The other attorney for Pillsbury had thus far been silent, but now he made a football-player-turned-lawyer sally. "My boss told me to keep things verbal. If I had said anything I would have prefaced it with, 'Your Honor, I bring this up with great trepidation....' " Later, the attorney suggested that the judge might give the case more careful consideration because of Page's presence. "There are not only two big companies involved in a precedent-setting case," he said. "There's a celebrity." Finally, he added, "I'd rather go up against anybody else in town than Alan Page on his first case."
Page took exception to that remark. "I'm not sure that's true about my name helping in Minnesota," he said. "The only thing I can do is downplay it and let the judge handle it as best he can. Once the novelty is gone, I hope I'm just judged as another warm body."
The excitement of his first courtroom confrontation stayed with Page as he walked back to his offices on the 42nd floor of the IDS Center, the tallest building in Minneapolis. Page had gone to law school because he felt financially trapped by football. By 1975 he was no longer playing by choice, but from need. Now, after three hectic years of classes, study sessions, football practices and games, Page had that freedom of choice again. And more. Still basking in the afterglow of his performance, he said, "What I like about this profession is that it gives you the opportunity to speak, to present yourself, to persuade."
What most interests Page is labor law, on which he estimates he spends 98% of his time. Among his first clients were a union representing nurses and another representing factory workers. Page got a taste of collective bargaining in 1974, when he was an active member of the Executive Council of the NFL Players Association. That summer Page picketed outside Northwestern's Dyche Stadium, where the College All-Stars were practicing. He carried a placard that read PEOPLE, NOT PROPERTY and wore a T shirt with a clenched fist on the front, enclosed by the slogan NO FREEDOM, NO FOOTBALL. He was trying—successfully, as it turned out—to get the All-Stars to strike the annual July game against the Super Bowl champions, that year the Miami Dolphins, in order to put pressure on the owners to meet contract demands. As the picketers' unofficial spokesman, Page addressed the College All-Stars about the need for unity. Ironically, Finks, who was then with the NFL's Management Council, addressed the same group the following morning, emphasizing the need to play the game. "They took a vote, and I came in second," Finks recalls.
Anyone who tells you there is such a thing as a flat marathon course is lying through his teeth.
A railway trestle bridges the road at the eight-mile point. The road turns sharply there and rises. A great baritone voice resounds off the metal of the trestle: "You've got to run that lonesome valley; you've got to run it by yourself. Nobody else can run it for you...."
Knutson tells Page to save his strength. They are still running easily, slightly under an eight-minute pace now. It has been all uphill, Page swears. Knutson smiles tolerantly. They pass two teen-age spectators, and as the runners pad away, one says, "You can't miss Alan Page in this crowd."
"He looks thin," says the second.
"Did you see how gray his beard was? It's mostly gray."
His friend nods. "No wonder the Vikings released him."