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Tackling the Weekend Without the NFL

September 23, 1987|DAVID LARSEN and GARY LIBMAN | Times Staff Writers

On Sunday, it appears, a sack will once again become a paper bag and a spread will again be something you put on bread.

The unthinkable is about to happen: Life minus professional football. Or at least without the players generally thought to be professional.

For those of you who have just returned from Mars, the National Football League Players Assn. went on strike at the conclusion of Monday night's game, which ended Tuesday morning, Eastern Daylight Time.

After a one-game hiatus this weekend, the club owners plan to resume the season Oct. 4 with teams comprised of non-union players. What effect this will have on future televising of those games, on attendance, on the rights of season tickets holders remains to be seen.

One thing is certain: An entire nation is about to have its Sunday day and Monday night life styles changed.

As with so many things on the seesaw of life, some things go up and some things go down, some are winners and some losers.

"What else can go wrong?" groaned the owner of Julie's Restaurant, which, at 3730 S. Flower St., is within a few punts of the Coliseum. "First the Raiders say they are moving to Irwindale--and now a strike by the players in the National Football League."

Steve O'bradovich is the owner of the watering hole that prepares Raiders fans for games and sees them through their subsequent celebration or lack thereof.

"If the usual games with the regular players come to a halt for any length of time, it will mean a loss of at least 10% of our annual business," O'bradovich said Tuesday.

"We close Sundays at other times of the year and when there are no home games, so this will just mean that many more Sunday closures. This is what we did when they had the 57-day strike five years ago. I can already feel the pain."

Lori Lenick, manager of the Long Beach sports hangout Legends, said she anticipates a 30% to 40% drop-off in business during the day on Sundays and on Monday nights.

"We have four big-screen TV sets and we show four separate games on Sunday mornings, and four more in the afternoon," Lenick said. "Our seating capacity of 250 is usually filled. I guess we'll have to show baseball or whatever's on (cable sports channel) ESPN."

In Pomona, where the Los Angeles County Fair is in the midst of its annual 18-day run, an extra parking lot is being added near Brackett Airport in anticipation of what fair promoters now hope will be a record crowd for the second of its three Sundays.

Some members of the clergy foresee an increase in church attendance.

Pastor Harry Durkee of the Hollywood Lutheran Church, for example, predicts an attendance increase of 10% at his church Sunday if the strike suspends NFL play.

"Oh, yes. You bet your life. Indeed," he said when asked if congregants skip services to watch games on television or in person. "That's a popular event on Sunday that's hard to compete with."

The temptation to watch the games is so strong, said the pastor, who starts his 28th year at Hollywood Lutheran this Sunday, that he doesn't necessarily blame the members of his flock. In fact, Durkee said, his congregants' interest in the NFL is so powerful that he often provides scores during the service.

"The usher usually has a radio," he said. "When it gets to the football playoffs or the baseball World Series, I've been known to step out (from the pulpit) to check with him . . . or he comes up with a little paper and gives us the info. . . . That would be an obvious agenda item for the announcements in the middle part of the service."

Another Los Angeles spiritual leader said he also has observed sizable absences in his congregation on Sundays when the Raiders play at home.

On those days, attendance at his services can drop by as much as 20% said the Rev. T. Larry Kirkland, whose Brookin's Community African Methodist Episcopal Church is only about 10 blocks from the Raiders' home at the Coliseum.

Does this labor action also mean a bonanza for the movie houses?

"It depends on the time zone" answered Art Murphy, industry analyst for the trade paper Variety. "On Sundays, business is usually over by 6 p.m.

"The biggest effect, if any, will be on the West Coast. Let us not presume, however, that just because people can't watch football, they won't do things such as paint the fence." And, of course, there is the emergency standby of conversation.

As for Monday nights, Murphy continued, because they follow weekends, most folks stay put anyway rather than head for theaters. This is known as the home field advantage.

One place that knows the answers already--and doesn't like them--is Las Vegas.

"Betting on professional football overshadows everything else," said Michael (Roxy) Roxborough. "The National Football League plays only 16 weeks, plus the pre-season and playoffs, but it can account for 25% to 30% of a sports book's profit for the year."

Roxborough is president of Las Vegas Sports Consultants and sets the odds for 22 major Nevada sports books.

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