But how is the
Dolphins' laundry a risk? Says Lancaster, "Well, here I am with a plant
[Coral Gables Laundry & Dry Cleaning] that does over 500.000 pounds of
laundry a year. So there it was 1966 [the year Miami entered the league], and
I'm thinking. This Dolphins laundry is dirty stuff. Say some day it doesn't
come out so good, and some guy like Cosell tells the whole country, 'Look at
those grubby uniforms. I wonder who does their laundry?' Everybody'd know, and
you'd be dead."
Could we talk
about your laundry secrets after Sunday's game? "Well," he says.
"I'm going to the game and then having a little party. A lady friend is
flying in from Colorado for dinner." Do you ever do the laundry, I ask.
"Hey." he says, "I started out driving the truck."
No single secret
of washday pride exists on the NFL suds circuit. Each of the 192 or so folks
who scour these giant filthy clothes has his or her own ticket to whiter whites
and brighter brights. They know one another. "Hey, if you talk to the guys
in the 49ers' laundry," says Nick D'Amico, the Redskins' grand old man of
laundry, "tell them Nick says hello. A few years back we painted the grass
at RFK Stadium, and those guys had hardly gotten back to San Francisco before
they were calling. 'What the hell is this green stuff we got all over us?'
The painted grass
was D'Amico's worst laundry challenge. "The grass in the stadium was
lousy," he recalls. "We had a network game coming up. Nobody knew what
to do, so they painted the field with paint—regular paint. Then the grass died,
so they painted it again. To the viewer, it looks like these guys are getting
grass stains, but to me...."
Six years later
D'Amico is still exasperated. "I had to take the paint to a lab in Maryland
and have it analyzed." he says. "Turns out there's nothing we can use
to get the paint out that won't dissolve the spandex in the pants. I hand
scrubbed for hours, but I still lost 26 pants in one game. Jeez."
continues D'Amico, "the press caught on, and the field crew resodded the
stadium. I still got the mud and sand to deal with, but at least it's not as
bad as Atlanta. The Falcons' red clay outfield kills us every time."
clay is known around the NFL as washday's worst-case scenario, every game,
every team, presents its own set of laundry problems. "Cleveland has some
sort of mildew on its field that makes a black mess," one laundry man told
me. "Pittsburgh has soot residue on its [artificial] turf," another
complained. And Jets equipment chief Bill Hampton confirmed that every slide
across the Meadowlands' red-painted midfield map of New Jersey leaves a portion
of the Garden State imbedded in the player's clothes. In fact, the consensus
among NFL washerpeople is that the inorganic problems created by artificial
turf are tougher on uniforms than those caused by good old
enzyme-break-downable mud and grass.
They also agree
that time is of the essence in their profession. "You can never, ever let
the clothes sit," says Rams uniform sorter and prespotter Nick Perri, a
uniform specialist at Hub's Athletic Service in Lynwood, Calif. "The minute
I get the game stuff. I spread it out on the floor. Leave it bundled up
overnight, and it starts growing stuff."
washerpeople seem to agree that the most important step in laundry is washing
before you wash. Comments D'Amico, "A lot of people don't understand their
detergent. Detergent works by grabbing the dirt from the fabric and holding it
in suspension until you can drain it away. With football uniforms, you've got
to watch out for redeposition of sediment. That means you've got to put it
through one cycle to get enough dirt out to give the main cycle a fighting
presoaks with more care than the Browns. At his home in Berea, Ohio, Dick
Schaedler is mixing a magic potion in some old five-gallon plastic containers
he nabbed from a restaurant supplier. Schaedler, a sporting-goods store owner
who inherited the Browns' laundry from his predecessor, Jimmy East, two years
ago, does the game-day pants and jerseys with the help of his wife, Sandy, and
their 17-year-old Whirlpool.