SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
November 26, 1979
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November 26, 1979


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These holiday shopping tips come courtesy of Dayton's, a Minneapolis-based department-store chain that asked celebrities what they wanted for Christmas as a way of publicizing a computerized registry in which customers could list desired gifts. Happily, the concerns of some of the athletes who responded went beyond themselves. Jean-Claude Killy said that what he wanted for Christmas was "peace on earth," while soccer goalie Shep Messing hoped for a long, happy life for his new daughter, Manda. Mickey Mantle wanted the world's hungry children to receive turkey dinners, and Red Auerbach asked for "good health and happiness for all."

It remained for Lynn Swann to show that it is possible to dream big both for oneself and others. What did the Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver want for Christmas? "A Gulfstream II airplane complete with two reliable pilots," Swann replied. "Also, an end to poverty and starvation around the world."

Last week it was mentioned in this space that except for the Denver Broncos, Colorado's professional and college teams had fallen on hard times and that fans there might be tempted to escape by going skiing in the Rockies, where snow was plentiful. On Friday the following wire arrived from SI's Detroit correspondent, Jerry Green, who had been urging us to run a similar item about his city's athletic troubles. Green's message: "Yes, but Denver has only one last-place team. We have three [Red Wings, Lions and Pistons]. Denver has one with a winning record. It snowed here Thursday but didn't stick. Tomorrow, Michigan loses to Ohio State. Lousy choice."


Last month Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players' Association, wrote to his union's player representatives requesting authorization to issue a press release complaining about the relatively few off-field NFL jobs held by blacks. Although football doesn't have the worst record in pro sports when it comes to hiring blacks—baseball, for one, has fewer black executives (SCORECARD, Oct. 8)—Garvey correctly divined that the NFL has nothing to brag about, either. As he pointed out, no NFL club has ever hired a black general manager, and currently there are fewer than a dozen blacks among the 200-plus assistant coaches. The NFL has had a black head coach, but that was so long ago—Fritz Pollard with the Hammond Pros in 1922-25—that it hardly counts.

But Garvey's proposed press release was unnecessarily inflammatory. It described the NFL as "a monument to racism," a word that is used very loosely these days. It also implied that Pete Rozelle was guilty of conscious discrimination and demagogically dismissed the commissioner's recent establishment of a scholarship fund for black sportswriters as an action that "belongs in the Chutzpah Hall of Fame." The proposed press release was accompanied by a letter in which Garvey wondered rhetorically whether former All-Pro Defensive Back Willie Wood might not be qualified to coach in the NFL and then answered, "Not qualified, my ass." Garvey further assailed Rozelle for levying a $2,000 fine against the New England Patriots' Raymond Clayborn, who is black, following an altercation with a "white Boston Irish sportswriter." Garvey preposterously equated this punishment with racial injustice in South Africa.

NFL player reps have not yet voted on the release, but The Boston Globe published the release and Garvey's letter last week. Rozelle promptly attacked Garvey as "hysterical," a characterization that seemed all the more warranted when Garvey in turn claimed that the NFL had intercepted his correspondence and leaked it to the press. He offered no evidence to support this charge.

Later in the week Garvey and Rozelle got into a brief and welcome exchange about how the NFL's minority hiring practices compare with those in business. But Garvey's overblown remarks had dampened hopes for any kind of useful probe into the paucity of blacks in key NFL positions and possible ways to correct the situation. That's a shame, because the issues he ostensibly was trying to raise deserve a reasoned airing.


Willie Stargell and Keith Hernandez finished in a tie for the National League's Most Valuable Player award, the first MVP dead heat ever in either league. Stargell would have won outright but for the fact that four of the 24 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America voting for the award didn't see fit to name the Pittsburgh slugger to any of the 10 places on their ballots. Their shared oversight was not nearly as shocking as it might have been if anybody knew what "Most Valuable Player" means.

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