You'll have to forgive us for chuckling over the discomfort that John Elway and Don Mosebar caused the teams that selected them in last week's NFL college draft. Elway, the gifted Stanford quarterback, was chosen by the Colts as the top overall pick, whereupon he reiterated what he'd indicated before the draft—that he'd sign with the New York Yankees rather than play in Baltimore. Mosebar, an offensive tackle from USC, was taken later in the first round by the Los Angeles Raiders, whereupon he and his agent, Howard Slusher, mentioned something they hadn't previously revealed—that Mosebar had undergone back surgery one week before the draft. Both insisted that they would have come clean about the surgery had anybody asked about Mosebar's health, but nobody did.
Elway and Mosebar were both trying to manipulate the course of the draft to their own advantage. But before condemning either of them for that, it's useful to take a closer look at this thing called the college draft. An equitable, even-Stephen relationship between prospective employer and job-seeker it isn't. Rather, it's a one-sided system carefully rigged by the NFL to divide up the labor market and limit the bargaining power of players. Because he's an uncommonly marketable two-sport star, Elway was emboldened to try to gain the upper hand on the Colts, something that ordinarily belongs to NFL teams in their dealings with prospects. Because Mosebar neglected to go public about his surgery, the Raiders wound up shopping for possibly damaged goods. However, any question of deception that may be raised by his and Slusher's non-disclosure is mitigated by this fact: When it comes to selecting an NFL team, college players don't have the right to shop at all.
ANOTHER SPECIAL CASE
May 8, 1983
It was unclear if the NFL Players Association felt as uncomfortable after the draft as either the Colts or Raiders, but it should have. After Elway repeated his vow to play for the Yankees rather than the Colts, Dick Berthelsen, the NFLPA's staff counsel, took pains to clarify an important point. If Elway were to sign with either the Canadian Football League or the USFL, Berthelsen said, the Colts would retain his NFL rights for four years. But if Elway went with the Yankees, he could become an NFL free agent following the 1985 draft. "The language in the agreement is very specific on that," Berthelsen said. "If he does not play professional football, he would be a free agent after two years."
Berthelsen's keen interest in setting this matter straight is curious. In recent years, the NFLPA has refrained from pushing for free agency for its players and has even negotiated away major gains on the issue that the players had won in court. The union argues that free agency won't work in the NFL because the owners share TV revenues equally and play to virtually full stadiums and thus lack the financial incentive to bid for players on an open market. But what of players like Eric Harris and Tom Cousineau, who, after playing in Canada, were able to enter the NFL as free agents and then signed unusually handsome contracts? Those, the NFLPA ritually replies, are "special cases."
Which is what Berthelsen is now saying about Elway. Conceding that free agency "presumably" would be of considerable benefit to Elway, he adds, "There aren't too many people who would be in the same position, though. As a general proposition, I would say that only one or two percent of the players are in a position to benefit from free agency, players who have the potential to be franchise-makers, like Elway."
But how can one even speak of "a franchise-maker" when, by the NFLPA's own argument, all of the NFL's 28 franchises are already "made"? All talk of special cases aside, the suspicion lingers that free agency in the NFL hasn't worked because it hasn't been tried. And that the NFLPA has done its rank and file a disservice by not pushing for it.
A DOLPHIN GETS HIS FEET WET
One of the least appreciated functionaries at diving meets is the "kicker," who sits at poolside and roils the surface of the water with his feet. This turbulence eliminates the mirror effect that can play havoc with the depth perception of divers. At a time when hoses and underwater bubble machines are being used increasingly for the purpose—automation, it seems, is everywhere these days—promoters of this weekend's Hall of Fame International Diving Meet in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. are doing something to call attention to the poor, neglected kicker: they've engaged former Miami Dolphin placement specialist Garo Yepremian to handle the job. Yepremian will be in action during the meet's preliminary rounds, and Buck Dawson, executive director of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the host for the meet, obligingly says, "Garo is welcome to kick soccer-style if he wants to."
SEEING THE LIGHT
H. Franklin Taylor III, a Richmond lawyer and past president of the Amateur Softball Association, testified before a Senate Commerce subcommittee two weeks ago in favor of a bill to move up the current late-April start of daylight saving time by a month or more. Taylor argued that many of the nation's 30 million softball players now have to leave work early during March and most of April to get in enough playing time before dark. As for how they manage to take time off the job, Taylor said, wryly, "Hopefully, the boss is on the golf course."
Actually, the softball crowd is serious in complaining that the current law works a hardship during late winter and early spring on those Softball leagues that don't have lighted fields. Taylor also noted that even those that do have such fields now face difficulties. "Their lights are being cut back," he explained. "With local governments strapped for funds, recreation isn't among the highest priorities." One obvious way to put a higher priority on recreation—without running up a big light bill—is to extend daylight saving time, as Taylor urged. This would also benefit people who fancy such other sports that bloom in the spring as tennis and bicycling. And, yes, it might even provide extra time on the links for golf-playing bosses.
Nell Grim, a 47-year-old housewife and school board official in Perkasie, Pa., sent in a deposit the other day to attend a baseball fantasy camp for adults of the kind described recently by Roy Blount Jr. in SI (Feb. 21). She's believed to be the first woman to sign up for such a camp. Beginning next November 13 Grim, the wife of a lawyer and mother of two teenagers, will spend a week receiving instruction from—and playing in a game against—such New York Yankee stars of the 1950s as Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Enos Slaughter, Bill Skowron and Gene Woodling. She'll be joined by some 60 other campers, all 30 or over, who will pay $2,595 each to Baseball Fantasies Fulfilled, which is putting on both the November camp and an earlier one, also involving ex-Yankee stars, in June.
Why is Grim interested in such an experience? For one thing, she's a lifelong Yankee fan and relishes the idea of getting to know some of her old heroes. She also hopes to sharpen her skills, but as an infielder rather than a catcher, the position she manned—or womaned—while playing a version of the game that utilized a hard-rubber ball during her prep-school days in the '50s. And finally, she expects to acquire an insider's knowledge about something that has long puzzled her. "I've been watching third-base coaches give signals for 35 years," she says. "I want to find out how they work."
You're right, the world is going to hell in a handbasket. As evidence, we submit two distastefully similar incidents. The first involved Birmingham South Stars Coach Gene Ubriaco and several players on the Birmingham bench during the closing seconds of an 8-2 Central Hockey League loss to the Indianapolis Checkers. By way of expressing their displeasure at the officiating, Ubriaco and the players turned their backs to the ice, bent over and pointed their backsides—still betrousered—at Referee Don Koharski. The second involved Alabama anchorman Lamar Smith, who was far ahead of Auburn's Calvin Brooks in the mile relay at the Dogwood Relays in Knoxville, Tenn. when he began taunting his beaten rival by shaking his baton at him and making a great show of slowing up before the finish line. Fans booed, and Smith, the race over, dropped his shorts and, as Referee Chuck Zody recalls, "shot the moon at the crowd."
The only reason we report any of this is that it also allows us to tell what happened, somewhat more happily, after each of these incidents. As punishment for the unseemly goings-on in Indianapolis, one Birmingham player was fined $100 for "conduct unbecoming to a professional hockey player," and Ubriaco was fined $500 and put on probation. In Knoxville, 'Bama Coach John Mitchell apologized to Auburn for Smith's behavior, and another member of the Crimson Tide's relay team went to the press box to express regret to meet officials. Because of Smith's behavior, the relay team was disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct. Which suggests that there are some people who would just as soon not see mooning become a trend at sports events. Count us among them.
Forgive Joe Terranova his mixed metaphors, tortured puns and other groaners. The man's substance more than makes up for his style. Every year Terranova, a communications supervisor for Ford Motor Co. in Detroit, watches hundreds of high school game films and devours letters of recommendation from scores of coaches to produce an authoritative rundown of the colleges that did best in that year's battles for high school prospects. In the latest edition of his annual Handbook of College Football Recruiting, Terranova calls 1983 "a great year for offensive linemen and linebackers, but only an average year for talent at the other positions." And he credits these schools with the best recruiting crops for '83:
1) Penn State. "You get the feeling that after winning the national championship, Joe Paterno's stock rose faster than the Dow Jones industrial average." The Nittany Lions got such blue chippers as running backs Tim Manoa, "a 220-pound manchild by way of American Samoa," and D.J. Dozier of Virginia Beach, Va., "the premier runner on the East Coast." They also got a trio of quarterbacks "rugged enough to lift a semi...the usual number of man-eating linebackers and some legitimate sleepers who carry the Good Housekeeping seal of approval."
2) USC: "Was that a Trojan horse I saw parked on junior-college campuses from Sacramento to San Diego? You bet!" Traditionally reliant on transfer talent, Southern Cal grabbed Tim Green of El Camino Junior College in Torrance, Calif., "considered by many to be America's best juco quarterback.... But Green is only the tip of the Troy iceburg [sic]. It's the studs in the trenches that are most likely to sink the Titanics of the Pac-10." Line recruits include Gaylord Kuamoo of Santa Rosa J.C. (6'4", 280), Golden West College's Jeff Benson (6'6", 275) and Mike Lilly, who at 6'6", 295 pounds "is definitely not the little old lady from Pasadena."
3) Notre Dame: Gerry Faust's "exhausting, non-stop speaking engagements" secured Robert Banks, "a 6'4", 220-pound talent out of Hampton, Va., who could start at defensive end early in the '83 campaign," and Defensive Lineman Mike Griffin of Cleveland Heights, Ohio ("I did not see a more aggressive player on film all year"). The Irish also "landed the Mutt and Jeff of high school receivers," 6'4" Alvin Miller of suburban St. Louis and 5'9" Alonzo Jefferson of West Palm Beach, as well as Quarterback Steve Beuerlein of Fullerton, Calif.
4) Oklahoma: "Sooner or later, Oklahoma's gonna corral the good ones, and, as a group, they may have lassoed enough upper-echelon linemen to build a proper conga line for the Duprees and Wilsons or whomsoevers who carry the football." Terranova singles out Caesar Rentie of Hartshorne, Okla. and Jeff Pickett of Texarkana, Texas as stanchions of an offensive line whose potential nickname is, you guessed it, "The Pickett Fence."
5) Texas A&M: "The people in the Southwest Conference feel the Aggies signed 15 of the top 45 players in the Lone Star State. In fact, the Aggies' talent runs deeper than the U.S.S. Ohio." Recruiting out of the school's Learjet, Jackie Sherrill lured Tailback-Defensive End Rod Bernstine, Defensive Back James Flowers, Tight End Sylvester Morgan and passing quarterbacks Craig Stump and Jay Hess, all from Texas high schools.
Finishing out Terranova's Top 10 are 6) UCLA: "To his credit Terry Donahue is one of a growing number of coaches who doesn't believe that football bears the same relation to education that bullfighting does to agriculture"; 7) SMU: "Despite plenty of last minute suspension-tension, the Mustangs landed themselves a class on par with the Dickerson-James class of 1979"; 8) Auburn: "A line that averages 255 pounds per behemoth and two great running backs with national credentials"; 9) Pittsburgh: "The best group...and that's the key word...of defensive players in the country"; and 10) Miami: "You gotta believe that Howard Schnellenberger knew something when he turned down a lucrative contract offer from Kentucky to remain in South Florida."
Will the U.S.S. Ohio hit a Troy iceberg and sink? Will that corralled conga line turn into a Pickett Fence before our very eyes? Can the Dow Jones industrials find happiness with the Good Housekeeping seal? We gotta believe.
THE BENJAMIN THEOREM (CONT.)
As reported in this space in our Dec. 6, 1982 issue, a certain Alan L. Benjamin had propounded in a letter to the Chicago Tribune the interesting theory that American football causes winter. Benjamin reasoned that countries where football isn't played, such as Mexico, Jamaica and Egypt, don't have cold weather, while in Canada, where football teams have an extra man, winters are unusually harsh. He also noted that the weather was uncommonly mild during last fall's NFL strike. Last week we received in the mail a copy of our item on the Benjamin Theorem accompanied by the following message:
I had to shovel seven inches of snow from my driveway this morning, April 20,1983.
I am writing to the U.S. Football League and the New Jersey Generals, also.
THEY SAID IT
•Moses Malone, examining his bill as he checked out of a Milwaukee hotel after a game against the Bucks: "I only want to check out. I don't want to buy no hotel."
•Chi Chi Rodriguez, making light of the fact that he's closing in on the $1 million mark in career earnings as a golf pro: "The problem is, I'm already over $2 million in spending."