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NFL STRIKE: DAY 6 : A SUNDAY WITHOUT FOOTBALL : Some Fans Out and About, Many Apparently Slept In

September 28, 1987|RICH ROBERTS | Times Staff Writer

Empty stadiums, empty sports bars and quiet betting parlors in Las Vegas: these were some of the symptoms of the National Football League players' strike Sunday.

The principals weren't hard to find. Some strikers from the Raiders, Rams, Seattle Seahawks, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos met with their union leader, Gene Upshaw, at the Airport Hyatt.

Raider Coach Tom Flores was toiling over a hot projector at El Segundo.

"We're not on strike," he said, speaking for the coaches. "I'm going to be out here meeting and working with our (non-union) prospects. We've got little enough time to get these players ready."

The Rams John Robinson had another idea.

"I'm going to Del Mar and to sit on the beach," he said. "There will be no football practice. There's gotta be some sanity in this."

But what of the pro football fan? How did he fill the void?

Not with baseball or in Las Vegas, apparently.

Lou D'Amico of the sports book at Caesars Palace said by phone that it was "kind of quiet today. The only thing we have anything going on with is baseball. We're probably off 75%. I sure wish they'd get off the strike."

Bob Gregorka at the Frontier: "At this time Sunday morning we usually have four lines of 10 people each (waiting to place bets), and it's bedlam. How's it sound now?"

You could picture him holding the phone out into the room. Nothing.

"Our 140 seats are usually jam-packed," Gregorka said. "We show seven games with our satellite dish. You can't even hear the slot machines from the casino.

"Well, I'm standing right in the middle and it's like a tomb. There's one person standing here and he's not betting. We have one person taking bets, but he's twiddling his thumbs. We sent everybody else home."

Asked if he thought business might pick back up when the league starts playing the non-union games--"Scab Ball," it's being called--Gregorka said, "We expect action, but nothing like our normal business."

Las Vegas interests indicate that the town will lose $1 million a week worth of business--hotels, restaurants, wagering, the works.

D'Amico is holding out hope that "our college handle will probably increase about 25%."

These were some other discoveries on a reporter's tour of pro football hot spots Sunday:

11:15 a.m., Legends Sports Bar and Rib Room in Belmont Shores--Dennis Harrah, the Rams' guard, is a part owner. On a typical Sunday morning football fans are spilling out into Second Street. Four large TV screens offer four different NFL games off the satellite.

Sunday a visitor could practically park right in front.

Manager Yvette Satterlee said, "On Sundays we take reservations for two sittings, and it's packed."

The early crowd arrives at 10 for the first TV games, then they recycle at 1 p.m. They even show the Rams' home games off the satellite.

On this Sunday, about three-fourths of the tables were empty. The TV screens were showing baseball games.

"It's funny," Satterlee said, "I got a call from a guy asking, 'Are you gonna be showing the Rams' game Sunday?' "

The Raiders would have been at Houston Sunday, and the Rams were scheduled to play the Cincinnati Bengals at Anaheim.

11:50 a.m., Anaheim Stadium--The stadium was locked up tight, and a dozen or so people from the Anaheim Model Airplane Club were flying their radio-controlled planes around the parking lot.

But there was also some activity by the Rams' ticket office. Although the office was closed, people were milling around, and there wasn't even a notice to tell them what they could do with Sunday's game tickets--which kind of says what they could do with Sunday's game tickets.

Mike Lawler, an insurance broker from Newport Beach, was doing his own sort of business.

"I'm buying 'em at half-price," Lawler said.

He had a little sign stuck on his restored 1967 Mustang and was holding a half-dozen tickets in one hand.

"I'm bearish on the Rams," Lawler said. "(The Rams) have said they'll refund the money, but they haven't said when. Mrs. Rosenbloom (sic) probably has a million dollars in the bank gaining interest right now."

About then a fan drove up--Joe Donaldson from Fountain Valley, with his wife, Sheila. Donaldson said he was a season ticket holder and thought he was coming to see the game Sunday.

"They didn't say a word to us about it being called off," he said.

Told that it had been in all the papers, Donaldson said, "I usually don't get the paper every day. We parked outside the lot at first and thought, 'Gee, it doesn't seem like there are a lot of people here.' "

Finally, he asked a security guard where everybody was.

"I was shocked," Donaldson said. "I've got good seats, too."

12:30 p.m., The Catch restaurant, across the street from the Big A--The marquee outside reads, "DEAR GENE U, DEAR GEORGIA, HAVE YOU TALKED TO YOUR FANS LATELY."

Manager Judy White explained, "The 'Gene U' is Upshaw. We didn't want people to think we meant Gene Autry."

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