To say that Fuhrer subscribes to the Lombardi ethic is to say that Chase Manhattan subscribes to capitalism. A golfer capable of playing in the low 70s, he drives long off the tee, then jogs to his ball. At the 15th or 16th tee, when others his age may be faltering, he drops to the grass and does push-ups. In addition, whether the temperature be 35� or 100�, he wears a woolen pullover, convinced that unvarying golf clothing has conditioned his body to maintain a constant temperature that precludes his experiencing either cold or warmth. Of course, he neither drinks nor smokes and insists he has never swallowed a pill in his life. At Allegheny College, where he played practically every sport except tennis, he earned 13 letters, all the while harboring such a hatred of defeat that last season, as his Triangles battled through the regular schedule to first place and then won the playoffs, he literally sealed himself off from the possibility that he might be exposed to the sight of a lost match. He refused to watch his team play.
Oh, from time to time he would pop out of an arena's recesses for a peek, but even on the final night of the Triangles' deadlocked best-of-three championship series with the Golden Gaters of San Francisco- Oakland, Fuhrer spent the evening across the street at a hotel bar, sipping Pepsis until his secretary phoned to say that Gerulaitis needed only a few more points to give the Triangles the championship. Lest it seem eccentric that an owner forbid himself to gaze upon athletes to whom he is paying huge sums, Fuhrer furnishes a simple explanation: "I can't stand to lose."
In his first season Fuhrer had not yet hit upon the benefits of self-exile, which proved to be unlucky for one of his players, Carole Graebner. On an evening when Graebner found it was all she could do to meet the ball with her racket strings, Fuhrer conspicuously occupied a front-row seat, throwing back his head, shutting his eyes and flapping his hands in derision at every point she blew. At the intermission of the match, his No. 2 male player, Gerald Battrick of England, charged him, screaming, "How could you do that to the poor girl?"
"I'll do what I damn well please!" roared Fuhrer, while spectators gaped and the poor girl slumped on the bench, weeping.
Unforgiving, Fuhrer sent Graebner packing and at season's end traded Battrick, his outburst having been his second major offense. Earlier, he had borrowed Fuhrer's golf clubs and lost a sand wedge that, snarls Fuhrer, "had won me a lot of money." When Battrick later inquired if he would be retained next season, Fuhrer replied, "No. No. 1, I don't think you can help us, and No. 2, since I plan on being back, you can be damned sure you won't be."
One night during a Fuhrer postmatch chewout, his three women players silently picked up their gear and, tears rolling down their cheeks, paraded from the dressing room. Though momentarily taken aback, he resumed his lecture on the importance of winning, whereupon his male players headed out the door. Now only Coach Rosewall and Director of Player Personnel Edwards remained.
"I can't understand tennis players," Fuhrer wailed. "They don't care."
With that, Edwards left, telling Fuhrer he was resigning and would pull out the entire team in the morning. To Rosewall, Fuhrer barked, "I'll see them in court!" The normally placid Rosewall admonished him to cease expecting tennis players to win every match and then himself walked out on the owner.
As matters turned out, nobody quit, but Fuhrer swore that he would never again enter the dressing room—and didn't until the night last August when he hustled from the hotel bar to join his team in celebrating a championship. Later that night, he threw a party for his players at a suitably distinguished restaurant, earlier having let it be known to the maitre d' that there would be a party win or lose, except that if the Triangles lost, their owner would not attend.
Late in the 1975 season, accompanying the team to an important homestretch road match against the Sets, Fuhrer as usual refrained from watching it, instead settling down in a back room of the Nassau Coliseum to watch a baseball game on television. Eventually informed that the Triangles had been manhandled, he wordlessly climbed into the front seat of a limousine bearing the team to La Guardia Airport for the flight home. Nobody spoke as the limousine proceeded through the night. Suddenly, from the rear, the gentle Aussie voice of Evonne Goolagong was heard to sing, "Row, row, row your boat...."