've been waiting in line since last season to get into the men's room."
This is an article from the July 31, 1978 issue
Anyway, no sooner do I wedge myself into place than Boom Boom Harris, a free-agent tourist posing as a cleanup hitter, taps one back to the mound and then sort of ambles out of the batter's box. So up I jump, surprising myself at how loud I'm shouting. "What's the matter, Boom Boom?" I scream. "Your wallet so heavy you can't run to first? "
With that, the guy sitting next to me leans over and, soft and sensible like, starts explaining how the owner has promised to buy the city a winning team and Boom Boom just needs time to adjust and....
"Adjust!" I yell, spilling my suds all over myself. "Hey, I'm the one having trouble adjusting to shelling out my hard-earned dough to watch some overpaid prima donna do the hucklebuck on the base paths." Understand, I'm really steamed, not at the guy sitting next to me but at the whole buck-hungry sports scene. "Come off it," I say to him. "You sound like the type of lame-brain who thinks professional basketball players deserve a zillion dollars because they happen to be seven feet tall. Listen, if God gave me a 20-inch neck, I'd chase a football around on a fall afternoon, too, but I wouldn't expect the fans to go into hock so I could spend the rest of the year making underwear ads and counting my money by a swimming pool somewhere.
"And please spare me the commercials for the big-hearted owners. The only time those gougers slink out of their tax shelters is to jack up the price of tickets and stuff more sawdust into the lukewarm hot dogs. Face it, fella, the owners and players are milking the fans dry. I mean, just look at this new $60-million cheesecake they call Memorial Stadium. The only things it's a memorial to are all the tax dollars I've forked over paying for a joint where the escalators work about as often as the cleanup crews. Adjust? You've got to be kidding. Hell, I say revolt! Down with the greed breed! Run the bums out of town! Storm the gates and...."
Well, anyway, right about then I notice that the guy in the next seat is looking at me kind of funny, and very slowly he gets up and sneaks away and sits in another section of the stands. C'mon, tell me the truth, Doc, I've got a legit beef, right? I mean, there's nothing wrong with me, is there?
Sports nuts who seek understanding on a psychiatrist's couch may be rare. Yet there is enough gripe-therapy going on elsewhere that it seems impossible for three fans to get together for a few beers without it turning into a group encounter. There is no evading the complaints about the money mania in professional sports. What displeasures are not voiced in the upper decks of the land are being aired in bars and barbershops, on call-in radio shows and in letters to the editor. While no one seems ready to abduct Bowie Kuhn, feelings more often than not run deep.
Take the case of Warren N. Kellogg of Exeter, N.H. He is 68 and has been a fan of Boston's pro teams ever since his father took him to Fenway Park to see Babe Ruth pitch. He was there when the Bruins played their first hockey game in 1924. And he avidly supported both the Celtics and Patriots through their formative years and beyond. But no longer does he make the 100-mile round trip to Boston to root for the home team. "I have had it with pro sports," he says. "I have contributed my last nickel to the greed of players and owners."
Not only has Kellogg dropped out, but he has also written a pamphlet that chronicles the disenchantment of a real-life superfan. Like Thoreau, another balky New Englander who railed against the excesses of his day, he is not one to mince words. His social protest is titled To Hell With Pro Sports.
Kellogg's alienation began to intensify when the Patriots joined the NFL players' strike in the middle of the 1975 recession. He wrote, "Here they were on a minimum salary of $32,000—that's minimum—in a country where the unemployment rate was running at 10%. It was disgusting." Then came the "single most indefensible and despicable piece of money grubbing ever visited on the people of New England by a franchise owner." Kellogg is referring to the Jacobs brothers, owners of the Bruins and Boston Garden, and their revamping of the second balcony at the Garden "so that a few wealthy people, corporations and politicians could have some bragging rights in their fancy special boxes. And who was dispossessed? People who had supported the franchise for generations." His final word on the brothers Jacobs—"Just so long as they own the Bruins, I'm taking a vacation."
Contract squabbles among the Red Sox and the whining of the Celtics also eroded Kellogg's affections. Noting his ticket costs had nearly doubled since 1970, he wrote, "So where do these vulturish agents and players get off telling me they have at last wrung some concessions from the owners. All they've wrung is the pocketbooks of the fans."
That conviction led to the "last and final straw," a small point in the NFL players' agreement with management that sent Kellogg "screaming around the house until my wife told me she couldn't do anything about it, and would I please shut up. I found that I would now have to pay my proportionate share for having the players' dental work done. Well, I'll be damned if I will. With all the money...athletes have, they are fully capable of paying for their own dentists.
"It isn't that I can't still get up the cash to attend events," Kellogg says. "It has now become a case of, I refuse." He regrets missing the opportunity of taking his two grandsons to the games, saying, "Perhaps pro sports can afford this sort of attrition, but I wonder."
So does one of the luminaries out of the Celtic past. "There is an undercurrent of discontent among fans," says Bob Cousy, now a commentator for Celtic telecasts. "I see a massive turnoff everywhere in the country."
But wait. Cousy is in foul trouble on that wordplay, just as team owners and often the press have been in depicting the fan as about to abandon his favorite games because of annoyance over high player salaries, strikes and other manifestations of the overemphasis on money in sports. To imply that discontent has led to widespread turnoff is not only presumptuous, it is also incorrect. There are complaints aplenty and doomsayers galore, but so far they are a cause in search of an effect. Though the superfan on the couch and Kellogg may represent the popular image of fans, they are exceptions. They are practitioners of the one-man stand, not leaders of a revolt of the masses. The fact that their call for rebellion goes unanswered points up the paradox of the modern fan: unrest without movement. In short, as sports attendance figures and TV ratings for the past decade suggest, there may be disgruntlement, but there is absolutely no evidence of mass turnoff. On the contrary, despite all their supposed irritation over the issue of money in sports, fans seem more turned on to the pro games than ever:
In fact, the findings of a nationwide poll of fans conducted for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED by Yankelovich, Skelly and White, Inc., the noted public opinion firm, indicate that the fans are more in a mood to revel than rebel.
"It seems as though nothing can deter American sports fans from their preoccupation with professional sports or from their enthusiasm for it—not even expressed complaints about the commercialization that has occurred, the big salaries paid to the players, the motivations of the owners or the increase in unnecessary violence," the Yankelovich study says. "Instead, sports fans...state unequivocally that, compared to five years ago, they are enjoying professional sports even more now, are rooting harder than ever for their favorite teams, and are more enthusiastic about the star players than they were in the past."
Clearly the species sports fan is not easily categorized. There is even some question about his lineage: "fan n (prob. short for fanatic) 1: an enthusiastic devotee," says Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. It is the "prob." that bothers Peter Tamony, an etymologist who insists that the noun is derived from "fancier" or "the fancy," as in horse fancier or those who fancied a game or were the fancy. If so, the occasional outbursts of violence on the part of fans belie their genteel origin. Yet the dichotomy is apt, for the modern fan is indeed a curious hybrid, a wild-eyed connoisseur who is just as likely to savor the morning box scores as he is to rage through a night of rowdyism in the stands.
In his natural habitat, whether he is lost among the roaring thousands or crouched in the mesmerizing glow of his TV set, the fan is a creature wholly removed from the outside world. He is involved on many levels, the first and most apparent being what one psychologist describes as a "twin-pronged compulsive drive for escapism and catharsis." In the idiom of the upper deck, that translates into "a chance both to get away from it all and to blow off a little steam."
No one better understands this than Bill Veeck, himself one of the most incurable enthusiasts ever to touch off an exploding scoreboard. Upon resodding Comiskey Park two years ago, he said, "There's too much of the very sterility of steel and concrete and macadam that people are trying to escape from. That's why I'm taking the artificial turf out and planting grass."
Escape artists all, fans seem willing to go to any lengths to leave behind their workaday concerns. In Baltimore the unemployed have been known to stand in line to sell their blood to buy Colt tickets. "We need to get away from the frightening complexities of existence," says Veeck. "Baseball is an island of surety in a changing world." Once marooned, fans are equally fervent in their resistance to outside intrusions, especially if they smack of commerce. But manifestations of commercialism are not easy to avoid, particularly nowadays when spectators are beset by the notion that somehow they are watching not a promising forward but a $3-million, no-cut tax exemption. "Fans have always known that professional sports are a business," says one sociologist. "It's just that now they are constantly being reminded of that rude fact and they don't like it."
So they yell a little louder perhaps, exercising the second tine of their twin-pronged drive. And why not? As Veeck notes, "A ball park is one of the last places on earth where a man can stand up and yell anything he wants to!" Not that anyone takes the fans' screams seriously, least of all the screamers themselves. If anyone did, there would be mass arrests nightly for threats on the umpire's life. Still, the invective has gotten more pointed, as Dave Kingman learned when, during his contract dispute with the New York Mets last season, his appearances at the plate were greeted by a sign reading: JUST ANOTHER GREEDY BUM.
"You banana! You dumb bunny!" is about as nasty as Stacy Lyle, an assistant vice-president of Chicago's Harris Trust and Savings Bank, gets. She describes her invective as "part of the fun." What is not a lot of laughs is fan unruliness, which she blames on "our way of life. People are under more stress, they're more wound up inside. Sports is an outlet, but fans go to Bear games and express rage. Fans throwing things at the players or refs is insanity. It probably all goes back to Dr. Spock and toilet training."
Or to the negotiating table. How much of the violence is a reaction to the growing materialism in sports is conjectural. However, there is no doubt that cynicism is filtering down to the Dr. Spock set. "It's not sport anymore," says one sixth-grader from Western Springs, Ill. "Whoever has the most money wins. They say, here's $2 million, play for us. The Yankees have all the money, so they win." In Oakland the wholesale reshuffling of the A's roster has left younger fans feeling abandoned, according to sports psychologist Dr. Thomas Tutko. "Kids need models they can look up to," he says. "Now that their favorite players have gone, these kids are very reluctant to identify with anybody in the sports world because tomorrow they may be playing against you. Kids have said to me, 'Why did they leave? Don't they like us?' We are modeling greed, egotism, self-centeredness. We're modeling things that potentially threaten the fiber of this country. There's no such thing as loyalty to anybody."
If there is a single trait that almost every modern sports fan has, it is his insularity. "We're in the Stone Age of consumerism in sports," says Peter Gruenstein, executive director of F.A.N.S. (Fight to Advance the Nation's Sports). "There's little recognition of fans as consumers and little understanding of the business of sports."
The fans seem to like their stones, the better for casting at the glass houses of those who would remind them that the real name of the game is Moneyball. If not bliss, the fans suggest, ignorance of the dollar side of pro games is just the ticket for escaping to the sporting side. In truth, the fan is very much aware of what the money changers are up to—the same thing they are up to everywhere else—but he simply does not care to know the messy details. It tends to interfere with his knack for escaping from the outside world the moment the opening whistle is blown.
That is one part of the profile of the modern fan that is clearly depicted in the Yankelovich survey. When asked if they would be interested in joining a consumer advocate group that would give them some say in the operation of the teams, a resounding 85% of the respondents said no. Partly that is because the fans have always known that they possess the power to express their displeasure by the simple act of staying home.
On the assumption that fans want to know what is going on, the media have been reporting the money issue almost as if it were a game itself. According to Yankelovich, however, the fans not only pay little heed to all the money noise but also tend to be annoyed by it. By a lopsided margin of 78% to 22%, the poll shows that fans are not interested in knowing the details of contract negotiations and players' salaries. "I go to sports events to have fun, a pleasant diversion," explains Peter Hasson, a Seattle greengrocer. "I don't want to read about conflicts. I don't need more headaches. I don't care what the players make. I don't know why their salaries are made public. I don't want them to know what I make, so why should I know their salaries?"
Why? Because sports promoters now regard the big numbers as neon come-ons and the sports pages as their marquees: THOMPSON INKS RECORD $4 MILLION PACT! SAYS HE'S 'HAPPY'. It is but one more manifestation of the misconception in some quarters that sports are merely show biz. It is a thesis held in high regard by owners, players and, of course, Howard Cosell. Motor mouth in high gear, Cosell says, "Look, there is no damn way you can go up against Liz Taylor and Doris Day in prime-time TV and present sports as just sports or as religion. Sports aren't life and death. They're entertainment."
That approach may be why nearly half (46%) of the fans polled by Yankelovich protest that Cosell and his TV colleagues are hogging center stage and detracting from the play. Sports do not need guest stars. Unlike show biz, the drama is real, not Active. Each game is one of a kind; there are no reruns and the show is never held over. Ultimately, though, it is the special involvement of the fan that sets sports apart as "not merely interludes," according to one psychologist, "but the basic substratum of our intellectual and emotional lives."
That is a sweeping statement, but then no one has ever killed himself because the Rockettes were out of step. In 1974, after his wife forced him to turn off the ball game on TV and go to work, a Florida cab driver shot himself to death because he missed Henry Aaron's 715th home run. And last season a man was fatally shot in a Denver bar for playing the jukebox while a Bronco game was on TV. Amid speculation that an impartial jury could not be impaneled anywhere in the Rockies, one Bronco fan asked, "Why have a trial? That fellow committed suicide."
Of the high incidence of heart attacks in the stands, Dr. Harold Karpman, a Los Angeles cardiologist, says that the emotional stress of fans "may well be as great or greater than the physical effort put out by the athletes." Whatever else sports may represent, analysts who have studied their impact on fans agree that they are not show biz.
"Sports are far more serious than the dramatic arts," says Michael Novak, author of The Joy of Sports, "much closer to primal symbols, metaphors, and acts, much more ancient and more frightening. Sports are mysteries of youth and aging, perfect action and decay, fortune and misfortune, strategy and contingency. Sports are rituals concerning human survival on this planet: liturgical enactments of animal perfection and the struggles of the human spirit to prevail." Laverne & Shirley should live so long.
According to Yankelovich's national survey, nearly three out of four Americans (72%) classify themselves as sports fans, although the average or "interested" (47%) outnumber the "avid" (25%) by about two to one. They prefer professional sports (62%) to amateur (24%) by a wide margin, and slightly favor going to the ball park (46%) to watching on TV (41%). And they like football better than baseball, baseball better than basketball, basketball better than tennis, and tennis better than hockey, golf, soccer or any of the other sports.
That tennis has bounced ahead of hockey is, in part, the result of a trend that has made the sports widow an endangered species. Fandom has undergone a big sex change. Every day is not suddenly Ladies Day—among avid fans, the men still predominate (73% to 27%)—but among the average rooters, women have come a long way, baby, toward closing the gap (56% men to 44% women).
And women lead in recently engendered enthusiasm. They outstrip the men (28% to 7%) in terms of feeling more loyal to their teams than they did five years ago, and more females than males (25% to 1%) also get more excited about the star players than they did in 1973. "So many people say that the athletes are in the game for money," says Louise Williams, a legal secretary from Maple Shade, N.J., "but when you see a hard-fought game, when you see Tug McGraw jump up and down, I feel it can't be all money. It must be personal satisfaction." For some women, the attraction is not that mysterious. Maureen Chambers, a Northeastern freshman, gets a kick out of pro soccer because "the players are sooo cute." And, yes, she allows, "The games are fun to watch, too."
Overall, emotions about the modern athlete are mixed. A majority of fans feel that the players are smarter than they used to be (69% agree, 22% disagree, 9% not sure) but also greedier and more self-centered (67% to 26%); more colorful (68% to 25%) but also spoiled and pampered (58% to 33%). One common complaint is that the only thing a player will autograph these days is a no-cut contract. Upon being spurned at a Chicago baseball game, Michael Hammer, a sixth-grader, said, "I know they're busy, but the players should be friendlier. You ask them to sign an autograph, and they just walk away from you."
Players' rights are a complex and confusing issue. Most fans contend that the athlete should be able to play for any team he chooses (64% to 32%), and a slight majority (52% to 42%) even defend his right to renegotiate his contract after a good season. On the latter issue, there is division along socioeconomic lines, with lower-income fans expressing more approval of renegotiation (66%) than those in the upper-income group (44%). One respondent to the survey, a 30-year-old air-freight salesman, explains, "I'd squeeze more money out of my boss, too, if I could."
Despite their support of the new freedoms won by players, the fans contend (55% to 34%) that the free-agent commuter system is destroying players' loyalties to both the teams and the fans. And 66% of the rooters think the system will enable rich teams to buy all the best players and win more championships.
"Rights can go wrong sometimes," says Bob Stocker, 45, a Cincinnati bartender. "As in my business, it's all a question of the mix. Player freedom without a drop or two of restraint is like a martini without the vermouth—too potent."
Team owners might just as well retire their favorite props, the rags and the paupers' cups. By a commanding margin (61% to 28%), fans feel that the sports moguls are lying when they say that their teams are not making money. And not only do a majority of the ticket buyers agree that owners are greedy (52% to 38%) and take unfair advantage of tax breaks (55% to 21%), but also woe betide the owner who tries to move his team to another city without showing just cause. That at least is the message from the folks who pay the freight, the ones who are showing a growing resistance to management's ploy of forcing cities to grant teams special favors by threatening to pull up stakes. Sixty-two percent of fans concur that owners should be required to prove that they are making little or no money before they are allowed to move.
And presumably owners no longer will be able to lobby so effectively for communities to build them multitiered palaces to house their teams. Fans are also voters and taxpayers, and in those roles they seem more likely than ever to temper their fervor for sports with some of the concern that has stirred the taxpayers' revolt. While a few—9%—reserve judgment, a convincing majority—53% to 38%—objects to local governments using tax dollars to build stadiums and arenas, even to attract pro teams.
Fans are also wary of the motivations of the sports merchants. They believe that owners are in sports more for the publicity and recognition (50% agree to 41% disagree) than out of a sense of civic responsibility (41% to 45%). Even their most complimentary consensus, a 62% to 26% vote that owners are basically honest businessmen, is left-handed. "Owners have poor credibility about money matters, especially among less affluent and non-white fans," the Yankelovich survey says. "What it comes down to is that the image of the owners is pretty much like that of all businessmen—questionable."
Even so, the sports proprietors enjoy a better rep than their nemeses, the agents. "I hate agents," says Dan Ehrlich, a semi-retired real-estate broker who spends more than $1,000 a year on season tickets to pro games in Atlanta. "They're the bane of our existence, parasites living off the fat of the land. Somebody has to call their bluff to end their part in this charade." His fellow avid fans endorse the sentiment. Of those polled, 45% said that the salary negotiators have a bad influence on sports.
Agent Howard Slusher finds that "incredible" (100% to 0%). "I just don't understand why the agents aren't the white hats in the drama," he says. "In a general soap-opera format, I'd be a hero. I mean that. I stand up for the worker."
The fires of unionism no longer rage so brightly. More than that, fans are convinced that they are paying for the agents' negotiating skills. That is, 63% of the public buys the owner's oft-repeated line that higher salaries force him to raise ticket prices. "I think management is doing a fine job, they're trying hard," says Pearl Sandow, a retired government worker who has missed only one Atlanta baseball home game, minor leagues or majors, in 20 seasons. "I don't think we need sports agents. I'm afraid some of them have forgotten the fan. When they demand more, they're actually taking from the fans."
Despite all the carping about the high cost of cheering, when it comes to the acid test—anteing up the ticket money—the fans are more than willing. As avid fan Sandow points out, "If I thought I wasn't getting my money's worth, I'd stop going." Considering that she is a Braves' rooter, her words are testimony to the high tolerance of the fan.
In fact, compared to prices for movies, plays, concerts and the like, more fans feel that sports tickets are "reasonable" (50%) than "too high" (44%), and a few (3%) even rate them a "bargain." What would happen if prices went up 10%? Three out of four fans would continue to attend games. If the increase was 25%? More than half—56%—would still go.
Sure, says the majority (76% to 20%), there are now more personality conflicts in sports. Of course, there is more unnecessary violence on the field (68% to 31%) and more unruliness in the stands (58% to 34%). But deplorable as these are, are they enough to send loyalists scurrying for the exits? No, not yet. It is not so much a case of head in the sand as of stars in the eyes, an almost childlike faith that the glories of the game will prevail in the end. "Sport is my ballet, my opera," says Blake Eagle, a Seattle real-estate consultant. "It is a major part of my life."
The image sharpens. Pennant in hand, there sits the true fan, the serene eye of the hurricane of money problems whirling about the sports world. He is aware and concerned about the turmoil, but remains steadfast in his observance of the first commandment of fandom: Thou shalt not interfere with my enjoyment.
For example, 62% of the fans feel that the players are overpaid. But among those who feel that way, the vast majority (78%) agrees that the salaries bother them just a little or not at all. Similarly, among the 87% who feel that there is too much emphasis on money in sport, an equally overwhelming majority (73%) of the fans says that they forget about it once the game begins, and only 27% say that it diminishes their pleasure.
Indeed, the fans say that compared with five years ago they are more involved in sports than ever. The box score:
As the end of the decade of the big dollar in pro sports nears, and after bitter years of strikes, suits, holdouts, walkouts and dropouts, the second commandment of fandom seems clear: Play ball!
How well the teams play has far more effect on fans than the brouhaha over players' salaries or the price of tickets. And in some cities even the quality of play does not appear to be that big a factor. So a sampling of comments from fans in two sports capitals, Seattle and Chicago, indicates. Seattle, ski-jacket chic and bristling with the can-do spirit of its frontier past, is still too thrilled with having its big league franchises—the city had no pro teams until the SuperSonics arrived 11 years ago—and its spacious new Kingdome to demand miracles. "We waited so long for pro sports," one fan said after the Sonics' near-triumph in this season's NBA finals, "that we're willing to wait for a championship." And willing to keep paying the high tariff for tickets.
"Seattle was a secret—a provincial city," says Morrie Alhadeff, the president of Longacres racetrack. "We always thought we were as good as anybody; now sport has given us the opportunity to prove it." Gail Markham, a bank clerk who moonlights at a Sonic concession stand so she can see some of the action, says, "Thanks to our pro teams we're not a hick town anymore. We have a lot of teams now, and a lot to be proud of."
Even the supposedly jaded players are swept up by the love-in. There are no "uppity" stars in Seattle, claims Jim Martin, a florist who supplied more than $10,000 worth of flowers that the Sounder players passed out to their rooters last season to show their appreciation for the fans' support. Martin says, "Here our players are in and out of the schools. They always stop to sign autographs and are very accessible to the kids. I guess it's not to be expected in New York or L.A., but here we are very friendly people and expect to be treated the same way."
The Seattle sports craze is so intense, says Bob Keller, an air-traffic controller, that he can barely get his shopping done. "You go into the supermarket and all the little old ladies want to talk about the game. The guys out steel-heading are fishing with earphones on so they can follow the Sonics. Sports brings everyone together. We're pulling together as a city."
Chicago, one of the nation's oldest, most entrenched sports towns, has known its share of glories, but none recently enough to inspire blind allegiance. The support is there, but it has to be earned. Bill Veeck, who went so far as to install a lady barber in the bleachers at Comiskey Park earlier this summer, readily admits, "I've never said that promotion can do much if you aren't winning. Promotion and a winning team break attendance records."
Consider the fate of Scott Freeman, a die-hard fan who patrols the bleachers at Sox and Cub games with his trusty outfielder's glove. He is 14 and laments, "Since I've been alive we haven't had a winner in Chicago—not one team." He feels that the "dumb owners are hurting baseball" by paying the big salaries. Still, before senility overtakes him, Scott would like some high-roller to make a down payment on his big dream. "What I want," he says, "is a pennant winner."
The failures have kept alive the second-city complex. "That's why we lose," says Alan Jacobs, a 30-year-old salesman. "New York gets the most publicity, and players would rather play there. No matter what Bull player you name, you make him a Knick and he would be better." So why is he the kind of fan who likes to watch two games at once on his two TV sets? "Sports are the only game in town," he says.
Stacy Lyle, the Harris Bank executive, does not like it that the sports pages read like loan applications. "I'd rather read about how Walter Payton runs," she says, "not what he makes." She considers the sports ticket a "good buy. In Chicago the opera can cost $26, a show like A Chorus Line is $16.50, the symphony is $9 to $14 for an orchestra seat, and movies are $4. So $7.50 for a football game is reasonable, and at $1.50, baseball is a steal." Becky Kelmanson, a sixth-grader with a crush on the Cubs, agrees. "The ticket prices are about right," she says, sagely adding, "especially when we win." Out of the mouths of babes....
Meanwhile back in Exeter, N.H., Warren N. Kellogg has just finished his first year as a fan in exile. Like an addict who has lost contact with his pusher, he still follows the Boston teams in the press and on TV and concedes that there are certain needs and affections that never dim. He even admits to having slipped off to Boston Garden one afternoon this spring to see John Havlicek play his last game for the Celtics. "I figured I owed it to John," he says. Ditto for Carl Yastrzemski. "When Yaz goes for his 3,000th hit," Kellogg says, "I'll be there."
There is, in fact, every indication that when stability returns to professional sports—as it soon may—so too will Warren N. Kellogg. Like pennant fever, fan alienation comes and goes in a continuing cycle of eternal promise. Over the long haul, the result is a devotion to—indeed a demand for—fair and exuberant play that far exceeds the capabilities of the money changers to spoil the fun.
For all his quixotic ways, for all the abuses and setbacks he is forced to endure, in the final analysis the fan hangs in there as the one real unsung hero—and the booing, cheering and enduring hope—of spectator sports.
Real estate consultant, Seattle
Sixth-grader, Des Plaines, Ill.
Secretary, Maple Shade, N.J.
IT'S THE FANS' TURN TO SPEAK OUT
Below and on the following pages are excerpts from a nationwide poll of 839 self-described fans taken for SI by Yankelovich, Skelly and White, Inc. According to statisticians, the responses reflect the opinions of all U.S. fans, with a 4% margin of error
THE FAN AND MONEY
Is there too much emphasis on money in sports today?
Does this overemphasis tend to reduce your enjoyment of sports, or do you forget it once the game begins?
Has publicity about big player salaries tended to increase, lessen or have no effect on your interest in sports?
Are you interested in knowing the details of contract negotiations and player salaries?
Do you feel that the free-agent system allows richer owners to buy the best players and win most championships?
Should local governments use tax dollars to build sports facilities, even as a way to attract pro teams?
Have the moving around of players and the proliferation and relocation of franchises made pro sports more confusing and less enjoyable for you?
Have things like player movement and relocation of franchises lessened your loyalty to your favorite teams a lot, a little or not at all?
Not At All
Do you think owners tell the truth when they say higher player salaries force them to raise ticket prices?
Compared to other entertainment prices, do you think tickets to big-time sports events are too high, pretty reasonable or a bargain?
Compared to prices at restaurants, theaters and movies, do you think concession prices at sports events are too high, reasonable or a bargain?
If prices for tickets to your favorite sports event increased by 25%, would you still go?
If the increase was 10%, would you still go?
Would you be interested in joining a fans group formed by consumer advocates?
AVERAGE ATTENDANCE AT PRO GAMES
AVERAGE AUDIENCE FOR NATIONAL TV GAMES
(Listed by millions of households tuned in)
*Figures for basketball and hockey are for the 67-68, 72-73 and 77-78 seasons.
THE FAN AND THE GAME
Compared to five years ago, do you:
Have more, less or the same interest in spectator sports?
Get more, less or the same fun out of watching sports?
Have more, less or the same loyalty to your favorite teams?
Have more, less or the same enthusiasm for star players?
THE FAN AND THE PLAYER
Do you think pro athletes are paid too much, too little or about the right amount?
If you think they are paid too much, does this bother you a lot, a little or not at all?
Not At All
Do you find it acceptable for players in individual sports to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in winnings?
How about the same level of earnings for team sports players?
In your view, am pro athletes:
Smarter than they used to be?
More colorful than they used to be?
Greedier and more self-centered than they used to be?
Spoiled and pampered?
Required to work hard for their money?
As competitive as they used to be?
A good example for kids?
Do you think athletes have more, less or the same amount of love for their games as they did five years ago?
Who do you think has been most responsible for the recent increase in athletes' salaries: owners, players or the law courts?
Do you think a player should be free to play for any team that wants him?
If a player has a good season, should he be able to renegotiate his contract, even if it hasn't run out?
Do you believe that the free-agent system is destroying players' loyalty to their teams and fans?
Do you think players' unions are a good idea?
Do you think players should have agents to negotiate for them?
Do you think agents have a good effect on sports?
THE FAN AND THE OWNER
Is your general impression of sports owners favorable or unfavorable?
In your view, are sports owners:
Basically honest businessmen?
Dilettantes who just own teams for a hobby?
In sports for publicity and recognition?
Persons of civic responsibility?
Telling the truth when they say their teams lose money?
Taking unfair advantage of tax breaks?
Taking unfair advantage of athletes?
In the sports labor disputes of recent years, who do you think was generally at fault?
Do you believe that owners:
Deserve the same tax breaks as anyone else?
Should have to prove that they are making little or no money before they are allowed to move their teams?
Deserve special antitrust laws, if that is what it takes for them to make a profit?
Level of interest in sports up
Fun in watching games up
Loyalty to favorite teams up
Enthusiasm for star players up