No strike that inconveniences people, whatever its merits, gathers much public support. The town garbage man may be the most oppressed of workers, but let him refuse to pick up our garbage in order to draw attention to his plight and even ordinarily compassionate people can become hard-line social Darwinists overnight.
When the strikers who threaten to inconvenience us are young, healthy, not in the least oppressed-looking, and are averaging $40,000 a year in pay and benefits, the natural tendency of the man in the street is to ask, "Plight? What plight?"
That, if a handful of man-in-the-street interviews are meaningful, is just what the fans are howling about the NFL Players Association and its three-week-old strike against the NFL owners. Their exasperation merely increased with the cancellation of the College All-Star game and the accompanying loss to a Chicago charity of some $212,000. However, in the resultant barrage of owner outrage, a few facts were obscured. 1) For years the owners themselves have attempted to do away with the game because a number of top rookies have been injured in it; 2) the Miami Dolphin players would have made more than $230,000 if they had participated in the game, which exceeds the princely sum the Chicago Tribune donated to charity last year; and 3) the NFLPA is promising $106,000 to compensate Chicago's needy.
And the times may be a-changin'. As Phil Pepe of the N.Y. Daily News pointed out the other day to a hot and discouraged picket at Hofstra University, site of the New York Jets' training camp, the secret to reversing the tide of public opinion is merely for the players "to sit back quietly and wait for the voices of management to do it for them."
Wellington Mara of the New York Giants, to the Giant rookies: "If the veterans don't show up, we will play it with the rookies. And if you walk out, we would conduct a tryout camp tomorrow and do the best we can."
Joe Robbie, Miami's managing general partner, in a press release: "This is no longer a strike in the ordinary sense. It is now a mission by the players' association to search and destroy.... Charity is the innocent victim...killed in the cross fire on the streets."
We can only hope that this sort of verbal overkill is just bargaining-table macho and that behind a closed door somewhere, somebody is talking sense to somebody.