SI Vault
Robert H. Boyle
November 02, 1970
Monday night's pro football games grab boffo ratings and smart bettors have made a big killing, but nudies, saloons and players are all hurting
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November 02, 1970

Tv Wins On Points

Monday night's pro football games grab boffo ratings and smart bettors have made a big killing, but nudies, saloons and players are all hurting

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According to Lem Banker, oddsmaker for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, there is more action now on pro football than ever before. "Monday night games on television and more competition between teams of the previous two leagues have helped to increase the amount of the action," says Banker. One big attraction of the Mondays is that bettors can sit back and watch their selection at work, something that does not happen to a gambler betting half a dozen or more Sunday games. Betting has been so brisk that one San Francisco bookie laments, "Monday was my day in the country until this thing came along. Now some of my customers insist that I be available up to 5 o'clock in the afternoon. When Rozelle gives us Tuesday and Wednesday football I'm going into another business."

There appear to be several reasons why the Mondays lose on Sundays, at least as far as the point spread is involved. For one, the Mondays cut down the preparation for next Sunday's game. Ordinarily, most pro teams coming off a Sunday game rest the next day. This usually does not happen with the Mondays. The regular routine is upset and, as Safety Mike Howell of the Browns says, "Anything is bad that gets you out of the training routine." Quarterback Bill Munson of the Lions agrees, "It messes you up mentally and physically." After a Sunday game the Lions' routine, typical of most pro teams, is the day off on Monday, a mild workout without pads on Tuesday, offense day on Wednesday, defensive work on Thursday, half offense and half defense without pads on Friday and special teams on Saturday. After beating the Bears in a rough Monday night game four weeks ago the Lions tried to resume a normal work schedule on Wednesday. Coach Joe Schmidt had to curtail practice on both Wednesday and Thursday because many players couldn't work.

That Sunday the Washington Redskins "upset" the Lions. "We were just a flat team," says Schmidt. "We came off a Monday game. We had hurts. We couldn't generate anything." Running Back Mel Farr was kept out of the Sunday game because of an injured knee, but he says, "I think another day would have helped me play." The other players racked up on Monday did play on Sunday, but as a follower of the Lions notes, "They looked lousy and undoubtedly could have benefited from one more day of rehabilitation."

To be sure, there are a few players who don't believe the Mondays affect next Sunday's play. Johnny Unitas of the Colts says, "The shorter week doesn't hurt any. I found no trouble." True, the Colts beat the weak Boston Patriots on Sunday, but by only 14-6, their second touchdown coming on a Unitas pass with 1:52 to go when he was supposed to be running out the clock. The Colts played badly, no matter how well Unitas might have felt, and they won by less than the spread. Curiously, a couple of players even relish the Mondays. Lance Alworth of the Chargers says, "I like it when the game comes quicker. You don't practice so long." Teammate Walt Sweeney adds, "I love it because it cuts down on heavy practice."

But most pro players who have experienced the Mondays loathe them. "You need a day of rest to get the last game out of your system before you start another," says Jack Concannon, the Bear quarterback. Dick Schafrath, offensive tackle for the Browns, says, "I'm really not ready to work all out until Thursday or Friday of a regular week. Being physically tired has an effect on a team mentally, and there is a tendency to make more mistakes." One player, who requested anonymity, says, "Monday is the day many guys sleep all day. After a real physical game, especially on the road, you start to feel the bruises about the time you get on the plane. Maybe a guy sneaks a bottle aboard. Maybe the coach doesn't want to see. It's hard to sleep on a plane after a rough game, win or lose."

Some players are bothered by the fact that the Mondays are played at night. Cornerback Lem Barney of the Lions says, "The reason I hate Monday night games is that you have all day to sit around and think about them. It drives me nuts." Baltimore Tackle Bob Vogel hates losing out on his sack time. "Against Kansas City," he says, "I was playing the second half at a time when I'm normally in bed." Jerry Mays, the Chiefs' defensive end, points out, "It takes longer to recuperate from a night game than a day game. Even if you play the game at home, you usually end up missing a night's sleep. If you've won, you're too excited to sleep. If you've lost, you're too mad at yourself to sleep. What made our Monday night game with Baltimore unusually tough was that it was a night game played on the East Coast. We didn't get back home until about 3 a.m. Tuesday, and Wednesday didn't feel all that good. The effect was not so much to cut our preparation time for the Denver game from seven to six days as it was to cut it from seven to 5½ days."

Any mental blocks that result from the Mondays are minor compared with the physical wounds. "You have to be in the game to see these men try to recover for the next weekend," says Cleveland Coach Blanton Collier. "The short week has given the next opponent a definite advantage." Frank Larry, consultant to the Rose Bowl Sports Book in Las Vegas, disagrees. "All it amounts to is that one team has 24 more hours to recuperate and we take that into account to the extent of one point at the most. But, over all, I think it's been exaggerated; it's a coincidence that has become a conversation piece, and it will even out before the season is over." Last Sunday's results (both Mondays managed to beat the point spread) support Larry's prediction.

San Diego trainer Jim Van Deusen, estimates players need from 48 to 72 hours to shake off the physical trauma of game contact. Kansas City Trainer Wayne Rudy says, "Pro football players are geared to play a game every seven days, and if they have less time than that between games it pushes them too much to get ready. Our heavy days in the training room are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. By Friday and Saturday, excluding those with serious injuries, everybody is getting into pretty good shape. Coming out of any game, half the squad will have sore shoulders or backs. Take 24 hours' healing time away and most of them can still play, but not at full capacity, as they could if they had one more day." This is particularly true of veterans. "I have some back trouble," Jerry Mays says, "and when I play a game on Sunday and then go out and practice on Tuesday I find that when I try to touch my toes I can only reach as far as my knees. Wednesday I can reach to the tops of my socks, Thursday my ankles and then finally on Friday or Saturday I can touch my toes. So you can see what the cutting-down time between games does to me."

Will the aches and pains get better or worse as the season progresses? In all likelihood, worse. Ed Podolak of the Chiefs says, "As you get into the season I'm inclined to think that maybe a day of rest does you more good than a day of practice." Assistant Coach Bobby Boyd of the Colts believes the situation "probably will be worse later in the year when injuries begin to pile up."

No matter how the players may feel, Rozelle is pleased. Oddly enough, much the same might be said for NBC and CBS. When Rozelle finally decided to deliver his pitch for the Mondays—an idea he has had for years—CBS and NBC turned it down. They were locked into Monday night schedules. Rozelle tried ABC, and when it signed up, "CBS and NBC," in Rozelle's words, "were not obviously overjoyed." However, as a result of ABC taking on the Mondays, Rozelle was able to lessen the NFL's financial demands on CBS and NBC, and in return they agreed to cut back on Sunday doubleheaders. To Rozelle, this was ginger peachy because he feared doubleheaders would overexpose the game. By contrast, he sees no threat of overexposure with the Mondays, explaining, "We feel we've broadened our audience. On Monday night there are more sets in use than on Sunday afternoon. We're undoubtedly getting a lot of new fans."

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