Alex Hawkins' dismissal of the NFL Players' Association as having "outlived its usefulness" (SCORECARD, Nov. 20) has excited vigorous dissent among our readers, one of whom wrote, "There are unions and unions, and much good or bad to be said about individuals within them, but Hawkins' line about 'heroes or union men' is an insult to many a hero of the labor movement. It is an echo of the old propaganda that unions may be all right for the absolutely starving but are beneath the dignity of almost everybody else. When Actors' Equity was formed the employers argued that it would take the glamour out of the theater, but the Barrymores, for instance, joined the union and their glamour was undimmed. When the Newspaper Guild was started, the publishers argued that it would take the romance out of newspapering; Heywood Broun replied that he could be "twice as romantic for twice the money.'
" Hawkins' argument appeals mainly to snobbery. The players who have not made it big and want to protect their rights are damned as moneygrubbers. But sport is big business, and collective bargaining is a hard-won, democratic right. How far do appeals to idealism and heroism get with owners?"
When Lenny Wilkens, player-coach of the Seattle SuperSonics, was demoted to player-only last April, local basketball fans were outspokenly annoyed. Yet the love affair between fans and team had been so strong (last season Seattle had 19 sellouts and the third highest attendance in the NBA even though it is way down the list of the league's cities in population) that when Lenny said he would be content to continue as a player, everything seemed O.K.
Then, in late August, the Sonics suddenly traded Wilkens to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and seismic tremors shook the Northwest. Switchboards exploded. Letters clogged the post office. With Lenny gone, attendance dropped precipitously. Not a game was sold out—until early last week when Wilkens and the Cavaliers came to town for the first time. The second biggest crowd in Sonic history showed up, and when Wilkens was routinely introduced before the game he was greeted with a roaring ovation that lasted three minutes. In contrast, each Sonic player was lustily booed, a sour irony since many of them, notably Spencer Haywood, had publicly deplored Wilkens' departure. Even so, the fans derided every Sonic move during the game and cheered the Cavaliers to a 113-107 victory.
After the game, a police guard was needed to protect Wilkens from his admirers when he came to the scorers' bench for a radio interview. In the interview he carefully avoided direct criticism of the Seattle management, but when the announcer compared his trade to that which sent Willie Mays from San Francisco to New York last spring, Wilkens politely corrected him. " Willie Mays wanted to leave," he said. "I didn't."
Even though the New York stock market broke through the all-important 1,000 barrier on the old Dow, one of the most promising items in sports manufacturing seemed to be heading the other way. Snowmobile companies, riding high a while back, are in a shakedown period. Six years ago there were 100 companies making snowmobiles in North America; last year there were 60, now there are 40, and insiders predict half of these will be gone in a few years. Bombardier Ltd., largest snowmobile manufacturer in Canada, has dropped from $25 a share to $7, partly because Canadian manufacturers have had to cope with a motor vehicle safety act that requires a noise level no higher than 82 decibels, high-low headlights, disc brakes, brake lights and reflector markings on each side. The cost of such noise control and safety equipment affects the price of the snowmobile and, according to Laurent Beaudoin, president of Bombardier, "In a declining market, it will be difficult to pass the costs on to the customer." The company does not expect any better sales this winter than in the 1971-72 season, so an upswing seems at least a year off.
LANGWIDGE IN ACTION
A visitor to Ireland said, after wading through Gaelic spellings (Dun Laoghaire is the classic way of rendering Dunleary, for example), "The Irish are great spellers but terrible pronouncers." U.S. orthography is not at the complicated level of Gaelic, but we can mispronounce with the best of them. A student of the art says that a sportscaster covering Notre Dame games regularly refers to the Fightin' Ahrsh, and that the following is the way some fans pronounce the names of their favorite baseball teams: