Alex Hawkins' dismissal of the NFL Players' Association as having "outlived its usefulness" (SCORECARD, Nov. 20) has excited vigorous dissent among our readers, one of whom wrote, "There are unions and unions, and much good or bad to be said about individuals within them, but Hawkins' line about 'heroes or union men' is an insult to many a hero of the labor movement. It is an echo of the old propaganda that unions may be all right for the absolutely starving but are beneath the dignity of almost everybody else. When Actors' Equity was formed the employers argued that it would take the glamour out of the theater, but the Barrymores, for instance, joined the union and their glamour was undimmed. When the Newspaper Guild was started, the publishers argued that it would take the romance out of newspapering; Heywood Broun replied that he could be "twice as romantic for twice the money.'
"Hawkins' argument appeals mainly to snobbery. The players who have not made it big and want to protect their rights are damned as moneygrubbers. But sport is big business, and collective bargaining is a hard-won, democratic right. How far do appeals to idealism and heroism get with owners?"
When Lenny Wilkens, player-coach of the Seattle SuperSonics, was demoted to player-only last April, local basketball fans were outspokenly annoyed. Yet the love affair between fans and team had been so strong (last season Seattle had 19 sellouts and the third highest attendance in the NBA even though it is way down the list of the league's cities in population) that when Lenny said he would be content to continue as a player, everything seemed O.K.
Then, in late August, the Sonics suddenly traded Wilkens to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and seismic tremors shook the Northwest. Switchboards exploded. Letters clogged the post office. With Lenny gone, attendance dropped precipitously. Not a game was sold out—until early last week when Wilkens and the Cavaliers came to town for the first time. The second biggest crowd in Sonic history showed up, and when Wilkens was routinely introduced before the game he was greeted with a roaring ovation that lasted three minutes. In contrast, each Sonic player was lustily booed, a sour irony since many of them, notably Spencer Haywood, had publicly deplored Wilkens' departure. Even so, the fans derided every Sonic move during the game and cheered the Cavaliers to a 113-107 victory.
After the game, a police guard was needed to protect Wilkens from his admirers when he came to the scorers' bench for a radio interview. In the interview he carefully avoided direct criticism of the Seattle management, but when the announcer compared his trade to that which sent Willie Mays from San Francisco to New York last spring, Wilkens politely corrected him. "Willie Mays wanted to leave," he said. "I didn't."
Even though the New York stock market broke through the all-important 1,000 barrier on the old Dow, one of the most promising items in sports manufacturing seemed to be heading the other way. Snowmobile companies, riding high a while back, are in a shakedown period. Six years ago there were 100 companies making snowmobiles in North America; last year there were 60, now there are 40, and insiders predict half of these will be gone in a few years. Bombardier Ltd., largest snowmobile manufacturer in Canada, has dropped from $25 a share to $7, partly because Canadian manufacturers have had to cope with a motor vehicle safety act that requires a noise level no higher than 82 decibels, high-low headlights, disc brakes, brake lights and reflector markings on each side. The cost of such noise control and safety equipment affects the price of the snowmobile and, according to Laurent Beaudoin, president of Bombardier, "In a declining market, it will be difficult to pass the costs on to the customer." The company does not expect any better sales this winter than in the 1971-72 season, so an upswing seems at least a year off.
LANGWIDGE IN ACTION
A visitor to Ireland said, after wading through Gaelic spellings (Dun Laoghaire is the classic way of rendering Dunleary, for example), "The Irish are great spellers but terrible pronouncers." U.S. orthography is not at the complicated level of Gaelic, but we can mispronounce with the best of them. A student of the art says that a sportscaster covering Notre Dame games regularly refers to the Fightin' Ahrsh, and that the following is the way some fans pronounce the names of their favorite baseball teams:
Sin Loose Carnals
And if he had been around New York and Brooklyn 20 years ago, he would have heard fans arguing about the relative merits of the Jints and Dodjiz.
ONE OF GEORGE'S BOYS
Frankie Albert, the old Stanford All-America who became the first quarterback and third coach in San Francisco 49er history, was talking about resourcefulness the other day. "When I was coaching in the 1950s," Frankie recalled, "old George Halas would have so many of his freeloading buddies on the sidelines at Wrigley Field, you couldn't tell the coaches from the fans—all those guys pacing up and down in overcoats and snap-brim hats. Well, one day something happened in the game that drove outline coach, Bill Johnson, wild. Before I knew it, he was running out on the field yelling at the officials and pointing at the players like crazy. I didn't know what was going on so I followed Bill out there. The referee spotted me and said, 'Frank, who is this man?' I hesitated for a moment thinking of the consequences, and then I said, 'I've never seen him before in my life.' The referee figured Johnson must have been one of Halas' boys and he ordered him off the field and into the stands. Bill looked puzzled, but I just looked away. It cost me an assistant coach for the rest of the game, but it saved the team a 15-yard penalty for a technical. I figured it was worth it."
Golfers, particularly hackers, have been hearing for some time of a new kind of golf ball that incorporates an electronic beeper. If you lose the ball in a particularly grim bit of rough, you tune in on the beeper and it leads you unerringly to the right spot.
But the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, the British counterpart of the U.S. Golf Association, has declared the ball illegal, holding that Rule 37 (9) says, "The players shall not use any artificial device which might assist him in making a stroke or in his play." Finding a lost ball artificially, the argument goes, relieves the golfer of the penalty he should have received for his bad shot.
This raises an interesting point. A golfer playing with a caddy has the right to send the caddy out front to watch where a possibly errant shot may land, which neatly eliminates the possibility of a penalty for a lost ball. Caddy, yes, electronics, no, says the Royal and Ancient. Except that a lot of golfers who seldom if ever use caddies would rather play with an illegal ball that says, "Here I am," than waste a lot of time exploring the rough after a bad shot.
CHOOSE AND PICK
When the San Diego Chargers traded Marty Domres to the Baltimore Colts earlier this year for a first-round draft pick, the Colts gave the Chargers' Harland Svare a choice: he could have Baltimore's own first-round pick or the one the Colts had obtained from the Washington Redskins in an earlier deal. Because the perennially powerful Colts were usually one of the last teams to make a selection, Svare logically settled on Washington's as the one he wanted.
Poor Svare. Who could possibly have known then that the Colts would collapse completely, and that the Redskins would suddenly become so much better? Now, the way things are going in the standings, the difference between Baltimore and Washington picks could be as much as 20 choices.
NOT SO BIG TEN
When giants fall, they are often unmercifully jeered by pygmies. The Big Ten, once the mightiest of football conferences, has been suffering that fate and is getting tired of the abuse. After all, the Big Ten has far more players on National Football League rosters than any other conference, almost as many, in fact, as the vaunted Big Eight and Southeastern conferences combined.
This could reflect past glory, of course, but Steven Kerr, an assistant professor of management sciences at Ohio State, presents a defense of current Big Ten status, too. The conference had a negative 11-16 record in nonconference games at the time of Kerr's study, but his figures show that the Big Ten plays far more games against teams in the top 20 than anybody else. Almost 45% of its nonconference games are against topnotchers, compared to 25% for the Pacific Eight, 23% for the Southwest, 16% for the Big Eight and a mere 10% for the Southeastern.
Good for Kerr, good for the Big Ten. However, a closer study of such games does not enhance the Big Ten image. Michigan and Ohio State, the best in the conference, were 5-0 against outsiders, but the outsiders were UCLA, North Carolina, California, Tulane and Navy. The last three were not particularly distinguished this season. The six other Big Ten outside wins were over Kentucky, Syracuse (twice), Pitt, Oregon State and Northern Illinois. Excluding Northern Illinois, the combined record of these teams was 11-31. Some very fine teams have beaten the Big Ten, and some of the scores have been humiliating: 49-0 by Nebraska, 55-20 and 51-6 by USC, 38-6 by Colorado, 37-0 and 35-14 by Notre Dame, 35-17 by Penn State. And the Big Ten has also lost to Bowling Green, Washington (twice), Kansas and TCU.
In sum, Big Ten football is still pretty good, especially if you root for Michigan and, most weeks, Ohio State. But it is not what it used to be, which is all anybody is saying, really.
Members of the Baltimore City Council have offered a simple suggestion for curbing excess speed on quiet streets that are all too often used for impromptu drag races. They want bumps: rounded, blacktopped obstacles several inches high that stretch from curb to curb. Used on many college campuses and other traffic backwaters, the bumps present only a mild problem to a slowly moving vehicle but they shake the bolts out of a fast moving one. And they effectively control traffic without lights, stop signs or traffic officers.
THEY SAID IT
•Lyle Brown, University of Rochester basketball coach: "On my 12-man squad I've got four math majors and five psychology majors, which sometimes makes it tough to get a lot done in practice. If I tell the squad to shoot 200 free throws, the math majors will sit down and figure out how many shots that is per man, and the psych majors will huddle together and say: 'Now what did he really mean by that?' "
•Nate Thurmond, Golden State Warrior center who, although he is 6'11", once thought he might make a career of baseball instead of basketball: "I gave it up when I realized I couldn't hit the high fastball."
•Lord Wigg, British thoroughbred racing official who raised taxes on bookmakers: "My immediate reward for increasing the tax on bookmaking was major vilification, and it was confidently asserted in bookmakers' circles that my mother and father met only once, and then for a very brief period."