Before Sloan was introduced to the Pro*Quarterback game his favorite pastime was Frisbee, which he facetiously claims to have invented. It was in 1952, five years before Wham-O first manufactured plastic Frisbees, that Sloan and Lincoln Dring stopped at a place in Hanover, N.H. which they have since dubbed Mrs. Frisbee's Pies. After consuming his pie, Sloan tossed the pie tin at Dring. Since that historic afternoon, he has thrown countless pie tins, garbage-can lids and, on one occasion, a hubcap from a 1962 Chevrolet.
"Aluminum units are best on a windy day," says Sloan. "When the thermals are just right, you've got it." He is now an accomplished Frisbee player, having mastered the Overhead Fandangle and the Sidearm Fantastic. He is still working on the Ming Thrust and the Wobbly, two of the game's most difficult throws. Sloan once made a thermal catch on a Ming Thrust, a Frisbee feat comparable to pitching a perfect game. " Frisbee keeps the body fit," he says. "The dice football game keeps the mind fit."
The DFL has thrived during its three-year history. (Despite its name, the league has no official connection with the company.) This season it expanded from eight to 12 teams and Sloan is considering going to 16 and four divisions. The success of the DFL has been due, in great part, to Sloan's diligence as commissioner. He was in Nassau on vacation last winter, enjoying a quiet dinner at the Emerald Beach Hotel with his wife Gale, when duty called—he left a plateful of conch fritters to phone Mama Batt's and get a rundown on the night's scores.
It once seemed that the DFL might crumble and the players return to bridge and bowling. The crisis arose last season when the Red Barons hadn't won a game. Joe Tubay and his Red Baron partner, John Witherspoon, began to seriously doubt each other's ability. In the final seconds of their sixth defeat, the Barons were driving toward the goal line. With the ball on the five, Witherspoon called the long bomb which, if completed, would have been caught 25 yards beyond the end zone. "We had a few words," Tubay recalled. "So what does he do? He lights my cape on fire!" This season Tubay has a new uniform and partner.
The cape-burning episode points out that tabletop players take their games as seriously as actual coaches. "If it's a crucial game, Bill is nervous all week long," Gale Sloan says. "At the start of the season he jokes about the league, and enjoys planning strategy. But in a few weeks it gets serious." Sloan and McLendon were undefeated during '67 regular season play, but lost the conference playoff. "That night Gil came home and I knew it would be best not to try to talk to him," Fran McLendon recalls. "As soon as he opened the door he began muttering, 'Bad dice, terrible execution,' over and over again. Eventually I went upstairs to bed."
Now it is 9 p.m. Sloan and McLendon's execution was flawless. Prince Valiant beat Dick Tracy 31-0, and the two men are in Mama Batt's bar celebrating. A friend, a stranger to the league, joins them and asks about the Chauncey Cup, a miniature of Rodin's Thinker, purchased for $30 at Sears Roebuck and named after the dog of one of Sloan's neighbors. "The Thinker is symbolic of the tabletop player," McLendon says of the trophy, which occupies a position of honor behind Batt's cash register. "It represents a guy in total concentration. I actually believe he isn't thinking about the next play in the game. He's trying to remember what he did with his clothes."
The first Chauncey Cup championship game, played on March 8, 1967, is the highpoint of DFL history. It took place at Sloan's home in South Holland, a respectable Dutch town 22 miles south of downtown Chicago. Goalposts were erected on the front lawn, along with a turnstile and a "searchlight." The league members had hoped for a real searchlight, something that would attract a large crowd. Sloan learned that one could be rented for $250 for a minimum of four hours. "How about $10 for 15 minutes?" he asked. The spotlight used that night was made from an ancient oscillating fan. Sloan tied two coffee cans onto it and placed two high-intensity bulbs inside. "We like to compare ourselves to Judge Hofheinz," he says. "He compromised by painting the roof of his Dome to prevent glare." What did attract a crowd, and created a traffic jam, were several DFL members picketing Sloan's house with such signs as "The End Is Here" and "DFL Unfair to Bo Chuck Pipers," a team that didn't qualify for the championship.
The game was played in Sloan's living room before 50 spectators. There was a miniature electric scoreboard, and a half-time show performed by the wives of league members.
The final game of the season was nearly as memorable. The DFL challenged the Carrol Stream Pro*Quarterback League, the other dice league in Chicago that plays Lansing's game, for the Armchair Athletic Union's Midwest Championship. Each league printed elaborate brochures containing player profiles and statistics. The DFL scouted their opponents from a "press box"—one member watched the Carrol Stream champions play their final game while standing on a chair.
"We were better organized," Sloan says. "We chose our best people to play according to statistics. We even had a cheering specialist. We won, but the evening wasn't a complete success: they brought a minister, and that took away half of our cheers."