LIVING WITH THE SHERMAN ACT AND (MAYBE) THE LOS ANGELES RAIDERS
Following a five-week trial, a jury of six women ruled in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles last week that the NFL had violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by trying to block the Oakland Raiders from moving to the L.A. Coliseum. The decision was a blow to Oakland fans, who have faithfully supported the Raiders, and it also vexed NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who had staunchly resisted efforts by his archrival, Raider Managing General Partner Al Davis, to relocate the team. Although Rozelle said the NFL would appeal, it was uncertain whether the league would ask the court to restrain the Raiders from leaving until the appeal ran its course. Reason: The Raiders and their co-plaintiff, the L.A. Coliseum Commission, have asked a total of $213 million in damages from the NFL, and any further delay could greatly increase the damages. For his part, Davis indicated that there may not be enough time to move the Raiders by the start of the 1982 season.
Beyond the question of when the Raiders might head south were the implications of last week's verdict for efforts by the NFL, NBA and NHL to win the immunity from federal antitrust law that baseball enjoys as the result of a 60-year-old ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Those leagues want Congress to grant them baseball-style antitrust exemptions, arguing that professional sports is a unique business and that teams are not economic competitors but partners whose cooperation is essential. In keeping with this position, Rozelle assailed last week's decision as a threat to the NFL's "basic structure and stability" and warned that it might result "in the relocation of clubs under auction-type conditions."
But Rozelle may be overstating the case. The verdict could indeed weaken the NFL owners' control of the game and cost them money; for one thing, by grabbing the valuable Los Angeles market for himself, Davis would deprive the NFL of a chance to sell L.A.'s "territorial rights" to a new franchise for a whopping expansion fee. The decision might also inspire legal challenges to other features of pro sports that, like league control over the location of franchises, raise antitrust questions, including player drafts and trades. But antitrust immunity should be granted only for the most compelling reasons. While it may make things less cozy for them, forcing NFL owners to abide by antitrust law won't wreak the havoc on the league that Rozelle implies, and the game of football won't suffer. That would happen only if teams weren't allowed to cooperate in establishing schedules and playing rules, areas that the courts have shown no interest in subjecting to antitrust law.
May 16, 1982
Rozelle is also on shaky ground in warning that the verdict would lead owners to auction their franchises to the highest bidder. In fact, such "auctions" already exist in all pro leagues, witness the game of musical franchises long played in baseball, the sport that has the very antitrust immunity the NFL covets. NFL teams have also sold themselves to the highest bidder—with the league's blessings. Thus, the Giants moved from New York to New Jersey's Meadowlands in 1976 and the Rams from the L.A. Coliseum to Anaheim two years ago. That these relocations are less dramatic than those in baseball is mostly attributable to Rozelle's shrewdness in getting his league's owners to consent to share TV revenues equally, an agreement made possible by a limited exemption to antitrust law that Congress conferred on all pro leagues in a 1961 act permitting them to sell the TV rights of their teams as a package. The NFL's share-the-wealth approach has minimized potential income differences between, for example, Kansas City with its modest TV market and New York with its huge viewing audience. As a result, the Chiefs haven't felt the need to shop for a more inviting locale. In refusing to stay put, Davis was apparently protecting himself against the possibility that cable-TV proceeds might not be covered by the revenue-sharing arrangement, in which case an NFL franchise in a major TV market like Los Angeles would become far more valuable than one in Oakland. Significantly, Rozelle holds to the interpretation that revenue sharing includes cable proceeds. If that view proves wrong, more NFL teams may well move. But that's not automatically bad. It merely means that the NFL franchise market would be governed by the same supply-and-demand forces as other markets.
But what of the Raiders' betrayal of Oakland fans? The Raiders still face a suit before the California Supreme Court, brought by the City of Oakland, that seeks to keep the club there by seizing it under eminent domain. If nothing else, this suit serves as a reminder that sports teams are civic assets in which the public has an emotional and often a financial stake. The same point is made by a bill sponsored by Congressmen Pete Stark, whose district includes Oakland, and Don Edwards of San Jose that would prevent any pro team from moving unless the owner can prove he's losing money or his stadium is inadequate. Stark and Edwards hope the bill can be made retroactive to keep the Raiders in Oakland. Be that as it may, the measure has the virtue of being at once a more direct yet more limited remedy than a blanket antitrust exemption. Last week's court action suggests that the bill, which is languishing in subcommittee, might merit more attention than it has so far received.
In his story on Wyoming in this issue, Jim Doherty tells how pell-mell development has left that once-pristine state blighted by pollution, population pressures and the destruction of wildlife. Such dramatic changes appear to concern Secretary of the Interior James Watt, a Wyoming native, less than one might expect. In a question-and-answer interview in the January issue of American Hunter, the National Rifle Association's magazine, Watt was asked about the fears of sportsmen that mineral exploration and similar development might lead to a deterioration of habitat across the U.S. Watt sought to minimize that worry by invoking his own firsthand knowledge of Wyoming. "Mining and hunting are not as incompatible as some people would have you think," he said. "When I was growing up in Wyoming, it was often the timber roads and the mine roads that allowed us to get at the good hunting and fishing areas."
So much for the subject of deterioration of habitat. We refer you now to the story beginning on page 74.
THINKING BIG BY THINKING SMALL
When the Women's Pro Basketball League failed to reappear for the 1982 season, Nancy Lieberman, who had been playing for the Dallas Diamonds, was out of a job. But Lieberman, the most celebrated woman player in the U.S., wasn't about to call it quits. She began talking to Larry King, who was one of the developers of the team-tennis concept, a good idea that was probably ahead of its time and that was resurrected last summer in the form of a four-team league in California. King agreed to join Lieberman in getting something new going in women's pro hoops.
Lieberman and King are thinking small. They envision a geographically compact league that, to start with, will have teams only in Dallas, Houston, Chicago and Iowa, all places where the WBL drew well. Each club will play a three-week season of 12 games, six home and six away, followed by an all-star game. As in team tennis, the athletes will compete for prize money. The championship team will win $30,000, or $3,750 for each of seven players and the coach. The runners-up will divide $26,000, with $22,000 and $18,000 going to the third-and fourth-place finishers, respectively. Individual bonuses totaling $40,000 will be awarded to the players who do best statistically at their positions in scoring, assists, rebounding and free throws. Each member of the winning all-star team will earn $1,000; the losers will get $500 apiece. The MVP of the all-star game will receive $1,000. The most a player can earn in a season is $17,750; the least, $2,250. That's peanuts, of course, but not bad for barely a month's work.
To get the league off the ground by next winter, Lieberman and King hope to enlist a corporate sponsor. Because the season will be short, filling team rosters shouldn't be a problem. "Players who are skeptical about playing pro ball again because they didn't get paid last time or because their teams folded can work and keep their full-time jobs year-round," says Lieberman, who has learned a lot from the WBL's sad experience. "The people in the WBL were really nice, but they weren't sports people. They were putting money in so many places where it didn't belong, like paying $25,000 a night to rent Madison Square Garden." The new think-small league obviously isn't about to make that mistake.
THE ORIOLE CONNECTION
Oriole fans are likely to have mixed feelings about the heroics performed the other day by Brooks Robinson's son, Mike, a shortstop for Baltimore's Loch Raven High School. After singling in the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh—and final—inning, Mike, a 6'3" senior, preserved his team's 7-6 win over Pikesville High in the bottom of the inning by making a spectacular play to turn what appeared to be a sure hit by Pikesville Left-fielder Terry Blair into a game-ending double play.
Did we say something about mixed feelings? Oh, yeah, Terry, also 6'3" and a junior, is the son of another former Oriole standout, Paul Blair.
TERROR ON THE BASE PATHS
The University of Houston's Carl Lewis, the 1981 Sullivan Award winner, is currently ineligible for the Cougar track team because of poor grades, but that hasn't kept him from playing for the university payroll department's team in an intramural softball league. In a recent 14-7 loss to a team representing the College of Social Sciences, Lewis, who plays centerfield, had a perfect day at the plate without ever hitting the ball out of the infield.
In his first at bat, Lewis grounded to short and beat the throw to first by a good five steps. On his second time up, he hit a grounder to second and once again beat the throw. The next batter hit a ground ball to the shortstop, who immediately stepped on second in expectation of getting a forceout but was shocked to find Lewis already there. In his final plate appearance, Lewis drew a walk but was subsequently called out on Softball's equivalent of a false start: He left the base too early in tagging up on a fly ball.
After the game, one opposing player came up to Lewis, who had the best performances in the world last year in both the long jump and 100 meters, and said, "It sure was nice to see you run."
[The President's] program would increase the pollution of rivers and might well pose additional health hazards to humans. Because it would require wide-scale strip mining of coal and intensive excavation of shale, it also has the potential to disfigure vast areas of the West...there is substantial evidence that the cost and technological difficulties of developing synfuel to the point where it can possibly help ease the energy shortage will far exceed Carter's estimations....
—SCORECARD, July 30, 1979, in reporting on President Carter's newly announced program to develop synthetic fuels as a means of increasing U.S. energy production.
Exxon, the world's richest company, allied in a joint venture with TOSCO, the most experienced oil shale developer, with the most highly developed shale technology, said it would walk away from a project on which it had spent about half a billion dollars. The reason? Projected costs had more than doubled in two years, even before the technology's most difficult environmental problems had been solved....
—The Washington Post, May 6, 1982, on the cancellation of the oil shale project that had been given the greatest chance of success, a move that all but killed the faltering U.S. synthetic fuels program.
HE MAKES SOME KIND OF LIST
As the TV sports columnist for the Long Island, N.Y. newspaper Newsday, Stan Isaacs has spent countless hours in front of the tube watching sports events—and listening to sportscasters. Herewith a list Isaacs recently ran of his least favorite on-the-air expressions:
1) Tie: "incredible," "unbelievable," "fantastic."
4) "At this point in time."
5) "He's something else."
6) "Does it all."
7) "Some kind of...."
8) "He gave him (all) (more than) he wanted."
9) "Young freshman."
10) "A real (good) (hot) (fine)...."
11) "He popped him up."
12) Tie: "threw caution to the winds," "deadlock."
And as long as we're on the subject, SI's Baltimore correspondent, Joe D'Adamo, thinks it's time that another pet expression of sportscasters, that somebody or other "gives 110 percent," be adjusted for inflation. D'Adamo believes that athletes should henceforth be lauded for effort only if they give 120% or more.
THEY SAID IT
•Oscar Gamble, Yankee outfielder, at an off-day workout ordered by owner George Steinbrenner the morning after a 13-inning loss to the A's: "Ernie Banks is the only person who would have been happy to be here."
•Len Elmore, New Jersey Nets center, on the difficulties he faced upon enrolling at Power Memorial Academy, the New York City parochial school previously attended by Lew Alcindor: "There were the inevitable comparisons from Day One. But they ended on Day Two."
•Lou Campanelli, coach of the James Madison University basketball team, which had a 24-6 record in 1981-82 and qualified for the NCAA tournament, explaining his team's success: "Our players know what a good shot is and what a bad shot is. They're not allowed to watch NBA games, or they wouldn't know the difference."
•Gord Racette, heavyweight boxer, upon being KO'd by Trevor Berbick 11 months after having been KO'd by Jimmy Young: "Young paralyzed the left side of my face, Berbick the right. This is not what I had in mind."