star running back/receiver of the United States Football League's Tampa Bay
Bandits, had been on the witness stand in a Houston federal courtroom only a
few minutes when his attorney instructed him to read a paragraph from his
four-year, $1,375 million Tampa Bay contract. Anderson read the paragraph
aloud, haltingly, straining to pronounce every syllable.
Guarantees. The. Payment. Of. Salary. For. The. First. Second. And. Third.
Salary. Years...." Anderson began. There were embarrassed looks in the
courtroom as Anderson, after what seemed an eternity, finished the paragraph.
"...If. In. Excess. Thereof. Then. Player. Shall. Keep. All. Such. Other.
This exercise was
to demonstrate to the court that for all practical purposes Anderson—called
"the most versatile player I've ever coached" by Arkansas' Lou
Holtz—"cannot read," according to his attorney, Charles G. King, and is
"functionally illiterate," susceptible of being duped at any turn.
Anderson was in
court on the morning of Aug. 12 to seek a preliminary injunction that would
enable him to play immediately for the San Diego Chargers, the club that had
selected him in the first round of this year's NFL draft. Nine days earlier,
Anderson had filed suit against his first agent, Dr. Jerry A. Argovitz, a
former dentist; Argovitz' company; Bandits owner John F. Bassett and the
Bandits organization. Anderson's affidavit alleged that: (a) Argovitz combined
with Bassett, the chairman of the expansion committee, to deliver Anderson to
the Bandits in exchange for the Houston USFL franchise; (b) Argovitz never told
Anderson he was to be awarded a USFL franchise; and (c) Argovitz misrepresented
the Chargers' contract offer. Anderson asked the court to declare his Bandits
contract void, award him $289,000 in damages and allow him to play for the
Chargers. Within hours after that suit was filed, Anderson signed a four-year,
$1.5 million deal to play for the Chargers. Anderson didn't get the injunction.
What he got instead was a nod of sympathy from U.S. District Court Judge Norman
"I find this
very distressing," Black declared after a five-hour hearing. "...A very
fine young man is being put in the middle of a very unpleasant situation and
being treated like a soccer ball."
In mid-May, Gary
Anderson, human soccer ball, was the toast of Tampa Bay—a "new hero,"
as one Bandits official called him. In early August, he was a
"full-fledged" Charger, in the words of San Diego owner Eugene V.
Klein. Anderson told reporters at the Chargers' camp: "I feel good about
being here." Now, the 6-foot, 180-pound Anderson finds himself in midair,
suspended between two leagues, waiting to see who will get the last kick in a
game that has no rules.
Anderson is a scapegoat," Argovitz, now managing partner of the USFL's
Houston Gamblers, said last week. "He's a pawn in the first big battle
between the great NFL and those little kids from the USFL."
affair is a study in manipulation, pitting agent against agent, owner against
owner and league against league, all in a mad scramble for a 22-year-old
athlete who admits that, even after almost four years at the University of
Arkansas, he has trouble reading. In Fayetteville, Ark., Holtz strongly denied
King's assertion that Anderson is functionally illiterate—which, by definition,
would mean that he cannot read at a sixth-grade level. "Gary's bright,"
Holtz said, but he would say no more. Adella Gray, academic counselor for
Razorback athletes, also disputed King's contention but acknowledged that
Anderson has a serious reading deficiency. "It's a shame he got this far
without being able to read," she said.
Anderson, a physical education major, was able to maintain a C average and earn
82 credits—124 are required to graduate—during his 3½ years at Arkansas. He was
one credit short of being on schedule to graduate in five years, but withdrew
after the fall semester last year because, he says, "I was going to be
drafted." Since leaving school Anderson has signed contracts with two
agents and two teams. Was he capable of comprehending—indeed, reading—the terms
of those contracts? "I let my wife read most of them," Anderson told
SI. "She explains them to me because when I read, I have problems
understanding most of them."
confusing odyssey began in Fayetteville last fall when, he says, he was wooed
by more than 100 agents. On Nov. 9, Anderson and his fiancée, Ollie McGowan,
met Jim Robinson, a recruiter for the Houston-based Argovitz. Shortly
afterward, Anderson received a two-page letter from Argovitz. "As you have
undoubtedly read, Argovitz players have received some of the most revolutionary
contracts granted in recent years by the National Football League," the
letter said in part. "...We of the Argovitz family desire to share with you
the philosophy which has enabled me to build my business empire: 'A smart man
is not the man who knows all the answers, but is the man who realizes what he
doesn't know and surrounds himself with the best people to give him the best
answers.' Gary, I look forward to our meeting and talking and to introducing
you to the right people with the right answers for you and your