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Gene Wojciechowski

Finding Order Among Chaos of the Strike

October 11, 1987|Gene Wojciechowski

I have a vision.

Jack Donlan, the National Football League owners' talking head, and Gene Upshaw, the players' mouthpiece, are thisclose to negotiating a settlement to the 19-day-old strike. Time for dinner.

"Let's aw-da a pizz-er," says Donlan, his New England accent as thick as clam chowder.

"What?" says Upshaw.

"A pizz-er . . . a pizz-er," says Donlan. "What are you, daff?"

NFL Players Assn. president Marvin Powell leans over. "He wants to know if you want to order a pizza. Be careful, it could be a trick."

Upshaw nods his head and turns to Donlan. "If we were to order a pizza--and I'm making no commitment on that--I want assurances that there be Canadian bacon and chopped pineapple on it."

Donlan rolls his eyes. "Gene, are you crazy, or what? You know I'm not arthorized to do such a thing."

"Then no deal," says Upshaw. "No talking, and we're walking."

"Gene, we're aw-daring a pizz-er here, not a new pan-sion plan."

"Ah hah! So it was a trick," says Upshaw. "Confuse us with peripheral pizza issues and then try to slide a pension plan past us. Very clever. Marvin, you were right. Order another pair of oversized glasses and take it from petty cash."

"What?" says Donlan.

Tex Schramm of the owners' executive committee leans over. "He said something about glasses, dangit. Tell him we're not budging one iota on eye care. I mean it, Jack."

Upshaw grabs his briefcase and heads for the door. Donlan grabs the phone and orders room service. Schramm says he can remember the days when players didn't need glasses.

Later, John Jones, the management council spokesman, says the day's talks were "constructive and informative.

"There does, however, appear to be substantive disagreement over food and vision issues."

"So," says a reporter, "they can't agree on per diem arrangements and medical plans?"

Jones sighs. "I really can't say more than that," he says. "Thank you for your patience."

Talks break off. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, his squash schedule disrupted by the strike, cancels another week's worth of games.

At least that's what I'm hoping for. Frankly, I'm rooting for a protracted, seemingly endless work stoppage. I like strikes.

Strikes tend to expose truths and propaganda, villains and good guys, convictions and double talk. Just think of the lessons learned so far:

That the guy who would benefit most from free agency--Eric Dickerson--has spent more time on MTV than on the picket line.

That Ram followers were confused after the first replacement game: Did management sign Cullen Bryant or Anita Bryant?

That the Rams' idea of solidarity is a Lech Walesa wall poster.

That you probably won't see Rams Carl Ekern and Gary Jeter walking shoulder to shoulder, singing the union label tune.

That if it's not too late, Cal State Fullerton should schedule the Also-Rams for an easy win.

That Nolan Cromwell can't cover everyone, or is it anyone?

That a tossed egg breaks as easily on a Norwood Vann as it does on a Chevy van.

That Ram management prepared for the strike as well as Robert Bork did for questions about judicial restraint.

That little did Ram fans know that those full-price exhibition games they paid for would become the best value for their money.

That it's difficult to muster much sympathy for striking players who pull picket signs out of their BMWs.

That it's a tossup: Watch another replacement game or attend a Tammy Bakker mascara seminar.

That the dreaded annuity has become the strikebreaker of the '80s.

That causes die easily for some players. For instance, Ram defensive lineman Greg Meisner, attired in combat fatigues back then, stopped a van containing non-union players. A devout believer, to be sure. Shortly thereafter, Meisner, as well as several other veterans, crossed the picket line.

That Ram owner Georgia Frontiere hasn't kissed one replacement player yet.

That Ed Garvey wasn't such a bad guy, after all.

That young players such as Ram punter Dale Hatcher, who will benefit most by a new collective bargaining agreement, crossed the picket line, while veterans such as Reggie Doss, with little to gain, remain out.

That Upshaw looks good in a suit.

That after last weekend's replacement games, NFL Films now should have more than enough blooper footage.

That we can survive without the Indianapolis Colts vs. Detroit Lions game.

That you can buy Ram tickets almost seven days a week, but you can get refunds only twice a week.

That the Rev. Jesse Jackson, fresh from his efforts to reunite union and management negotiators, will replace Sandy Duncan in the troubled sitcom, "Valerie's Family." Jackson, say network sources, will be cast as Bob, the neighborhood trouble-shooter.

That the baseball playoffs are looking better and better.

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