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Ens. McCallum and the Raiders

August 29, 1986

You are right to point out in your editorial that McCallum's obligation to serve his country is far more important than his desire to play football. At the Naval Academy, McCallum received one of the country's best college educations, and the American taxpayer paid the bill. We deserve at least five years of service in the Navy by McCallum.

But I think your conception of his obligation is too limited. If we tell McCallum to put in his five years of naval service before he can take a shot at the NFL, he will fulfill his contract to us all right, but we get five years' service from a young man distracted by an eagerness to run the football again. I think we can get much more for our money than that.

Let's let him play football now, full time, for as long as he wants. And let's not hinder him by keeping him at the Long Beach Naval Station five days a week. Let's let him practice with the team and compete for a starting position. Not to be too magnanimous, let's tell him that he will have to report to a Navy base in the off season, just so he doesn't forget his naval training.

Then when his football career is over, in, say, five or 10 years, perhaps by that time he will want to stay in the Navy beyond his obligated five years. And even if he doesn't serve beyond his minimum obligation, we will be benefiting from the service of a more mature and more experienced officer. Just think of the leadership potential a former NFL star would have in the Navy.

Roger Staubach demonstrated that one can fulfill an obligated tour of duty and still succeed in pro football. But now, in the prime of his intellectual life, he is selling antacid tablets and doing color commentary for television football broadcasts. I think we could have put his impressive communication skills to better use in the Navy.

The armed services have plenty of young bucks. One lost to the NFL for a few years won't jeopardize national security. And if we can trade one young buck for an experienced, mature leader, I think the country will have received the better end of the bargain.


San Marino

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