So you think you could run a professional team because you
believe you understand free agency, salary caps, luxury taxes
and all the other arcania that are the mother's milk of
modern-day sports? Well, brainiac, we've devised a pop quiz for
people like you, would-be front-office types who think they know
their Plan B's from their Group III's. What follows is our
standardized test, culled from the collective bargaining
agreements of the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball. We
call it the General Aptitude General Manager's Examination, or
No. 2 pencils ready? Begin. (Answers at the bottom of each page.)
1. Plan B is not:
(a) A system of NFL free agency that allows a team to protect
its top 20 players, including a "franchise" player.
(b) A system of NFL free agency that allowed a team to protect
its top 30 players but was struck down as illegal by a federal
jury in September 1992.
(c) An exceedingly strange name, given that the NFL never
instituted a Plan A.
March 30, 1998
2. The entry-level cap is:
(a) The NHL's maximum rookie salary of $975,000.
(b) A ceiling placed on the number of salary-restricted rookies
an NHL team may carry.
(c) Made of paper and worn by fry-line personnel at Hardee's.
3. As stipulated in the NBA's collective bargaining agreement,
the minimum team salary is:
(a) The "greater of the seventh-lowest payroll of any team in
the previous season or 1/58 (1.724%) of gross league revenues
from the previous season."
(b) 75% of a team's salary cap.
(c) An arbitrary sum disbursed each season by Los Angeles
Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling.
4. Baseball's luxury tax is:
(a) A 35% tax on any 1998 team payroll amount above $55 million.
(b) A 55% tax on any 1998 team payroll amount above $35 million.
(c) A 15% service charge levied on all tournedos and tapenades
served in ballpark luxury boxes.
5. The Individual Nature of Rights is elucidated in:
(a) Paragraph III of Latrell Sprewell's reinstated Golden State
Warriors contract (as well as all other standard NBA contracts).
(b) Article XX, Section E of Major League Baseball's Basic
(c) A 1683 treatise by John Locke.
6. The following is not among the contractually guaranteed
rights of a major league baseball player:
(a) A free van or small truck parking space at his home ballpark.
(b) First-class airfare and meals en route to his home following
(c) A locker of no less than six cubic feet.
(d) Access to a hydroculator (a moist heat-pack unit) in the
locker room when playing on the road.
7. Match the following ages with their significance in the NHL:
(a) 25 (b) 18 (c) 26 (d) 31 (e) 19
(1) The age at which a player can be drafted.
(2) The age at which a player can become a Group III, or
unrestricted, free agent when his contract expires.
(3) The age at which players are no longer subject to the
(4) The age at which a player must receive an offer of at least
$400,000 for his old club to retain the rights to match an offer
sheet if he is a Group II, or restricted, free agent.
(5) The age at which a player can drink at the fabled Montreal
strip joint Chez Paree.
8. Math Problem: The NFL salary cap is 62% of leaguewide gross
revenues (i.e., total merchandising and television income)
divided by 30 (the number of teams). From Feb. 13 to the first
day of the regular season, a club's top 51 salaried players
count toward the cap, including their prorated signing bonuses
and incentives. The base salaries of the next 29 players on the
roster do not count toward the cap. During the season all
players on the roster count toward the cap.
Question: How many passengers got off the train in Chicago?
9. All NBA players are endowed by their collective bargaining
agreement with the inalienable right "to have their baggage
picked up by porters." If the Minnesota Timberwolves, who will
pay Kevin Garnett $125 million over the next six years, "commit
a willful violation of this provision"--i.e., do not see to it
that a porter carries Garnett's bags to the lobby of the
T-Wolves' requisite "first-class hotel"--what penalty does the
(a) A $1,000 fine.
(b) A $7,500 fine plus "a declaimed grievance to be conjoined
with previous violations, of which a total of three shall lead
to a team fine of $250,000."
(c) No penalty if Garnett's bags are carried by teammate Terry
10. According to NHL bylaws, a Double-Eagle Contract is:
(a) One given only to players with at least 10 years of service.
(b) One lasting from Oct. 1 of one year to July 1 of the next.
(c) One that continues to pay a 10% commission to former
players' association head Alan Eagleson for the duration of his
18-month Canadian prison term.
11. While making public appearances on behalf of his team, an
NBA player is not required to sign autographs.
12. An NFL team has seven days to match any contract offer to
one of its transition players.
13. To be a Group I free agent in the NHL a player must have played at least five seasons.
14. A Type A free agent in baseball is one who statistically
ranks in the top 10% of his position group.
15. In NFL contracts, voidable years are:
(a) Years tacked onto the end of a contract so a team can
prorate a player's signing bonus over a longer span for
salary-cap purposes; if the player hits certain incentives in a
voidable year, the contract is ripped up.
(b) Seasons in which a player participates in less than 15% of
his team's plays. Stats from such a year are "voided" and not
counted in the calculation of the per-season averages that are
used to determine the player's free-agency compensation level.
(c) Vast amounts of time that cannot be accounted for and are
thus retroactively rendered to have never occurred. (O.J.
Simpson had a lot of these clauses in his contract.)
16. As general manager of the Boston Red Sox, you decide to
trade Mo Vaughn to the New York Mets. Can Vaughn reject the deal?
(a) Yes, because he has at least five years of big league
service and has been with the Red Sox for at least two seasons.
(b) Yes, because he has at least eight years of service and has
been with the Red Sox for at least two seasons.
(c) No, because though he has been with the Red Sox for more
than five seasons, he does not have 10 years of service.
(d) Yes. You got a problem with that?
17. If the Chicago Bulls traded Michael Jordan to the Vancouver
Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, why would the NBA
automatically nullify the deal?
(a) Players traded for each other must have salaries within 15%
of each other, and Jordan's $33.1 million salary is too far
above Abdur-Rahim's $2.5 million salary.
(b) As a "class A" player, Jordan cannot be traded for players
with less than 60% of his performance in all five major
(c) Under Canadian law, Michael Jordan Cologne is banned as a
Level 4 hazardous material.
18. Under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, a team must
offer a player a guaranteed contract under these conditions:
(a) The player has five seasons in the league.
(b) The player has 10 seasons in the league.
(c) Under no circumstances is a team required to offer a
(d) The player "feels like" having a guaranteed contract.
19. Distressed by the Miami Heat's holiday slump, coach Pat
Riley decides to call a home practice for New Year's Day. Under
NBA rules, he must:
(a) Give the league office one week's notice of his intention to
hold the practice.
(b) Provide players with transportation to and from the practice
(c) Give the players a day off within seven days before or after
(d) Give his hairdresser a day off within seven days before or
after the practice.
20. It's the off-season, and the Washington Wizards are
hopelessly over the salary cap. How can they sign Steve Kerr,
who earned $750,000 with the Bulls last season and is now a free
(a) They can sign him to a provisional contract and place him on
the injured-reserve list until a roster spot opens.
(b) They can offer him a contract worth as much as $1 million
because they didn't offer a contract of $1 million or less to
another free agent before last season.
(c) They can unilaterally cut Chris Webber's $9 million salary
to free up cap room.
(d) They can pay him entirely in Chuckie Bucks, redeemable at
participating Chuck E. Cheeses.
21. Under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, what's a
five-year veteran who's released after opening day entitled to?
(a) His salary for the entire year.
(b) Four club-level tickets to each remaining home game.
(c) A lump-sum severance payment totaling $10,000 for each game
left in the season.
(d) Legal counsel from the team attorney informing him of his
right "not to let the door hit him in the ass on his way out."
22. Why didn't the New Jersey Nets sign center Jack Haley to
another 10-day contract when his second such deal expired at the
end of January?
(a) To keep a player after his second 10-day contract expires, a
team must sign him for the remainder of the season.
(b) The Nets would have gone over the league limit of five
10-day contracts per team per season.
(c) They saw him play.
23. What would possess the Pittsburgh Pirates to keep outfielder
Emil Brown, a .179 hitter who had never played a game above A
ball, on their major league roster for the 1997 season?
(a) They were out of minor league options on him and would
therefore have had to subject him to waivers before sending him
(b) As a Rule 5 selection, Brown had to stay in the majors or
the Pirates could lose him to the team from which they drafted
him, the Oakland A's.
(c) Gene Lamont. Jagermeister. A Polaroid. Do we have to draw
you a picture?
24. The NBA's so-called Larry Bird exception stipulates that:
(a) A team may exceed the salary cap to re-sign a free agent who
has spent at least the previous three years with the club.
(b) Only 50% of the salary of a player who has 10 years' NBA
experience and five years with the same team counts against the
(c) For the record, French Lick, Ind., is merely a geographic
designation, not something Marv Albert endeavored to do on his
last trip to the Hoosier State.
25. What is the upshot of the NFL's so-called Deion Sanders rule?
(a) A signing bonus cannot be greater than the sum of the first
three years' base salaries.
(b) A signing bonus may only be prorated over the first three
years of a contract.
(c) The league's salary cap must be replaced, within five years,
by a salary 'do rag.
26. What was the final holdup in the trade that sent Chuck
Knoblauch from the Minnesota Twins to the New York Yankees for
four minor leaguers and $3 million?
(a) Any deal involving $1 million or more is subject to the
approval of the executive council.
(b) A major league player who has five years' experience with
the same team, as Knoblauch did with the Twins, can't be traded
for a player (or players) who has no major league service,
unless all parties clear waivers.
(c) Knoblauch would deal only with George Costanza.
The information below is taken verbatim from running back Lamar
Smith's new four-year contract with the New Orleans Saints. Read
it closely and answer the questions that follow.
1998 Incentives for Rushing Yards:
$200,000 for 700 yards, and
$200,000 for 800 yards, and
$200,000 for 900 yards, and
$200,000 for 1000 yards, and
$300,000 for 1100 yards, and
$250,000 for 1200 yards, and
$100,000 for 1300 yards, and
$100,000 for 1400 yards, and
$100,000 for 1500 yards or more
If Player [Smith] should achieve either 1200 yards or 1300
yards, the bonuses at these levels will be earned in the given
year, but neither "rolled over" into the following year's base
salary, nor a like amount guaranteed in the following year. If,
however, Player should achieve 1400 or 1500 yards in the same
year, then the bonus amounts at 1200 and 1300 yards will be
treated as other rushing and receiving bonuses, i.e., "rolled
over" and a like amount guaranteed in the following year only.
27. Smith's base salary is $1.5 million. If he rushes for 1,475
yards next season, how much of a rushing bonus will he receive?
28. How much of that bonus will be guaranteed in his 1999 salary?
29. If Smith's bonus does not "roll over," will it at least "sit
up," "shake" or "play dead?"
30. Explain in 25 words or less what an NBA base-year player is
and under what circumstances he can be forced to report if
traded to the Toronto Raptors.
How You Rate
--25-30 right: As brilliant as the Green Bay Packers' Ron Wolf.
--20-24 right: As management-savvy as the Arizona Diamondbacks'
and Phoenix Suns' Jerry Colangelo.
--15-19 right: As solid as the Pittsburgh Penguins' Craig Patrick.
--9-14 right: As hit-and-miss as George Steinbrenner.
--4-8 right: As full of bluster as Jerry Jones.
--0-3 right: Hello, Marge Schott?
Answers: 1) a; 2) a; 3) b; 4) a; 5) b; 6) c; 7) a-3, b-5, c-4,
d-2, e-1; 8) I have a headache; 9) a; 10) b; 11) True; 12) True;
13) False (There is no Group I free agency.); 14) False (top
30%); 15) a; 16) c; 17) a; 18) c; 19) c; 20) b; 21) a; 22) a;
23) b; 24) a; 25) a; 26) a; 27) $1.55 million; 28) $350,000; 29)
On the Saints, stranger things have happened; 30) Life's too
short to explain the base-year concept. Suffice it to say that
Latrell Sprewell is a base-year player--and what a base year