Colts owner Bob Irsay has been relegating visiting team owners to a box behind one end zone in the Hoosier Dome—it looks out between the goal posts. The owners in turn have let commissioner Pete Rozelle know that Irsay-style hospitality doesn't sit well with them.
So before the Colts' most recent home game—Oct. 7 against Washington—Irsay promised the league office that Jack Kent Cooke, the Redskins' owner, would have a box nearer midfield, right across the field from Irsay's. It was a good thing Cooke couldn't make the game; Indianapolis's host with the most had reportedly changed arrangements again, and Cooke would have been right down there behind the end zone.
One irritated NFL executive who got the cheap-seat treatment earlier this season said, "There's a movement among the owners who've been stiffed. When Irsay comes to our stadiums, he may just find himself sitting back in the stands." Out there with the common folk? Perish the thought.
Some USFL owners are saying publicly that "nothing special" will come out of their meeting this weekend at Amelia Island, Fla., but a few others have made it clear that they're expecting fireworks. Says one, "The league is falling apart. We may just decide to fold the whole thing."
In any case, the USFL's expansion-consolidation-relocation committee will present a plan to condense the 18-team league to 12 or 14 clubs for next spring. "We'll show the owners how to go about breaking up a club," says Memphis president Steve Ehrhart, a committee member. "We'll point out which markets are the most productive, where money can be saved, how to set up percentages of control among owners, who gets what title, which players would go where.
"We want the owners to come to their own conclusions on mergers. We don't want to say, 'Team X and Team Y will merge.' We want them to see this is for the good of the league. We don't want to get a lot of noses out of joint."
Coach Bum Phillips burned a hole in New Orleans' pocket when he traded for his old buddy, Houston running back Earl Campbell. The Saints are now paying almost $3 million in salaries to quarterbacks and running backs.
And if the word out of Houston proves to be true—that Campbell is burned out (he has averaged only 42.4 yards rushing per game this season), unmotivated, can't block or catch and is a constant corn-plainer—Phillips may have bought himself quite a bit less than he bargained for.
Says Houston linebacker Gregg Bingham: "Earl wasn't happy here. Unfortunately, when Earl's not happy, he can't produce at a high level. He wears his feelings on his sleeve. When you gain superstar status, you control the tempo of the team. When Earl was in a bad mood, everybody was in a bad mood."
Replies Campbell, "That's his opinion; I expect that from him."
In the meantime, Phillips has to stroke the egos of five running backs: Campbell, George Rogers, Hokie Gajan, Wayne Wilson and Tim Wilson.
Says Rogers: "It's up to Bum who gets the playing time. You can't play two backs. If it means winning and going to the Super Bowl, it's O.K. But if we're losing, and I'm not getting that much playing time, that would make me unhappy."
Well, in Sunday's 28-10 loss to the Rams, Campbell carried five times for 19 yards; Rogers five times for 11 yards.
Tampa Bay fans have come up with their own version of the wave. They call it the Orange Surf. During a game against Minnesota on Oct. 7, the first time the scoreboard signaled SURF'S UP! all of Tampa Stadium was rippling and roaring, and the Buc defense responded with a pass interception to set up a touchdown, tying the Vikings at 14-all.
That was fine, but all afternoon the crowd kept making waves without prompting, a couple of times when the Bucs had the ball. Coach John McKay wants to make it very clear that the wave is a defensive cheer. "Who's in charge of The Surf?" he asked after the game.
"It's spontaneous," replied an aide.
"Well, then," said McKay, "I'll have to talk to Mrs. Spontaneous."
Coach Monte Clark, looking for a way to bring his 1-5 Lions back to life, started Eric Hippie at quarterback Sunday against the Bucs. Hippie completed only five of 11 passes for 59 yards before leaving the game with a knee injury. He was replaced by Gary Danielson, the Lions' starter for the first six regular-season games, who completed six of 12 passes, including a 37-yarder to Leonard Anderson in overtime to give the Lions a 13-7 win.
Clark claimed he was starting Hippie because Danielson, who strained his left calf in a game with Denver Oct. 7, wasn't fit to play. Danielson, who threw four interceptions in that game, said not so and suggested a possible trade. "I won't pretend I'm hurt if I'm not hurt," said Danielson. "This just isn't right. I have my pride."
Remember the grueling eight-event Iron Man competition that the Vikings' commander in chief, Les Steckel, held at the beginning of Minnesota's training camp? The top five finishers were awarded prizes—cars, TV sets, gift certificates for sporting goods.
Well, commissioner Rozelle has now informed Viking general manager Mike Lynn that Minnesota's Iron Man stuff may have violated league rules. The question is whether the prizes are considered incentives; if so, they must be written into a player's contract.
In Sunday's 23-20 win over Minnesota, the Raiders were penalized five times for unnecessary roughness. "We could've ended up with 20 personal-foul penalties, but Coach Flores made a stupendous halftime speech," said cornerback Lester Hayes, who was flagged twice—once for punching Viking receiver Leo Lewis in the head. "Normally, your jam point is the receiver's numbers," explained Hayes, who's 6 feet. "But Lewis is an ultra-Smurf. He's only 5'3" [actually 5'8"], and his numbers are where a normal receiver's knees would be."
Sources on the 49ers are saying that if San Francisco, now 6-1, wins the Super Bowl this January, Bill Walsh will quit as coach to devote all his energies to his job as the Niners' president.
Walsh offers only a halfhearted denial. "The job I have now is all-inclusive," says Walsh, 52, in his sixth year as 49er head coach and his 30th year of coaching. "I am el presidents and I do have a lot of administrative duties. Sometimes, that's really expecting too much of myself.
"I'd like to take a year off, but as coach, I can't. With double duties, I can't even take the off-season off. Right now I'm at work two or three nights a week. I travel every other weekend, and it seems like we're always on the East Coast, so I'm away from home two days each week. We might be a better organization if I only worried about the duties as president. I'm not thinking about quitting. I still think there are challenges ahead in coaching. But I am tired."
After college, McAlister hoopily switched back to football.
HERE'S A MAN WITH TWO MINDS OF HIS OWN
Linebacker Ken McAlister of the Chiefs has a split personality. One side impelled him to skip college football, even though he'd been an All-America tight end and linebacker at Oakland (Calif.) High. "When I heard that Frank Kush hit a player," McAlister says, "I thought, 'I'm not going to subject myself to such lunacy.' "
That side of McAlister steered him toward basketball at the University of San Francisco, where he played point guard and captained the Dons in his senior year (1981-82). San Francisco was ranked in the Top 20 each season McAlister played there.
"I've always had the mindset for basketball—loose, not so serious every single game, kind of mellow," says the 6'5", 220-pound McAlister. "Basketball players aren't consumed. They leave practice and don't have to study films. They can better put their sport in perspective."
Then there's the side of McAlister that couldn't shut out football, the side that tells him four years of college basketball was merely his way of preserving his body for an NFL career.
That McAlister signed as a free agent safety/kick returner with the Seattle Seahawks in 1982. He was picked up on waivers by the 49ers early in the '83 season and played in four games for San Francisco, but was waived before the playoffs. McAlister signed with Kansas City last January, studied the Chiefs' play-book intensely, pumped iron, put on 25 pounds and in the third game of the season was made a starter at outside linebacker. He responded by making seven tackles, three sacks and one interception as the Chiefs defeated Cleveland 10-6. That's the side of himself McAlister likes best.
"There's no freedom of expression in sports like a tackle, just letting yourself go, exploding," McAlister says. "And there's nothing like being a kick returner, catching the ball, seeing all those bodies coming down on you and suddenly, magically, a hole opening up. And you burst through. Not even scoring the winning basket on a slam dunk to win the game feels as good.
"I'm a natural football player. I always have been. I knew that the whole time I was in college. I'm glad I finally found myself with the Chiefs."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: K.C. quarterback Bill Kenney, in his 1984 debut, came off the bench in the third quarter to complete 13 of 22 passes for 238 yards and two TDs in a 31-13 defeat of visiting San Diego.
DEFENSE: Giants outside linebacker Carl Banks, a rookie making his first start, had one fumble recovery, 11 tackles and two sacks—including one at the New York 1—as New York dumped the Falcons 19-7.
"Sometimes, when the fans start yelling mean things from the stands, I just want to kick them off a cliff," says Ali Haji-Sheikh, the New York Giant who has converted only four of 12 field-goal attempts and has missed three of 17 extra-point tries. "Ah, in my case, I'd better throw them off the cliff."