LOVE OR MONEY
The moans and groans we have been hearing lately about the unusually large sums being offered and paid to rookies (Rookie Bonuses Stan a Battle, Jan. 24) are, in my opinion, ridiculous. Those who complain fail to realize the seller's market in which the rookie operates. The rookie possesses a scarce resource, which more than one potential buyer wants badly. The buyer must reach deep into his coffers, which bulge with box-office and television revenues, to outbid the opposition for the best talent available (thereby insuring continued bulging of the coffers).
The beauty of the two-league system is that it restores, to some degree, the market mechanism for signing players. Under prevailing conditions, each new player is insured a choice and, consequently, a better bargaining position than he would have if there were only one league or a combined draft by both leagues.
The status of veteran players is, of course, less favorable. Not until both leagues cease to be hesitant about picking up rival-league players who have played out their options, as may happen soon in the squabble for Ladd and Faison, will all the players be able to bargain with the teams in the same way the leagues bargain with the networks, the networks with the sponsors, etc.
PAUL C. WHITEHEAD
May I add an amen to the thoughts so well expressed by Mr. Milton J. Baudine (19TH HOLE, Jan. 24) on the foolishness of the $500,000 rookie contract. The two giants from San Diego, Ladd and Faison, represent the beginning of an even larger problem, i.e., how to compensate the pros who prove themselves year after year and who have decided—rightly or wrongly—that they should be worth as much as any raw recruit.
Pro football is not alone in this situation, however. We in business have been paying a little larger premium each year (although not on as large a scale) for recruiting inexperienced college graduates who, because of these high-priced times, find themselves in a most advantageous position.
Let's hope that industry and pro football will step back for a better look—and a better solution, for everyone's sake.
C. J. HAYES JR.
Bethel Park, Pa.
Edwin Shrake says of the Ladd-Faison case, "Adams and his new general manager, the very capable and popular young Don Klosterman, are quite aware that AFL owners—not to mention those in the NFL—feel it would be a dangerous precedent to upgrade veterans, who are simply victims of the times, to the pay scale of rookies."
This passage will remain with me forever as an outstanding example of (hopefully) unconscious irony.
The Ladd-Faison case is proof that the high salaries given to untried players is a mistake. The only solution seems to be that the leagues must combine. The owners should agree to pay no more than a certain amount for a rookie. This would leave college players with no choice but to take it or leave it.
As for Ladd and Faison and others like them, they, too, should be given an ultimatum: either they play for the Chargers (or the Oilers, as the case may be), or they don't play at all. Professional football doesn't need players who don't love the game.
I'm sorry Sol Lamport is unhappy in our town (A Sail Means Only a Sale to Sol, Jan. 24). Woodstock, Conn. needs doers like Mr. Lamport. Like to fish myself. Good fishing's right up the road from Mr. Lamport's house: Mascraft Brook. Trout. When he's met the folks in town he'll get told about the small pond with the big bass.
Woodstock's damn well not sleepy, but it has been poor—until plants like that started by Mr. Lamport moved in. I hope he'll find the excitement he's looking for in the town meetings. He can go to the Cape to unwind and fish after attending one of those. They're pretty stimulating evidence of how sleepy we are!
DAVID T. BATES
Congratulations to William Leggett on his timely and heartwarming article on Dick Barnett (A New Knick with a Knack, Jan. 17). The article came at a time when we in Gary, and the whole state of Indiana, are in the midst of one more season of "Hoosier hysteria."
As another former athlete at Gary's Roosevelt High, I can recall the times when I would take shortcuts across the schoolyard and come upon Dick practicing his jump shots by moonlight. This was an early indication of his determination to be good.
The day that I read your article on the "new Knick" I saw the L.A. Lakers beat the San Francisco Warriors in San Francisco. This was done primarily on outstanding play by West, Hazzard and, you guessed it, a guy by the name of Bob Boozer (19 points).
You said that the Lakers got "Boozer and cash" from New York for Barnett. If you ask me, it looks like they got scoring, rebounds, defense and cash.
Mountain View, Calif.
As a loyal supporter of the Syracuse Nationals (when they were still in Syracuse) I read with interest your recent article on Dick Barnett. When Barnett joined our team he was well received by the fans and was considered a welcome addition to what came to be widely accepted as one of the best back-courts in the league: Hal Greer, Larry Costello, Al Bianchi—and Barnett. It was generally agreed here that Tricky Dick (as we knew him) would have been a starter on many other league teams. However, playing behind Costello and Greer, two sharpshooting veterans who were better adapted to Syracuse's speedy running game, he remained a sixth man.
No one argues that it was frustrating for a man of Barnett's obvious talent to remain a nonstarter. However, his childish remark about Syracuse ("Ever been to Syracuse, darlin'?") will hardly endear him to any former fans.
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing some praise for Dick Barnett, who for years has been the most underrated and underused star in the NBA. It seems impossible to justify Barnett's absence from the Eastern Division All-Star team in favor of Adrian Smith of the Royals. After all, could Smith score 29 points a game and virtually run a team that is weak at the guard position? It could only happen to a Knick!
PAUL S. FEIN
As a native Hoosier who lived for a while in Kentucky I found a statement in your January 10 BASKETBALL'S WEEK surprising. You said that 18,000 unaccountably jammed Louisville's Freedom Hall to see Kentucky play Notre Dame. Why shouldn't 18,000 turn out to see one of the best teams in the country and the greatest coach in the history of college basketball? These people in Indiana and Kentucky are real basketball fans.
Each March the high school basketball finals are held at Indianapolis in 15,000-seat Butler Fieldhouse and in Louisville in 18,000-seat Freedom Hall. If you're not associated with one of the participating schools or don't "know someone," you can forget about getting a ticket. In comparison, last year the Missouri state finals were held in St. Louis' 10,000-seat Kiel Auditorium and a mere 5,000 attended the final game.
Basketball may be making advances in other parts of the country, but it still has a long way to go to catch up to the "hotbed."
GORDON R. BROWN
In my four months as a Peace Corps teacher in West Africa I've become an enthusiastic admirer of the skill, agility and finesse with which my physical education students play the game of soccer football. I have found that the years of conditioning which the boys have had—kicking tin cans and oranges around the streets as soon as they are able to run—sometimes acts as a deterrent to learning the skills of American games, most of which involve the hands rather than the feet. But seldom have I been so utterly astonished as when one of my students utilized a bit of fancy footwork to his advantage in our American game of soft-ball. I thought your readers might like to hear about it.
It was a sunny December morning (there are no rain cancellations during the dry season, November to April) and one team had filled the bases with two outs in the last inning. Trailing by a run, they brought to the plate their last hope, Joseph Amara, the talented "outside left" of the school football squad. Joseph promptly tagged a screaming liner over the infield—one of those that brings spectators instinctively to their feet—but it was hit right at Allie Conteh, the left fielder. A capable footballer himself, Allie took a quick, choppy step; then, with the grace and timing of a champion diver, he leaped up, hit the softball solidly with his right instep on the bounce and drove it 30 feet through the air into the hands of the third baseman. The side was retired and the fielders trotted nonchalantly off the diamond, completely oblivious of the extraordinary feat just accomplished. I couldn't help thinking what an outfielder like Allie wouldn't do for a manager's ulcers!
Port Loko, Sierra Leone