Reigning Cup and MLS champ D.C. United looms as the Seals' next opponent on Sept. 3. "It's not realistic for a team of our stature to believe we can compete with MLS teams," Simpson says. "But you know how players are: It doesn't matter where they start, they always think they can advance."
And What About O.J.?
The 22-member Black and Hispanic Caucus of New York's City Council honored boxing promoter Don King at City Hall last week. The group presented the shock-haired convicted killer with a proclamation that read, in part, "Don King is by far the most noted and cherished American celebrity of African-American descent alive today." Guess that rules out Colin Powell, Toni Morrison, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Magic Johnson, Jesse Jackson. Muhammad Ali....
No Passing Fancy
At meetings preceding Monday night's ArenaBowl XI showdown between the host Arizona Rattlers and the Iowa Barnstormers, the Arena Football League's owners did what the bosses of successful leagues do: They discussed expansion and sat back while ESPN made a pitch to retain the broadcast rights to their games. Fox has also shown keen interest in the AFL because of its chief demographic—the league appeals mainly to 18-to-35-year-old males. After debuting with four teams in 1987, the league now has 14. It has also lasted longer than the American Football League, the World Football League, the U.S. Football League and any of Liz Taylor's marriages.
Two Arena teams had average attendance this season of more than 15,000; seven others averaged more than 10,000. Though the game at times seems like something a junior high gym teacher concocted on a rainy day, it has an undeniable, manic appeal. Arenaball has phone-booth-sized fields (50 yards by 85 feet) and bare-bones rosters (20 players per team). There are eight players to a side, and seven of them are required to go both ways. The four-foot-high, foam-rubber barriers—this is football in a padded cell—make it tough to head, for the haven of the sideline. "In our game, there's nowhere to hide," says Rattlers wideout-linebacker Hunkie Cooper.
Ticket prices average $12, and the venues are, for football, intimate. "There is no sport where the fans are as close to the players," says commissioner David Baker. That's true in a number of ways. Stars and veterans earn around $40,000 a season; foot soldiers make $600 a game, plus another $200 for a win. Players hold down second jobs and often sign autographs for a half hour after games. Because quickness, stamina and durability are at a premium, the players aren't as outsized as in the NFL. "Guys who are injury-prone, who can't play with pain or who are timid about contact—maybe they can play in the NFL, but we can't use 'em," says Rattlers coach and general manager Danny White.
Arenaball people have no difficulty looking down on the NFL. White, a Cowboys quarterback for 13 years, expresses disgust at the recent cavalcade of malfeasance perpetrated by his former team. "The players are making so much money and get so much attention, they lose track of reality," he says. "These [AFL] players work and hit just as hard, but they do it because they love the game. They don't make enough to do it for any other reason."