Someone asked a yippie what he thought of the Indianapolis 500 and the yippie said, "They're all innocent."
HOW BIG IS BIG?
The poor old Denver Rockets of the American Basketball Association (SCORECARD, Sept. 28 and Oct. 19) keep having trouble. Now Spencer Haywood, first of the undergraduate basketball stars Denver signed out of college before their eligibility was up, has been fined and suspended by the club. Haywood's trouble is a disinclination to play (he missed three practices and one game last week before he was suspended), brought about to some extent by a broken finger incurred during the exhibition season and to a greater extent by disenchantment with the six-year contract he signed last year for a total of $1.9 million. That figure supposedly included all elements of his contract, of course; his actual salary was only $35,000, although it was to escalate to $75,000.
That was last year. This year Haywood apparently decided that he was not sure he was getting all that he had been promised and asked that his contract be renegotiated. Ben Gibson, a Denver banker who was Haywood's legal guardian before the player reached his 21st birthday last April, said, "I'm sure some other players have bugged him about not being treated right. They tell him they're getting $85,000 a year, and he wonders why he isn't. Of course, these guys are always lying but Spencer doesn't know this. With that injury, I guess he had nothing else to do but listen to these ding-a-lings and it began to fester. He's a good kid, but now he feels people aren't treating him right and there are plenty of guys around who want him to believe that."
Including, perhaps, the rival NBA, where money seems to be no object. Here is a rundown on the Philadelphia 76ers' salaries ("some precise, some estimated from reliable information"), as published a couple of weeks ago in the Philadelphia Bulletin:
Billy Cunningham, $235,000
Archie Clark, $125,000
Luke Jackson, $100,000
Hal Greer, $100,000
Bailey Howell, $62,500
Wally Jones, $40,000
Jim Washington, $30,000
Mat Guokas (since traded), $30,000
Bud Ogden, Dave Scholz, Dennis Awtrey, Al Henry (combined), $110,000
Total: $832,500, or almost $70,000 a man.
Some of these figures certainly must include benefits beyond basic salaries. Even so, somebody is kidding somebody, either in Philadelphia or Denver.
HUNT FOR THE BEST
Recruiting football players is a subtle art. Among the things that Mississippi State likes to let its prospects know about is its athletic dormitory, which includes a game and fish cleaning room, complete with "stainless steel sink and disposal can in a Formica-covered counter."
Professional football's No. 1 minor league, the Atlantic Coast Football League, is in deep financial trouble and may have difficulty finishing the season. The Orlando Panthers (which tried to revive interest early this season by hiring Pat Palinkas, the lady placekick holder) are near the bottom of the barrel; the Panthers agreed to play last Saturday only because the gate receipts might be enough to pay their salaries. The Jersey Jays have already been taken over by the league. The Richmond Saints postponed a game because of "injuries and other problems," even though there were enough players on hand to play. The "other problems" were not spelled out, but only 1,500 had attended Richmond's game a week earlier.