PLAYING REAL GAMES...
You can tell it's almost time for the pro football season to start: everyone is mad at everyone else.
The fans are disgusted with the preseason games in which they get the privilege of watching players perform today who get cut tomorrow. The players are mad at the coaches for making them practice too long in the sun and not letting them play enough in the games. And the owners are mad about all sorts of things—that the fans have the gall to boycott these meaningless summer contests; that players don't seem to try hard enough; and that everyone in their organization is spending too much money.
A lot of the problem is that exhibition games are inferior athletically and bombs financially. About 11,000 spectators showed up the other day to see Tampa Bay play Atlanta; fewer than that appeared in New York to watch the Jets play Oakland. There have been some large crowds, too. But not many.
The solution is obvious: instead of each NFL team playing six exhibitions and 14 regular-season games as they do now, make it two exhibitions and 18 regular-season contests.
Count the benefits: the season thankfully would not be lengthened; players would not run as much risk of preseason injury and, with increased revenues, their salaries could go up; fans would much prefer seeing real football and would attend in droves; owners would enjoy immensely seeing the seats filled; and the coaches would have the simple task of cutting away their unplayable talent quicker and playing for real sooner.
...AND SPENDING REAL MONEY
Speaking of disgruntled owners, here comes the New Orleans Saints' John Mecom Jr., who is getting tired of waiting every year for next year.
In a recent exhibition game, his club played terribly until the second half. But Mecom fumed, "Don't give me that stuff about playing a great second half. If that's the case, then we should have been counting only one half of each game for the last 10 years, which means we've been screwing up for only five years instead of 10."
Again, it's mostly the money thing that's irking Mecom, who says that even if his perenially lowly Saints (2-12 in 1975) sell out every home game, the team still will lose $1.3 million. Which is why free-spending new Coach Hank Strain erred when he spent $20,000 on extra goalposts for summer camp and $4,000 on a big TV for his office. Not to mention glow-in-the-dark parking signs for the players.