SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
February 22, 1982
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February 22, 1982


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It's a phenomenon of our times that many major sports events have become TV productions, first and foremost. To accommodate TV, the World Series is played at night and in lousy weather, last season's Army-Navy game was switched on short notice to a new date (the travel plans of ticket holders be damned), club owners move heaven and earth to put their teams in rich television markets and spectators in all sports are condemned to sit through interminable commercial time-outs. In consequence of all this, many stadiums and arenas have become little more than glorified TV studios.

Now let's consider one such "studio," Madison Square Garden, whose chief tenants, New York's Knicks and Rangers, are situated in the nation's richest TV market, and which packages some 125 events a year for transmission nationally on cable TV, including college basketball games, tennis matches and track meets as well as NBA and NHL games. Gulf & Western Industries Inc., which owns the Garden, claims that because of high taxes and labor costs the Garden loses $8 million a year. Accordingly, Gulf & Western officials want tax relief from New York City and hint that if such relief isn't forthcoming, they just might have to move the Knicks and Rangers, which they also own, to Long Island's Nassau Coliseum and New Jersey's Byrne Arena, respectively. That way, they'd have their cake and eat it, too. Their teams would still be in the lucrative New York TV market yet play in arenas where costs would be lower.

Big Apple politicians naturally don't want to risk losing the Knicks and Rangers. But is the Garden really losing so much money? The answer undoubtedly depends at least in part on how much "rent" the Knicks and Rangers are paying for use of the building. Although city officials supposedly have been given access to the relevant figures, neither they nor Gulf & Western are divulging that information.

This elusiveness on the subject of how Knick and Ranger finances might affect the Garden's profit-and-loss picture is objectionable enough. Things get even worse when the question of TV income is raised. The Garden's gross revenue from cable TV alone is believed to be in the neighborhood of $6 million and could well increase dramatically in the near future. Approached last week by SI, neither New York City nor Gulf & Western would say specifically whether any profits from cable TV had been applied against the claimed loss. On the contrary, City Sports Commissioner Allen Schwartz would say only that he was satisfied that the Garden had "an operating loss at that facility," reinforcing the suspicion that cable revenues were not factored into Gulf & Western's secret figures. It's as though NBC had tried to argue that while it turns a profit of perhaps $20 million a year on The Tonight Show, the city of Burbank should grant it tax relief because the particular studio in which Johnny Carson works loses money. The people who put on sports events should make up their minds. Either those events are TV productions or they aren't. And if they are, TV revenues should at least be considered before the owner of a sports facility is allowed to plead poverty.

During practice the other day, Mike O'Rourke, assistant basketball coach at Oral Roberts University, noticed Gerald Johnson, a seldom-used 6'7" forward, horsing around taking shots from mid-court. O'Rourke told Johnson to stop wasting time and shoot only from game-situation spots. Whereupon Johnson walked over to the bench, sat down and lofted a shot from there.


Their shared business cards say it all: MONKEN'S THE NAME, FOOTBALL'S THE GAME. And, indeed, the five sons of Omer and Louise Monken of Belleville, Ill., all of whom are respected high school coaches in their native state, have been up to their necks in football ever since Jim, the oldest brother, started playing the game in the ninth grade. "I grew up on a farm in Mascoutah, Illinois," he says. "My dad spent his life farming, not playing sports. But we moved to Belleville when I was 10, and I remember selling newspapers so I could get enough money to buy shoes for football." One by one, all the other brothers became involved in the game, too. "It seemed like whatever I did, everybody else did," Jim says. "That's what happens in a big family."

So now, without further ado, please meet the Monken boys: Jim, 47, coaches at East St. Louis Assumption in southern Illinois; Glenn, 45, is at Highland, 35 miles away; Bob, 44, coaches up at Lake Park High in Roselle; Mike, 42, is at Joliet East, just south of Chicago; and Bill, 40, is at Charleston High, in the middle of the state. One might think that life gets pretty confusing in Illinois high school football with so many Monkens on the sidelines, but there are ways to sort the boys out. For example, Jim's team is classified 2A, the lowest, Glenn's 3A, Bill's 4A and Mike's and Bob's 5A. The teams play in different conferences, and no brother has ever coached against another.

But, let's see, maybe there's an easier way to keep members of the Monken clan straight: Jim runs a multiple offense; Bob runs a double wing; Bill goes in for a wishbone; Mike a hambone (an inverted wishbone); Glenn uses a split-T.

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