Carroll Rosenbloom was disgusted—again. A couple of months ago the Los Angeles Rams' owner went into a kind of prolonged snit, announcing that he refused to take part in any more league meetings until everyone came to his senses. One of the more engaging owners, Rosenbloom nonetheless speaks his mind—often and bluntly—on whatever displeases him about the game. On this occasion, he took on Pete Rozelle, saying that "his majesty" has been "listening to lawyers and accountants instead of running the league."
Rosenbloom's beef, and the reason for his self-imposed exile, was that he felt that neither Rozelle nor anyone else in power had taken any meaningful steps toward resolving the long, bitter standoff between the league and the Players Association. "A plague on all their houses," he said from the comfort of his Bel Air estate.
Now 69, Rosenbloom speaks from the vantage point of a veteran who has fought in 23 NFL campaigns—19 with the Baltimore Colts, four with the Rams—and survived with only one losing season since 1956. Recently, dressed in tennis togs, he paused over lunch at his home to expound on his feelings.
On player-owner negotiations: " Ed Garvey has probably been the biggest stumbling block in getting a contract with the players. He is entirely unreasonable in some of his demands. I think he believes he's going to get a contract in the courts. And management has also done a terrible job. The blame is equally shared. So there they sit, Garvey on one side, Sargent Karch of the management council on the other, two grown men writing nasty letters to each other. Just childish. It's like watching the crew of the Titanic polish brass while the ship goes down."
On economic survival: "The players have been fed a line by Garvey that millions and millions of dollars are made by every club. It's hard for them to accept the fact that this isn't so. We're in trouble. Quite a few of the owners will be and have been operating in the red. I think a player should get all the traffic can bear, but when the only one who suffers is the fan, then the players have to realize that there is a limit. One of these days some of these franchises may blow up. Look at the WFL. It can easily happen here."
On bidding wars: "They shouldn't exist. If the owners had refused to allow the prices to skyrocket, we wouldn't be in this chaotic state. When we have Wellington Mara of the Giants, a member of the management council, going out and picking up Larry Csonka, paying him that kind of money with a big stamp of approval from the league, well, that's just ridiculous. What Mr. Mara doesn't understand is that he has 27 other partners. Once he pays this money, every other player says, 'Hey, how about me?' I don't want people like Csonka around me."
On teamwork: "Except for a few uniforms and some footballs, the only inventory we have are our players. And all they have is us. But somewhere along the line, we all got out of sync, like an orchestra playing out of tune. The only solution is for us to realize that we are partners. We both want the same thing. So what are we fighting about? I just can't believe that the players are so stupid that they want to kill the game. They have to realize that we're in the same boat together. If we don't work together, we won't have anything to work with."
On the future: "Our sport is so strong. We have the most valuable commodity in the world. I don't think there are fans in any other sport who would have stood still for all the nonsense they've had to endure. The strikes, the lawsuits, the pop-head owners who don't know the game criticizing their players. Our fans must love us to have put up with that. I know they do. Given the chance, these franchises will double in value."
About then Willie Shoemaker and Ricardo Montalban dropped by, tennis rackets at the ready, and off Rosenbloom went to play a round of doubles at Johnny Carson's place. Bel Air isn't exactly Elba, but then Rosenbloom isn't your everyday exile.