SAN DIEGO — The Chargers' belated attempt to sign Gary Anderson, which is getting longer and more complex than a Russian novel, took yet another tedious turn Tuesday when the United States Football League made a bid to extract some extra cash from San Diego owner Alex Spanos.
Just when it appeared the Chargers were at last about to close the deal for the highly acclaimed running back of the Tampa Bay Bandits, USFL owners decided the rights to Anderson should bring more than the $350,000 Spanos had consented to pay.
Spanos had agreed on that figure with the prospective owner of the Bandits, Lee Scarfone, and had reached an understanding with Anderson on a four-year, $2-million contract.
After Scarfone met with USFL Commissioner Harry Usher in New York on Monday, it appeared the complex transaction was about to be consummated.
But when the league's owners conducted a conference call Tuesday, objections arose on the grounds that Anderson was too valuable to skip to the NFL for $350,000, and a minimum price tag of $500,000 was established for his contractual rights.
Where this leaves the Anderson matter is anyone's guess. Earlier this month, Spanos withdrew an offer to Anderson, saying the deal was off the table for 1985, only to make a new approach several days later when Scarfone intervened.
Spanos at one point had tentatively agreed to a $500,000 buyout. Then Scarfone said he would accept $150,000 less, with the difference going to Anderson, and Spanos would add another $150,000 to his offer, in order to make a more appealing package for the running back.
Spanos said Tuesday afternoon he's unwilling to sweeten his offer any further.
"They're nibbling at me," he said, with obvious irritation. "I made a business deal in good faith with Lee Scarfone, and he didn't see any problems. Obviously, there are some now. If it's another $150,000 now, how much will it be later?
"This has to end some place. It took a lot (of persuasion) by Lee Scarfone to get me back into this . . . but it can't keep costing me a little more each time we talk. I've made the effort because we need this kid, and if we don't get him this year, we'll get him next year."
For the record, Usher released this comment through a league spokesman: "The present negotiations with Gary Anderson have been terminated. They may resume in the near or distant future, but as for now, Gary is a Tampa Bay Bandit."
There were indications that Scarfone's status--he holds an option to buy the Bandits franchise--may also have entered into the league's decision.
Usher, when asked if he could veto the Anderson deal by himself, said, "Under the present circumstances of the Tampa Bay franchise (with the sale of the team pending) I have the power as commissioner to do what is in the league's best interest."
Although Anderson would add another running-receiving dimension to Air Coryell, it's not as if the Chargers can't score points without him.
Quarterback Dan Fouts has thrown for more than 1,000 yards in the first three games and Lionel James, an all-purpose threat in the Anderson mold, has produced 606 in the last two games. Fouts, as a matter of fact, is on a pace that would shatter the year-old passing yardage record of Dan Marino, who threw for 5,084 yards in 1984.