MAKING ALTERNATIVE PLANS
The NFL Players Association was working on a plan last week to stage its own games this fall in the event that collective bargaining negotiations with the NFL owners, which have thus far been notably unproductive, result in either a strike or a lockout. The NFLPA's talk of holding some sort of alternative season, involving six or more "all-star" teams and culminating in a championship game, gained credence when the Turner Broadcasting System confirmed that it was close to reaching an agreement with the players' union to televise alternative games on its cable network. Asserting that the NFLPA had already begun lining up stadiums and promoters. Executive Director Ed Garvey said that the alternative season would provide players with income during a work stoppage. Perhaps more important, it might enable them to score telling bargaining points with the owners. "We've always said the players are the game," says Garvey. "If you have players and coaches and a local promoter, you've got football."
The NFL has indicated that it would likely challenge any NFLPA-sponsored games. Except for two dozen unsigned rookies and veteran free agents, all NFL players are currently under individual contracts with NFL clubs for at least one year, and the league takes the position that those contracts would prevent signees from playing football elsewhere during a strike. Garvey somewhat lamely tries to argue otherwise, maintaining that the NFLPA never approved the specific language in the standard player contract tying players to their NFL teams. Garvey is probably on stronger legal ground in contending that players would be free to participate in alternative games in case of an owners' lockout. Indeed, Garvey's unspoken objective in raising the possibility of such games may be to disabuse the owners of any thought of locking the players out just before the season opens on Sept. 12. If the owners could be induced to drop that idea, the NFLPA would be free to strike at a time of its own choosing, perhaps after the third game of the season, at which time players would get credit toward their pensions for a full season's service.
On the other hand, John C. Weistart, a professor of law at Duke who specializes in the legal aspects of sports, suggests that there may be ways that the NFLPA could maneuver the owners into locking out the players. This might be done, Weistart told SI's Cathy Wolf, if the union "whip-sawed" the owners by instructing certain teams to strike and others to continue to report to work. Or if it selectively ordered, say, all but the five highest-paid players on each team to strike. "What would the owners do with these five?" Weistart asked. "They couldn't use them. They need full teams and leagues. So they might release those players from their contracts to avoid paying their salaries. Then the NFLPA could order five more players back to work. The owners might have to simply give up and lock out everybody." Because of serious doubts about NFLPA unity—such players as Joe Montana, Ray Wersching and John Hannah have either resigned from the union or stated they won't honor a call to strike—it's uncertain whether Garvey could pull off such a strategem. But the very idea might give the owners something to think about as Sept. 12 approaches without progress toward a collective bargaining agreement.
NO MORE KILTS FOR MUFFY
Attention all alligators from coast to coast: Preppy is out. That's the word from Bea Toner, a past president of the U.S. Field Hockey Association who has been involved with that most top-drawer of all women's sports for three decades, but who now says flatly, "We're not preppy anymore. We've grown beyond that." Toner's assertion is prompted by a sartorial departure that occurred three weeks ago at the National Sports Festival in Indianapolis, where members of the four regional teams competing in women's field hockey put their accustomed box-pleated kilts in mothballs and adopted a stunning new look—brightly colored shorts and tank tops.
To appreciate the significance of this development, one must understand that while field hockey is also played by men, it has traditionally been thought of as a highly refined game for "ladies" who were earnestly expected not to sweat. This stereotype was encouraged by the fact that for many years participants were primly, if not suffocatingly, attired in jumper-style tunics with long-sleeved shirts and black stockings. Although tunics were largely replaced by kilts in the 1960s, that scarcely diminished field hockey's patrician flavor, especially in, the U.S., where the sport has been identified with Eastern private women's schools and where kilts rank with Topsiders and cultured pearls as symbols of conservatism and, yes, preppiness.
But field hockey can be a fast and action-packed game and the women playing it today tend to take it seriously. They have found kilts to be almost as hot and cumbersome as tunics, which helps explain the new getups in Indianapolis. Manufactured by Levi Strauss, the official Sports Festival outfitter, the skimpier uniforms were acclaimed as cooler and less restrictive than kilts and also met the complaints of players who, when dribbling, were forever losing track of the ball under their skirts.
The new look will be introduced in international competition when the U.S. national team dons shorts—with short-sleeved shirts rather than tank tops—at the American Cup tournament in Boston in October. U.S. players are also expected to wear shorts at the 1984 Olympics. Meanwhile, both Australia and New Zealand have expressed interest in the new uniforms. Although some members of the sport's Old Guard are upset about the abandonment of kilts, Noreen Landis-Tyson, the U.S. Field Hockey Association's director of communications, welcomes the change as being potentially helpful in expanding the sport's appeal beyond the Northeast. "Field hockey is no longer a ladies' game," she says. "This isn't the Dark Ages. Women sweat and everybody knows it. Besides, the preppy image isn't an exciting one."
SELLING FISH SANDWICHES
The University of San Francisco's decision on July 29 to drop basketball came the same week that a young man named Peter Simon was hired as the school's sports information director. SIDs are supposed to generate publicity for university athletic programs, but USF's bombshell was strictly bad news for Simon. Because USF doesn't have a varsity football team either, he now has little choice but to concentrate on beating the drums for the Dons' strong soccer program. Simon, who previously worked as publicity director for two pro soccer teams, the Tulsa Roughnecks and the now-defunct San Francisco Fog, gamely intends to do just that. "It's like if McDonald's couldn't sell hamburgers anymore," he says. "They would have to sell Filet-O-Fish sandwiches. You have to interest people in what you have."
PICKING ON THE GAY GAMES
The Gay Olympic Games, scheduled to begin in San Francisco on Aug. 28, shape up as quite an extravaganza. Designed "to show that gays are ordinary people," in the words of co-organizer Dr. Tom Waddell, the nine-day event will feature competition in 17 sports and is expected to attract 1,500 male and female participants from 14 countries. California Governor Jerry Brown is expected to attend. San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein has promised to proclaim a "Gay Olympics Week." The city has provided Kezar Stadium for the opening ceremonies. The track and field competition has been sanctioned by the national governing body for that sport, The Athletics Congress. But there's one sour note: The U.S. Olympic Committee, asserting exclusive right to such nomenclature, has demanded that sponsors drop the word Olympic from the event's title.
That demand has drawn the ire of Gay Olympics organizers, who charge that the USOC is singling out their undertaking because of queasiness about any association with homosexuality, which, if true, would be ironic considering that the ancient Olympics, an all-male event in which participants competed in the nude, was staged by a society in which homosexuality flourished. Waddell, who finished sixth in the 1968 Olympic decathlon in Mexico City and is now a gay activist, notes that there's no shortage of activities in the U.S. that are referred to, at least informally, as "Olympics," including the Alcoholic Olympics in Los Angeles, the Olympics of Ballet in Sacramento and the Pastalympics in Minot, N.D., which publicizes that state's durum wheat industry. "We've also come across the Rat Olympics, the Crab Cooking Olympics, the Xerox Olympics and the Armenian Olympics," says Waddell. "The bottom line is, if I'm a rat, a crab, a copying machine or an Armenian, I can have my own Olympics. If I'm gay, I can't."
U.S. Olympic officials deny that their displeasure with the Gay Olympics has anything to do with their views on homosexuality. They note that Congress, in the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, conferred on them exclusive control in this country of the interlocking-ring Olympic symbol and prohibited others, in the absence of permission from the USOC, from using the words Olympic, Olympiad or the like in ways that might cause confusion with "any Olympic activity." They say that the USOC has sanctioned the Junior Olympics and Special Olympics out of a desire to promote sports for young people and the handicapped but that USOC lawyers frequently write letters to organizers of other events complaining about unauthorized appropriation of the name. The objection to the Gay Olympics, they say, is that it is an athletic event that promises to be both large and international in scope and whose use of the Olympic designation would, as USOC Executive Director F. Don Miller has put it, "dilute the meaning and significance" of the Olympics.
It's possible that the USOC may yet take last-minute legal action to force a change of name. One trademark law specialist, University of Virginia law professor Harvey Perlman, says that the outcome of such an action might hinge on the issue of whether the Gay Olympics' name is likely to cause confusion in the public's mind. But Perlman notes that the Olympics go back 2,800 years and says that "a rather strong argument can be made that Olympics is a generic word" and thus in the public domain. Interestingly, International Olympic Committee Director Monique Berlioux says that the IOC now accepts that the word Olympic is generic and consequently no longer seeks to control its use. She also says that the IOC wasn't consulted about the 1978 Congressional act, adding, "The U.S. Congress has no right to give away something that belongs to the IOC, least of all the Olympic emblem, which Baron de Coubertin [the founder of the modern Games] bestowed on the IOC and nobody else." It was in keeping with that view that the IOC recently protested to the USOC what it considered the illegitimate use of the Olympic ring symbol in ads and articles in the USOC magazine, The Olympian. All of which makes it slightly awkward for the USOC to be screaming foul about the Gay Olympics.
In recent weeks note has been taken in these pages of the accomplishments of the University of North Carolina (winner of national championships in 1981-82 in basketball, lacrosse, women's soccer and the College Bowl quiz show), UCLA (winner of national titles in 1981-82 in swimming, tennis, volleyball, women's softball, women's track and debating) and USC (which has had gold-medal winners at every Summer Olympics since 1912). Now a reader, Kenneth E. Dennis of Arlington, Va., asks: Which is the only school ever to win NCAA titles in basketball and baseball and the Associated Press's mythical national collegiate football championship?
Good for you if you answered Ohio State. Bonus points if you also knew that the Buckeyes won their titles in basketball in 1960, in baseball in 1966 and in football in 1942, 1954 and 1968.
THEY SAID IT
•Bear Bryant, allowing that he'd been impressed during a meeting with Michael Kane, who's writing the screenplay for a movie on the Alabama football coach's life: "He's an able writer...if he writes what I told him."
•Pete Rose, on his ability to stay young: "I don't play like a 40-year-old and I don't think like a 40-year-old. I guess that's because I'm 41."