During a Southern California Sun game with the Honolulu Hawaiians a fight broke out. Honolulu's Mike Giddings stormed onto the field yelling, "Anyone who's not back on the sidelines by the time I count to 10 is going to be fined." One player retorted, "Fined? Fined from what?" Whereupon both teams stopped fighting and began laughing.
The Hawaiians couldn't afford to hire an experienced trainer in 1975, so they took on George Kamau, an ambulance driver, who knew nothing about the job but said he was willing to learn.
The week before the last game with the Southern California Sun, the Hawaiians asked their players to take pay cuts to save the franchise. Both quarterbacks refused and quit. Two days before the game the team recruited Milt Holt, who had played at Harvard, and Jim Fassel, who had been a player-coach for the Hawaiians in their first year. Holt was taken from a desk job at Honolulu city hall and Fassel had been driving a truck in Los Angeles. The Hawaiians lost 26-7.
The Memphis Southmen was considered one of the best-run WFL operations. Despite the death of the league, the club remains eminently un-defunct. No one has been laid off, the phones still work—and ring constantly. Coaches are still out signing players and scouting new recruits. A week after the WFL died the club started a new campaign to sell season tickets, which was expected to produce 40,000 paying customers. The Memphis City Council unanimously approved a 50,000-seat expansion for the stadium, and most of the players have signed new contracts for 1976. They also still get paychecks every Thursday.
This all seems surrealistic until one realizes that the object is to reinforce John Bassett's application for a franchise in the NFL next year. Despite Bassett's hurry-up switch from Toronto to Memphis in 1974, the Southmen drew an average of more than 19,000 per game. The $3 million Csonka-Kiick-Warfield troika proved far more valuable as a publicity gimmick than as a game-winner (the team had a mildly impressive 7-5 record when the league folded). Csonka was hurt most of the season, Warfield caught fewer passes than a tight end named Ed Marshall from Cameron University via the Cincinnati Bengals, and Kiick gained less yardage than either John Harvey or Willie Spencer. People in Memphis are quick—and proud—to recall that their team rarely displayed the feckless buffoonery that characterized so much of WFL I. Perhaps they should not be allowed to remember only the bright aspects of their day in the WFL, however. The team was also called the Grizzlies, and it had a grizzly bear cub as its mascot. During one game the cub playfully chewed through the insulation on a wire lying on the ground; when he got to the core he gave himself a terrific shock that threw him over on his back—and also shorted out the stadium scoreboard for about 10 minutes.
WHEN THE AX FELL:
?The phones instantly went dead in the plush offices of the Southern California Sun. "They were ringing off the wall, then silence," said a secretary. "Dead silence. We couldn't figure it out. Then someone tried to call out. No dial tone." The phone company had cut them off to save large tolls which might not have been paid.
?The public-relations man for the San Antonio Wings, Don Dailey, drove a station wagon—one of six loaned to the team by Tom Benson, a local Chevrolet dealer—to a surprise meeting of the team's stockholders, where the death of the WFL was announced. Stunned, Dailey returned to the Wings' office, collected his personal effects and in 10 minutes was ready to load them into his car. Suddenly a man drove up, blocked Dailey's vehicle and declared, "Don't waste your time loading that stuff" into that car, buddy. We got orders from Tom Benson to pick it up—right now."
? Anthony Davis departed his team's abandoned headquarters, loaded up like a trash man with mementos of his days in the Sun. He had played 12 games, gained 1,000 yards, scored 18 touchdowns and received daily abject adulation from children who came knocking at the door of his house in Villa Park. As he left the Sun offices, Davis walked slowly by the giant magenta and orange-sunburst on the wall of the lobby, passing, without a glance, a three-foot-high golden trophy that had cost $2,000. It was to have been given at this season's end to the Sun's most valuable player and there were plates on it for names of most valuable players in the ensuing years through 1979.
?The most common answer to man-on-the-street interviews in San Antonio concerning the demise of the Wings was, "Who were the Wings?"