"This is the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen," said Flamingo Coach Frank Froehling.
"I'm ecstatic," said Cox. "I thought it was very exciting and a great experience. I felt a tremendous sense of triumph after we won the last point."
WTT is good for the players for a number of reasons besides money. Since only a set or two is required, oldtimers like Roy Emerson, 37, of the Golden Gaters, Fred Stolle, 35, of the Freedoms and Maria Bueno, 34, of the Flamingos, can extend their careers by three to five years, then perhaps stay on as coaches. There is health insurance, trainers and a home base—but also some brutal travel: Los Angeles opened in Miami, went to Minnesota two nights later and Oakland the next night.
The owners were not so ecstatic as Cox and the oldsters. Philadelphia announced a crowd of 10,611 for its much-publicized and circuslike opener against Pittsburgh, which was lots of fun, but two nights later only 1,787 showed up to see the racket-wielding lobster and his team compete in the Spectrum. For 23 matches in its historic first week the average WTT attendance was 3,280, and many tickets were given away and some attendance figures exaggerated. The Denver Racquets could draw only 1,481 for their opener and seem likely to go downhill from there, or to a more hospitable city. The Golden Gaters played before 4,012, not too bad considering that the Oakland A's drew only 2,980 baseball fans the same night. Still, at $50,000 a franchise, plus player contracts, arena rentals and incidental start-up costs, it seems the owners have bought themselves licenses to lose.
"I think it might take four or five years," said King, and she is probably not far off.
"We serve you right" is the Baltimore slogan, but the question is how long can the promoters serve up this novelty before 2,000 or fewer people? Maybe longer than the skeptics think. An attorney knowledgeable about tennis was talking to a Washington, D.C. man who was thinking about taking a WTT expansion franchise for a mere $350,000.
"You'd drop $400,000 a year," said the lawyer.
"Good," said the would-be tennis tycoon, "it'll be a great tax loss."
Box lacrosse and volleyball are the next sports to be organized into pro leagues. Get your tax losses now while they're hot.