SI Vault
Edited by Robert W. Creamer
August 10, 1981
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August 10, 1981


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The belligerent mood in Lauderdale persisted. At halftime in the Strikers' 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Kicks, a fan, presumably upset with the Strikers' play, confronted Mike Robbie, son of club owner Elizabeth Robbie, and the two threw punches at one another. A little later, when a tour group leader wanted his group paged on the PA system, General Manager Tim Robbie, Mike's brother, at first refused, and the man cursed and threatened to punch him.

Later, when Reporter Tim Rosaforte of the local Sun-Sentinel entered the Strikers' locker room, he was ordered to leave by Coach Eckhard Krautzun, who said he had written a "disruptive" story. Rosaforte refused. Possibly because Rosaforte, an ex-football player, is 6'1", 210 pounds, Krautzun did not press his demand, and peace, that elusive sprite, at last prevailed. If uneasily.

There were malcontents everywhere. In Maryland a new twist was added to the old custom of swimmers joyfully throwing their coach into the pool to celebrate a team victory. After Hammond Park lost an age-group meet 257-230 to Atholton, an angry, frustrated Hammond Park swimmer pushed the meet official into the pool, white uniform, whistle and all.


During the baseball strike a new league was born, began its playing schedule and finished its season, all in three weeks' time. The league is Team Tennis—no more World Team Tennis (1974-78, R.I.P.)—and it operates in a revolutionary manner. Players are paid by the league as a whole, not by the teams, and they're paid according to individual and team accomplishments on court. There are no guaranteed salaries.

Evidence from this first, somewhat experimental, season is that maybe the new league is going to work. It's the brainchild of Larry King, Billie Jean's husband, who had been involved in World Team Tennis. Realizing that even with all its problems WTT had reduced losses from $10 million (1974) to $1 million ('78), King figured the league idea had a future if it were run in a businesslike way. He began modestly: only four teams, all in California (Los Angeles, San Diego, Anaheim and Oakland), four players (two men and two women) on each team and a three-week season. Each club put up $75,000, creating a $300,000 prize-money pot for the players. The teams didn't sign players on their own. Instead they drafted from a pool of players who signed up to "enter" the league.

Even though King estimates that Team Tennis lost perhaps $200,000 in sponsor support after his wife's lesbian affair was revealed, the league did reasonably well, with one team, Los Angeles, breaking even. Next year the prize pot will be increased to $700,000, and there will be expansion—a four-week season involving eight teams, with one as far east as Chicago.

TT's main difficulty this season was attracting big names. Only two so-called superstars appeared, both women: Billie Jean and Martina Navratilova. And TT offered just prize money, whereas top players at regular tournaments can clean up on guarantees. Open tennis was supposed to eliminate such "under the table" payments, but that distasteful aspect of the sport remains. It's something tennis ought to do away with.


Chris Landry, the best U.S. practitioner of the hair-raising pastime of extreme skiing (SI, March 30), in which one swoops down precipitous 60-degree slopes, has said of his sport, "If you fall, you die." As if to test that maxim, Landry went to Alaska this spring to ski down Mount McKinley's West Rib, starting from the 20,320-foot summit of South Peak.

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