For Commissioner Pete Rozelle this has not been a good year. The recent ruling of Federal District Judge William T. Sweigert that the National Football League's player-reserve system violates antitrust laws is only the latest in a series of woes that have beset the league. These include rising costs, falling attendance, the players' strike, no-shows and, after Congress had acted to ensure the televising of home games, the ignominy of lower TV ratings.
But Rozelle is not the only one with problems—as anybody involved with the WFL could testify. As early as this month another federal judge may cause consternation in the ranks of all professional sports—and among owners and performers alike—if he rules in favor of an Internal Revenue Service attack on tax shelters. The NFL has indicated it will appeal Judge Sweigert's decision. No doubt, an adverse finding in the IRS case would be appealed, too.
In that one, the government is questioning the value of $183,000 put on each of 42 players the Atlanta Falcons selected in a draft when they came into the league in 1966. The IRS claims that management should not place any monetary value on personnel. If the major part of the cost of a franchise were its players, the team could amortize them over a period of time and pay no taxes while turning a profit, as the Falcons did. By depreciating nearly $1.5 million worth of players in each of their first two years, the owners reported losses of half a million plus while actually taking in several hundred thousand dollars more than they paid out.
This kind of bookkeeping has had much to do with the proliferation of pro teams in recent years. Should it be struck down, the ramifications would be far-reaching. Franchises could fold, only those with a reasonable prospect of making a profit would be started and all those newly created free agents would find that the easy money is no longer there.
Rozelle and others in pro sport may have disliked 1974. Depending upon what happens in court, they may care even less for 1975.
TOPPED BY THE TIMBERS
Patty Johnson, this country's best woman hurdler, has won again—well, almost. Last winter she protested that only four of the 32 events at Los Angeles' Sunkist Invitational indoor meet were for women. The 1975 meet has scheduled eight. Just one drawback. No women's hurdles.
AROMA WITH A VIEW
The weather has cooled sufficiently in most parts of the country to safely resuscitate a topic first raised—if that is not too indelicate a word—during the steamy days of Indian summer by the running physician, George Sheehan (SCORECARD, July 26, 1971, et seq.): namely, sweat. The doctor is for it, and none of your wishy-washy antiperspirants, deodorants or morning showers. The Saturday night bath is ablution enough.
Dr. Sheehan is talking about honest sweat, the kind worked up by distance runners and middle linebackers and puddlers in steel mills. It is an odorless dilute salt solution, the chemical composition of which has been duplicated in E.R.G., a drink used extensively by marathoners. To get rid of it, Dr. Sheehan recommends a daily change of clothes. After a sweaty workout on the roads he towels off, puts on his clothes and goes back to his patients, confident that they will never sniff out what he has been up to. Showers, he says, are time-consuming and can lead to a chill and complications.
But there is also dishonest, or nervous, sweat. It comes from the apocrine glands situated in such hair-bearing areas as the armpits, and can be triggered by emotional distress and crises. If the secretion of the glands does not bear an odor, it does provide an excellent culture medium for odor-forming bacteria. No need to let fear and anxiety and guilt lead you to lavender baths, though, says Sheehan. "Just when I am about to punch the next person I see right in the nose, I take my daily run and return full of sweetness and light—and ready for a towel-off."
The assignment in a ninth-grade English class in Fort Dodge, Iowa was to write an original myth. Kyle Smith chose football as his subject, and until a more plausible explanation of the origin of the game of gods comes along, we will stick with his.
Before the creation, Kyle wrote, the universe was grass, stretching infinitely. A pig appeared, and ate so much he exploded. Out of his stomach appeared 22 men and a woman. They sewed the pig up and began kicking him around. Eventually the woman wove garments for the men to wear. She called them jerseys and, to tell the men apart, sewed numbers on their backs. The men were called gods. Soon there were other people. They were called fans. After a while the 22 gods tired of their disorganized sport and began anew.
On the first day the chief god said, "Let there be chalk lines." And there were, 'It ain't perfect," he said, "but it will have to do." On the next day there were goal posts, then a stadium ("Heck, it ain't no Astrodome, but we'll get by"), popcorn ("For a quarter you'd at least think they could put more butter on it") and on the fifth day a parking lot. A parking lot? "Of course. We can charge 50¢ an hour. We're gods, ain't we?"
On the sixth day the gods sat around trying to think up a catchy name for their creation. "Gridiron," suggested a lesser deity. "Dumbest name I ever heard," said the head god. "Good idea."
The gods played every day, and the stadium was packed with fans. ("Only males, mind you. The sole purpose of females in this perfect society was to stay home cooking and mending jerseys.") But attendance fell off, and the offerings dropped lower and lower.
"The fans don't worship us like they used to," said a god, "and if gods ain't worshiped they ain't gods."
"Maybe we should play just half of a year," said another god.
"How about once a week?" said still another.
"Why not both?" asked a fourth.
That is when the gods created the four seasons: fall and winter to play games, summer for preseason practice and spring for knee operations.
Their work done, the gods rested, and on the seventh day they played football.
SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
If National Hockey League President Clarence Campbell is serious about dampening the more riotous spirits in his game, he might like to review the penalty handed out to the St. Louis Blues' Bob Plager in a game last month. While the New York Rangers' Derek Sanderson quietly listened to a referee's explanation of why he and Plager would have to go to the penalty box, Plager suddenly bombed him with a hard shot to the snoot. Then Plager grabbed Sanderson's arm, to prevent any retaliation, and hit him at least three more solid shots. The penalty: two minutes for roughing.
Campbell should remember the game. It was the one that erupted toward the end in a bench-clearing, all-out war that lasted 22 minutes, two more than a full period. It is tempting to call the display one of the most disgraceful in the history of hockey, but there are so many to choose from these days, one hesitates to make comparisons.
We had hoped to spare you this, but what at first had been only nasty rumor is now proven fact. C. V. Wood, chief judge of the annual chili contest in Terlingua, Texas—who, mind you, won the event just three years ago—has admitted not only to using pork chops and chicken broth in his recipe, but celery. The Austin pod of the Chili Appreciation Society International has demanded his ouster, and Frank X. Tolbert, director of the Terlingua cookoff, is really hot under the collar. Celery, indeed! The famed chili author and authority on that other cowboy delight, son-of-a-bitch stew, might even resign. Stalk out, one might say.
DON'T FENCE HER IN
If she turns out to be half as adept at fencing as at tilting legal windmills, Karen Christiano is going to make the boys on the Parsippany Hills (N.J.) High team wish they had gone out for something a lot less rugged, like football.
Karen, who turned 17 last month, had no intention of becoming a liberation leader. She just wanted to fence on the boys' team. And as various state agencies were soon to find out, when Karen starts something Karen finishes it.
The team accepted her, which would have ended things there, but the state Interscholastic Athletic Association advised Parsippany that fencing was a contact sport. Girls in the Garden Stale do not play contact sports with boys. "Oh," said Karen, pointedly.
There followed a protracted duel with bureaucracy. Karen lobbied in Trenton, the state capital, and succeeded in having a bill passed that prohibited discrimination because of race, sex or national origin in all educational opportunities in New Jersey public high schools. The measure was signed into law last January, but the athletic association told Karen it would not act until it got official notice. The association never gets official notice, she soon discovered, so it was off to the courts with the help of a third-year law student at Rutgers. In December the association backed off and changed its rules. Now if there are enough girls in a school to form, say, a basketball team, they will have one with equipment and coaching equal to the boys'. If there are not enough girls for a team, those who want to play basketball can go out for the boys' team. Since it applies to every association school in the state, whether it receives federal funds or not, the ruling is as strong as any yet in the country.
So how is Christiano's fencing coming along? Not well. There are five girls on the boys' team, but she is spending Mondays in Trenton setting up a program to train high school students as lobbyists. Since she feels it is unfair to her teammates to regularly miss practice, she is going to help coach instead. Boys, watch out.
WINNING WAY TO LOSE
Butch Morgan may not make it in basketball, but as a teacher he soon could promote himself right out of his peer group.
Disturbed that his St. Joseph the Provider team of Rutland, Vt. was becoming too serious about winning, Coach Morgan took time—lots of time—to read to his squad an inspirational poem, Don't Quit, before a game with Castleton State College. Not as infused with the muse as Morgan, the referee began to assess technical fouls for delaying the start of the game. By the time he finished, Morgan had amassed five technicals, but the lesson was thoroughly learned. Castleton made three of the five technicals, and St. Joseph lost 79-78.
Anybody out there considering reviving William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life could do worse than look up Ron Karp for the part of the maniacal pinball player who finally hits, sending the stage into a paroxysm of patriotic tunes and flashing lights. The only foreseeable problem with the casting is that young Ron might never leave, or if he did, he would be too heavy to push through the exits.
Ron is 13. He comes from Burlingame, Calif., and after a pre-Christmas romp with the no-tilts, he is ready to claim any and all records for pinballing. Over a stretch of 36 hours and three minutes Ron played 481 games on his chosen machine, the Gottlieb "Top Card," running up a total of 22,750,988 points. Winning replays as fast as he could pop the silvery balls into firing position, he played the first 6½ hours on his original quarter, the price of one game. He had spent just 50¢ by game No. 211. Friends brought food to him, mostly corn dogs, pizza, Coke and candy, and therein lay the trouble. When he began play, Ron weighed 111 pounds. He was 118 when his mother hauled him away. Said Mrs. Karp, "We thought 36 hours was enough to prove his point."
THEY SAID IT
Mike McCormack, Philadelphia Eagles coach, fearful that the Rozelle Rule may be declared illegal: "I think it would turn football into a mercenary sport."