MAKING ALTERNATIVE PLANS
The NFL Players Association was working on a plan last week to stage its own games this fall in the event that collective bargaining negotiations with the NFL owners, which have thus far been notably unproductive, result in either a strike or a lockout. The NFLPA's talk of holding some sort of alternative season, involving six or more "all-star" teams and culminating in a championship game, gained credence when the Turner Broadcasting System confirmed that it was close to reaching an agreement with the players' union to televise alternative games on its cable network. Asserting that the NFLPA had already begun lining up stadiums and promoters. Executive Director Ed Garvey said that the alternative season would provide players with income during a work stoppage. Perhaps more important, it might enable them to score telling bargaining points with the owners. "We've always said the players are the game," says Garvey. "If you have players and coaches and a local promoter, you've got football."
The NFL has indicated that it would likely challenge any NFLPA-sponsored games. Except for two dozen unsigned rookies and veteran free agents, all NFL players are currently under individual contracts with NFL clubs for at least one year, and the league takes the position that those contracts would prevent signees from playing football elsewhere during a strike. Garvey somewhat lamely tries to argue otherwise, maintaining that the NFLPA never approved the specific language in the standard player contract tying players to their NFL teams. Garvey is probably on stronger legal ground in contending that players would be free to participate in alternative games in case of an owners' lockout. Indeed, Garvey's unspoken objective in raising the possibility of such games may be to disabuse the owners of any thought of locking the players out just before the season opens on Sept. 12. If the owners could be induced to drop that idea, the NFLPA would be free to strike at a time of its own choosing, perhaps after the third game of the season, at which time players would get credit toward their pensions for a full season's service.
On the other hand, John C. Weistart, a professor of law at Duke who specializes in the legal aspects of sports, suggests that there may be ways that the NFLPA could maneuver the owners into locking out the players. This might be done, Weistart told SI's Cathy Wolf, if the union "whip-sawed" the owners by instructing certain teams to strike and others to continue to report to work. Or if it selectively ordered, say, all but the five highest-paid players on each team to strike. "What would the owners do with these five?" Weistart asked. "They couldn't use them. They need full teams and leagues. So they might release those players from their contracts to avoid paying their salaries. Then the NFLPA could order five more players back to work. The owners might have to simply give up and lock out everybody." Because of serious doubts about NFLPA unity—such players as Joe Montana, Ray Wersching and John Hannah have either resigned from the union or stated they won't honor a call to strike—it's uncertain whether Garvey could pull off such a strategem. But the very idea might give the owners something to think about as Sept. 12 approaches without progress toward a collective bargaining agreement.
NO MORE KILTS FOR MUFFY
Attention all alligators from coast to coast: Preppy is out. That's the word from Bea Toner, a past president of the U.S. Field Hockey Association who has been involved with that most top-drawer of all women's sports for three decades, but who now says flatly, "We're not preppy anymore. We've grown beyond that." Toner's assertion is prompted by a sartorial departure that occurred three weeks ago at the National Sports Festival in Indianapolis, where members of the four regional teams competing in women's field hockey put their accustomed box-pleated kilts in mothballs and adopted a stunning new look—brightly colored shorts and tank tops.
To appreciate the significance of this development, one must understand that while field hockey is also played by men, it has traditionally been thought of as a highly refined game for "ladies" who were earnestly expected not to sweat. This stereotype was encouraged by the fact that for many years participants were primly, if not suffocatingly, attired in jumper-style tunics with long-sleeved shirts and black stockings. Although tunics were largely replaced by kilts in the 1960s, that scarcely diminished field hockey's patrician flavor, especially in, the U.S., where the sport has been identified with Eastern private women's schools and where kilts rank with Topsiders and cultured pearls as symbols of conservatism and, yes, preppiness.
But field hockey can be a fast and action-packed game and the women playing it today tend to take it seriously. They have found kilts to be almost as hot and cumbersome as tunics, which helps explain the new getups in Indianapolis. Manufactured by Levi Strauss, the official Sports Festival outfitter, the skimpier uniforms were acclaimed as cooler and less restrictive than kilts and also met the complaints of players who, when dribbling, were forever losing track of the ball under their skirts.
The new look will be introduced in international competition when the U.S. national team dons shorts—with short-sleeved shirts rather than tank tops—at the American Cup tournament in Boston in October. U.S. players are also expected to wear shorts at the 1984 Olympics. Meanwhile, both Australia and New Zealand have expressed interest in the new uniforms. Although some members of the sport's Old Guard are upset about the abandonment of kilts, Noreen Landis-Tyson, the U.S. Field Hockey Association's director of communications, welcomes the change as being potentially helpful in expanding the sport's appeal beyond the Northeast. "Field hockey is no longer a ladies' game," she says. "This isn't the Dark Ages. Women sweat and everybody knows it. Besides, the preppy image isn't an exciting one."
SELLING FISH SANDWICHES
The University of San Francisco's decision on July 29 to drop basketball came the same week that a young man named Peter Simon was hired as the school's sports information director. SIDs are supposed to generate publicity for university athletic programs, but USF's bombshell was strictly bad news for Simon. Because USF doesn't have a varsity football team either, he now has little choice but to concentrate on beating the drums for the Dons' strong soccer program. Simon, who previously worked as publicity director for two pro soccer teams, the Tulsa Roughnecks and the now-defunct San Francisco Fog, gamely intends to do just that. "It's like if McDonald's couldn't sell hamburgers anymore," he says. "They would have to sell Filet-O-Fish sandwiches. You have to interest people in what you have."