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Fans Finally Looking Out For No. 1; Alliance Will Rally for Itself Today

October 11, 1987|STEVEN R. CHURM | Times Staff Writer

They can swap sports stats and swill beer with the best of them.

Their day begins with a careful dissection of the sports page and ends with the sports wrap on the 11 o'clock news. In between, they play games and go to games, all of which, they say, makes them ideal spokesmen for sports fans everywhere who are fed up with strikes, drug testing and six-figure salaries in professional sports.

Their prescription for suffering fans: a nationwide union of sorts that would champion the fan.

The National Fan Alliance, born on a Monday night a year ago over a few beers and a TV football game, is the brainchild of Steven David, Derrick (D.J.) Johnson and Charles Stoddard.

Today the three Orange County men plan to take their fledgling movement public when they hold a rally at Anaheim Stadium before the Rams-Pittsburgh Steelers football game.

Their rally is set for 11:30 a.m. under the "Big A" not far from a second demonstration, this one made up of striking Rams players and union supporters angry at team owners for staging games with non-union players.

A Shot at Attention

On Saturday, while brunching on sweet rolls and Bloody Marys in the group's unofficial headquarters--David's Newport Beach apartment--the trio stressed that today's rally is not an attack on either NFL players or team owners, but a chance to draw attention to the fans' plight.

"Fans need to be appreciated," said David, a 41-year-old advertising pitchman whose living room resembles an exercise room at the local YMCA with weights, a stationary bike, basketballs, baseball gloves and caps. "We're tired of paying top dollar for games and not getting any consideration."

The alliance, said David, the group's director, has about 60 members. But someday, he hopes it will be a nationwide network of fans with a newsletter and enough credibility to be consulted on such matters as how to resolve player strikes.

But for now, the alliance's first demand is that NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle eliminate the nets in the end zones that are used to catch balls before they fly into the stands. Like baseball fans, David said, football fans should be able to catch and keep a few balls.

The NFL says the nets are a safety measure. But David contends they're there to save the $35 cost of each ball. "The irony is the owners make millions off the fans, charging up to $25 or more to seat in the so-called cheap end zone seats and then they can't part with a half dozen balls a game," he complained.

'Take Down Nets'

In June, David and Co. recorded and pressed 1,000 copies of a song titled "Take Down the Nets." It has been sent to radio stations around the country, David said, and has received modest airplay as result of the strike.

The song, in part: We pay good money for end zone seating/But when they kick the ball we feel you're cheating. Million-dollar players doing their dance/But a souvenir football you've got no chance.

While pro team owners won't win any good-guy-of-the-year awards from this group, the striking NFL players haven't lately endeared themselves to the alliance, either.

When striking Rams put out a call for other unions to join them today at their Anaheim Stadium rally, Johnson, 28, of Santa Ana, said he was mad.

Johnson, a grocery store clerk and member of the retail clerks union, said the "players want our help in their hour of need, but where are they when we are trying to get an extra buck-fifty an hour?"

Johnson, a former semi-pro baseball player and Rams' cheerleader in 1980 and 1981, said he is considering withholding his union dues to protest the retail clerks' support of the Rams' rally today.

Beyond the strike, the group's next issue will be to lobby for a 4-point shot in basketball from 65 feet, David said.

While acknowledging that the alliance started as a joke, David said he hopes it becomes a fixture on the sports scene.

And what makes David, Johnson and Stoddard, a 30-year-old college student who sang the group's first song, qualified to speak for all sports fans?

"'If we're not at a game, we're at home or in a bar watching a game," David said. "And if we're not at a game or watching one, we're talking about a game. We are crazy, aren't we?"

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