What had put them behind was the case that Myerson was slowly, methodically building for the USFL, the league one NFL lawyer recently said was "being held together by chewing tobacco, baling wire and Harvey Myerson."
The contrast between Myerson and Rothman, the two men who have handled most of the examination of the witnesses, is striking. The 59-year-old Rothman, the former chairman and chief executive officer of MGM/UA Entertainment, is tall, gray-haired, avuncular and undemonstrative. He stands at the podium to question witnesses and rarely wanders from it. The 48-year-old Myerson is short, chunky, dark-haired and menacingly combative, given to shouting angrily at witnesses, moving around as he talks and playing to the jury with shrugs, sighs and a rolling of his eyes. While Rothman has addressed the jurors, Myerson has entertained and wooed them.
Myerson's style has become an issue in the case. During Myerson's withering interrogation of Jim Spence, a former executive with ABC, Rothman said to the judge, Peter K. Leisure: "Your honor, I respectfully object to counsel yelling at the witness...." Moments later, in a conference at the bench, Rothman complained, according to the trial transcript, that Myerson was "looking at the jury, smiling at the jury, making motions toward the jury.... It is distracting, it is improper." Leisure overruled him, saying, "I'm not going to impose a restriction on the style of counsel...."
Style aside, what Myerson had done in the first half of the trial was build a viable case for the USFL, whose commissioner, Harry Usher, was quoted before the trial as saying that the league needed to win its suit to survive beyond 1986. The very crux of Myerson's case—what he termed in his opening argument a "smoking gun" designed to destroy "this little itty-bitty league"—is a remarkable document, the so-called "Harvard Study." Commissioned by the owners' NFL Management Council and put together by a Harvard Business School professor, Michael Porter, and an assistant, the study became the subject of a February 1984 slide-show seminar attended by 65 NFL executives. It was entitled "USFL Vs. NFL," and it suggested various strategies for putting the USFL out of business.
Among others, these included: 1) making efforts to force ABC, which had televised its spring football games, to discontinue its USFL contract by giving the network a weak Monday Night Football schedule, 2) attempting "to co-opt the most powerful and influential [USFL] owners with promises of NFL franchises" and 3) trying "to bankrupt the weakest teams to reduce USFL size and credibility." The study was the most damaging evidence produced by the USFL in its efforts to demonstrate intent by the NFL to kill the league. In testimony, Rozelle denied vigorously that he knew about the study before the seminar. He finally did see the study.
"When I read this presentation, I almost got physically ill," Rozelle said.
Myerson, theatrically: "To your stomach, Sir?"
Myerson: "I see. How long did it take you to recover?"
Rozelle: "About half a day."