The USFL's $1.32 billion antitrust suit against the NFL began last week in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. SI's Morin Bishop reports:
Out in the hallway, USFL commissioner Harry Usher was serenely confident. Real-estate tycoon Donald Trump predicted "a total victory" as casually as if he were talking about a game involving his New Jersey Generals. Meanwhile, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, who considers the lawsuit a transparent attempt to force a merger of the two leagues, called it "blackmail litigation."
Inside the courtroom, a jury of five women and one man prepared to consider the central question of the USFL's complaint: Has the NFL tried to monopolize pro football, and has it done so by tying up the three major TV networks? The USFL's attorney, Harvey Myerson, spoke of three "smoking guns":
May 25, 1986
•A March 2, 1973 memo from NFL counsel Jay Moyer—Myerson kept referring to him in court as "Moyer the lawyer"—to NFL broadcasting director Bob Cochran discussing the renegotiation of ABC's Monday Night Football contract. Moyer's memo stressed that "an open network [i.e., ABC] may well be an open invitation to formation of a new league."
•A Harvard Business School seminar held in February 1984, during which professor Michael Porter presented NFL executives with a plan to "conquer" the USFL.
•An Aug. 4, 1983 memo from NFL Management Council executive director Jack Donlan to his staff, suggesting that NFL teams should begin forcing the USFL "to increase salaries of existing players or run the risk of losing them."
The NFL views these matters as popguns, not smoking guns. League officials say they never dreamed of acting on the memos or the Harvard plan. Rozelle, when called to the witness stand by Myerson and asked about the Harvard plan, contended that he knew nothing about it at the time and "almost became physically ill" when he learned of it. As for the Moyer memo, Rozelle testified that Moyer had then been on staff for only one month and that he did not take Moyer's opinions on television seriously.
Myerson contended the USFL has suffered because of anticompetitive practices by the NFL. The USFL "had a dream," Myerson intoned, "a dream of opportunity. It's what America is all about." The NFL, he said, was full of "predators" and "monopolists." Myerson introduced enigmatic author Franz Kafka into the proceedings, telling of a Kafkaesque world in which "black is white, white is black." Myerson told the jury to keep Kafka in mind as NFL officials deny his allegations. "I want you to smile—Kafka, Kafka, Kafka!"
NFL attorney Frank Rothman argued that the USFL is in dire straits only because of its own stupidity—because, for example, it didn't stick to its original plan to hold down player payrolls. The trial could last two months, with New York Senator Alfonse D'Amato and Governor Mario Cuomo, L.A. Raiders owner Al Davis, and Howard Cosell expected to follow Rozelle to the witness stand. If the jury buys the USFL's contentions, the NFL could be forced to give up one of its three network TV contracts and to pay the USFL a bundle.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Former catcher Tim McCarver is well known in New York as the astute TV color commentator for the Mets. But McCarver's fame is apparently on the wane in his native Memphis, where he starred for the Double A Chicks in 1960. The Memphis team's current president, George Lapides, said recently that Tim McCarver Stadium has been renamed Chicks Stadium because "youngsters and newcomers to Memphis either don't know who Tim McCarver is or don't know the connection with McCarver and Memphis." The Chicks' owner, Avron Fogelman, then clarified things—perhaps—by saying he still considered the field McCarver Stadium but would allow his marketing people to call it Chicks Stadium if they wanted to.
That minor league controversy didn't create the kind of major consternation caused by an identity crisis at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Five years ago the student body voted to change UCSC's mascot from the Sea Lion to the Banana Slug, thereby adding to the list of offbeat West Coast nicknames that includes the UC-Irvine Anteaters, the Sonoma State Cossacks, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos and the Whittier Poets. This spring, Santa Cruz undergrads again expressed their sluggish support, voting 1,441 to 296 for the slimy gastropod over the bewhiskered water mammal.
And they went further, accusing chancellor Robert Sinsheimer, who opposed the switch, of being dictatorial and of lacking a sense of humor. That did it. Last week Sinsheimer capitulated but urged university biologists to pursue "a program of genetic research upon the slug to improve the breed."
A SPORTING TRIBUTE TO THE LADY
The promoters of the big Liberty Weekend bash to be held in New York City and environs from July 3 to 6—and televised nationwide—have asked us to pass the word that tickets for most events are still available by calling 212-972-3434. We consider it practically our patriotic duty to oblige (although out of fairness we should add that tickets can also be had for that weekend's Mets-Astros series by calling 718-507-8499). In addition to checking out the 100-anniversary sprucing up of Miss Liberty and such doings as a Boston Pops concert and "the world's greatest fireworks show," visitors can take in something called the Sports Salute to the Statue on the weekend's closing day. The program at the Byrne Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey will feature exhibitions by ice skaters Scott Hamilton, Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming and Debi Thomas; gymnasts Mary Lou Retton and Bart Conner; and a tug of war between Giants and Jets football players. You would think they would have invited the Patriots.
On Sunday Pat Bradley tied for 11th in an LPGA event in New Jersey, winning $3,425, which made her the first woman to reach the $2 million mark in career earnings. Arnold Palmer hasn't even won that much money.
Bradley, 35, got there steadily. In 350 tournaments over 13 years she has finished in the top 10 a remarkable 198 times, in the top five 139 times and second 39 times. She has won 18 tournaments—three of the four majors.
For all that, she may never achieve her ultimate goal, a spot in the LPGA Hall of Fame, which requires, arbitrarily and in this case absurdly, that honorees must win at least 30 tournaments.
THE SEARCH, THEN SOUL-SEARCHING
Mount Hood, just 60 miles east of Portland, Ore. is considered an easy climb. Ten thousand people reach Hood's summit each year, more than climb any glaciated peak in the world except Fuji in Japan. But conditions can change in minutes on Hood, which has claimed nearly 60 lives in this century. Nine of those deaths occurred last week in one of America's worst mountaineering disasters.
It seemed to be one of Hood's good days when 15 students and two teachers from Oregon Episcopal School, led by a professional guide, set off in the dark of Monday morning. This was the 36th sophomore class from Oregon Episcopal, a small school that emphasizes wilderness activity, to take the spring trip as part of a course called Basecamp. Five of the students became ill or weary and turned back. The others made it to within 500 feet of the 11,235-foot summit, when snow turned into a blizzard. The climbers retreated to 8,300 feet, but by then were in a blinding whiteout. They built a six-by-eight-foot snow cave and spent the night in it. Next morning Ralph Summers, the guide, and Molly Schula, one of the best climbers among the students, punched out of the cave after promising they would "walk until we find help or until we die." They descended from the mountain, and a desperate search for the others was undertaken by 200 climbers and seven helicopters. As a helicopter flew over Oregon Episcopal, two students, hoping their friends had been found, climbed to the chapel roof and shouted, "You're going to be all right!"
On Wednesday the searchers found the bodies of three 15-year-olds. Next afternoon, minutes before the search was to be called off for the day, the cave was located beneath five feet of snow. Miraculously, two students were still alive. Brinton Clark and Giles Thompson lay atop the bodies of their classmates, apparently having been saved by the rising warmth of the others. They were evacuated from the mountain and were expected to survive, although Thompson had his legs amputated below the knees.
Wayne Litzenberger, whose daughter, Alison, had died on the mountain, said bitterly, "I think one of the reasons she's dead is that the trip was badly led." Others questioned the climb, too, pointing out that some professional guides had called off weekend expeditions on Hood because of uncertain weather. After a painful 1½-hour meeting, Oregon Episcopal's board of trustees reaffirmed their support for the school's wilderness program.
THEY SAID IT
•Dick Williams, Seattle manager, on shortstop Spike Owen's injured quads: "I never had any quads when I played."
•Don Imus, New York disc jockey: "Who would have ever thought Phil Donahue would have more fights in the last two years than Gerry Cooney."