OLD KICKERS NEVER DIE...
George Blanda left the Oakland Raiders' camp one day last week while the team was practicing. He simply packed his bag, carried it to his car and drove away without so much as a goodby wave to 26 years of professional football. The Raiders didn't bother to announce his departure, and there were no plans for a retirement banquet or any formal farewells—George Blanda was simply out of a job.
Only weeks short of his 49th birthday, he is the oldest man ever to play in the NFL and its leading scorer (2,002 points), a legend if not an idol, a gruff and stubborn Methuselah who refused to resign voluntarily as the Raiders wanted him to do. He went home to La Grange Park, Ill. to play golf and wait to see if any other team might pick up his option. "They'd be nuts if they did," he snorted, referring to his $90,000 contract, "but if somebody is crazy enough to pick me up, I'll decide then."
It had been clear for a couple of years that Blanda could no longer kick consistently for distance, and this season it was plain that the Raiders were not about to keep him on merely as a fifth-string quarterback. They did not even let him kick once in exhibition games. His replacement is a rookie, a 23-year-old left-footed soccer-style kicker from Germany (and Boston College) named Fred Steinfort. When Blanda was asked about Steinfort, he replied acidly, "What was it Norm Van Brocklin always said—that the immigration laws ought to be tightened?" Blanda had never said hello to Steinfort in camp this summer.
So there was acrimony in the old man's departure and that was a shame, but George Blanda was never anything but tough, never one to bathe himself in sentiment. Last week he spoke with characteristic bluntness: "I'm not melancholy about leaving, just a little frustrated that they kept me around six weeks doing nothing and not even telling me. I learned a long time ago that you only have a few friends in this world—your wife and family and a very few friends."
IN HER MAJESTY'S SERVICE
One of the stipulations the city of Edmonton, Alberta agreed to when it bid for the 1978 Commonwealth Games was that it would provide a special royal convenience adjacent to the royal box from which Queen Elizabeth would view the competitions. This seemed reasonable enough, but when the plans for the royal loo in the new stadium were recently made public, they threw the Edmonton city council into a full afternoon of hot debate.
The blueprints called for a facility in a room of fully 550 square feet, to be built at a cost of $50,000. Alderman Ed Leger accused the games' organizers of having "a Montreal Olympic complex." He sneered, "Fifty thousand for a biffy! They have to be out of their bloody minds, unless they can charge admission later to look at the Folly of Edmonton." He suggested that draping a bit of gold braid around an ordinary w.c. should be quite sufficient. Alderman David Lead-beater replied that $10,000 was more than enough, and he cried out, "We're not a colony anymore, you know!"
True enough. But the roots of Empire run deep indeed and, once the shouting was over, the Queen's loyal subjects overcame the antiroyalists and voted to provide the $50,000 facility for Her Majesty's throne-away-from-home.
NEW WORLD ORDER