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THE BASIS OF POWER
Happy Chandler, onetime commissioner of baseball and longtime Kentucky politician, surfaced last week to criticize all baseball commissioners before and after his reign, with particular emphasis on the current titleholder, Bowie Kuhn. Criticizing the baseball commissioner is easy to do—we've done it ourselves a few times—but Chandler's shotgun approach merely obscures the problems besetting the office. Happy praised himself as a players' man, fiercely independent of the owners, at best a debatable assumption, and added that baseball's commissioner today should be more like football's Pete Rozelle. Yet Rozelle, an admirable administrator, is under fire by the NFL players association as an owners' man, while Kuhn is engaged in a serious showdown with Charles O. Finley, who is currently the most successful owner in baseball.
The trouble lies not with the man in the commissioner's job, but in the matter of his power, his authority, and in whether or not a sport can govern itself. It does not matter whether the baseball commissioner is Chandler or Kuhn or Yogi Berra; his capacity to govern derives from the consent of those being governed. When this consent is denied—as it has been in sport after sport in recent years by recourse to outside authority, specifically the courts—no commissioner can control his sport. Baseball recognized this years ago by including in its governing law a provision that says the various clubs "agree to be bound by the decisions of the commissioner...and waive recourse to the courts."
Finley has not yet gone to court in defiance of Kuhn, but he has hinted that he might, which would directly challenge Kuhn's authority. On the other hand, football's ability to govern itself was considerably strengthened last winter when the owners of the New Orleans Saints refused to challenge in court a drastic ruling against them by Rozelle. They were not happy about it, but they accepted the judgment. The consent of the governed: a principle of republican government. Without it, there is no authority, unless you use an army to back you up.
Hank Stram, coach of the National Football League's Kansas City Chiefs, had some encouraging things to say about the proposed World Football League (SCORECARD, Oct. 8), which hopes to begin play next season. Stram did not praise the new league, but neither did he dismiss it out of hand, as some NFL people have done. Stram recalled the early years of the American Football League, before it achieved parity with the NFL and, eventually, merger. Of those days when Hank coached the Dallas Texans, forerunners of the Chiefs, he said, "There was a lot of talk then that the AFL would not succeed, but somebody is always trying to downgrade your product. That only stimulates you and motivates you to do a better job. If you're any kind of competitor, you're going to try to prove what people said was wrong. You always have to endure the tough times and fight your way through the hurt periods."
Stram thinks there are enough players to stock a new league, thus agreeing with WFL leaders, who say that of 7,000 college seniors playing football each fall only 500 or so are given even a chance to make it in the NFL. "It's easy to say there aren't enough players," Stram said, "but who's to know? They said that about the AFL, and look how competitive it became."
ANYBODY HERE SEEN KELLY?
Terence Vincent Kelly, a lawyer in Oshawa, Ontario, is a sports nut, but not your common variety of sports nut. Unlike some intense fans, he does not latch on to one team and follow it everywhere, seeing every game it plays. Not Kelly. He wants to see every team everywhere. In Scotland last year he attended five soccer matches in one day, just to get the atmosphere of each game. Last March he matched the National Hockey League schedule with an airlines guide and went on a hockey toot: on Friday night he saw the Vancouver Canucks play the Sabres in Buffalo, on Saturday the New York Rangers and the Flyers in Philadelphia, on Sunday afternoon the Minnesota North Stars and the Bruins in Boston and on Sunday night the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Rangers in New York. He popped home Monday, but on Tuesday flew to Bloomington, Minn. to see the North Stars against the California Golden Seals and on his way home detoured to St. Louis to see the Golden Seals play the Blues.