Yes, how to correlate a television advertisement and subsequent sales? For no useful statistical purpose, some people in Morristown, Minn. were asked how their buying habits related to what they saw advertised on TV sports programs. Though Detroit may consider the NFL Ford property and the AFL owned by Chrysler, no one in Morristown could think of an auto manufacturer who sponsored any telecasts. John Oys, 35, the superintendent of schools, did say, "I imagine Ford is buying pro football time since they seem to have all the—heh, heh—better ideas." Stanley Peroutka at the creamery said it did not matter that he couldn't recall which cars were sold because he would never be swayed by television commercials anyway. "It don't make any difference what they say. I'm buying Chevys and I'm buying them from Babe Nordmeier here in town. In a place like Morristown, if you don't buy a Chevy from Babe, if you don't stick with the home-town boys, you are a horse's hind end." Lowell Rasmussen at the Mobil station said he did not know whether Mobil Oil's big expenditure in TV sports on behalf of "detergent gasoline" helped his volume. He did say that his pals had begun to kid him about the Mobil commercials in which an automobile owner is constantly trying to wash his motor. "They tell me they're going to the Laundromat in Faribault for their lube jobs," Lowell says, with a weak grin. And Irv Schumacher served up a whiskey and ginger ale to a man just in from hunting ducks that morning and said, "I don't think I'd buy something just because of what is said about it on television. But I'll say this, there are getting to be quite a few things I don't touch with a 10-foot pole because I've been so damned perturbed by the commercials they put on television."
Perhaps there are no definitive answers to be found in Morristown. Still, we must ask many questions—strange questions—before we approach the truth of the television-sport world in the '70s. Would there be Minnesota Twins if there were no mentholated cigarettes? Would there be Saints or Padres or Royals or Dolphins or Bucks if there were no antileak antifreeze or supermileage gasoline or greaseless hair tonic? Could the Vikings survive without Polyglas tires? Could the Mets have won without lime-scented shaving cream or Arnie have been so bold if it were not that United flies friendly skies? Maybe yes, maybe no. Only one thing is certain. Dick Forbes spends $12.5 million. John DeLorean is confident sport brings the audience that Chevrolet wants. Yet it is not difficult to find television and sport executives who wonder if there are enough corporations willing to pay the premium to support major league sports in the manner to which they have so quickly become accustomed. They fear the commercial base for sports TV may dwindle away, that the price for rights will drop, the fiscal structure be undermined and the prosperity sapped from sport itself. This is why the statesmen of sport do not rest easy as they look to the '70s. Through them, sport has allied itself, irrevocably, with television. No longer can the man who pays his way into a stadium assure the success—or even existence—of his teams with his dollars, or with his fervor. As things now stand, the future of big-time athletics depends upon the whims, the quirks, the guesses and the goals of salesmen, product engineers, labor officials, economic analysts. Yes, absurd as it seems, sports fans must root almost as much for a good business climate as for a good clutch hitter so that TV's millions keep rolling in. We must trust that the skies of United never turn surly, that Schlitz does not lose its head, that Travelers finds no leaks in its umbrella, that Chevrolet does not decide Maudie Frickert holds the checkbook after all, that Ford won't build another Edsel. We must root for the gross national product, hope our linebackers can dam the gold drain and pray that Dow Jones will win 20 games at least.
Television has carried sport into the golden era of Super Spectator, but at the same time has come a life and death dependence on the dollars of commerce. Major league sport has sold itself beyond the capacity to control its own destiny. All it can do now is hope that it will be well treated.