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Mike Downey

Dickerson Gets a Contract He Can Live With, for Now

November 01, 1987|Mike Downey

Eric Dickerson wanted to go to another professional football team. He almost got his wish. He is going to Indianapolis.

Best of luck to the Colts. It is now November. Dickerson probably won't be renegotiating his contract until at least December.

He pushed the Rams too far. He slapped them in the face. He gave them no opportunity to save face. He abandoned his contract, team and teammates. He pouted and refused to put out. He clawed at the door like a puppy, until finally they let him out.

Dickerson has finally broken loose. He's at Nevada! He's at Colorado! He's at Kansas! He's at Missouri! He's at Illinois! He's in Indiana! He's gone! An amazing broken-country run. He never looked back once. Strange, that bad leg didn't seem to be bothering him at all.

Lucky us. We will not be seeing Dickerson again for a long, long time, since the National Football League's network television contract stipulates that Indianapolis games can only be televised once in a blue moon.

He rode off into the sunset on his two charley horses--the one beneath his hip, and the one above his neck--to join the Colts, who are willing to pay any price to have a real football player on their roster. It's been so long.

In return, the Rams got a potful of good draft picks, courtesy of the Colts and the Buffalo Bills, and a couple of decent players to boot. The Rams needed draft picks, desperately. And they needed to rid themselves of the disruptive influence of Dickerson, whose every word made them want to wash out their ears.

You reward greatness, but not greed and hatefulness. As soon as Dickerson has a big day for the Colts, some second-guessers will scold the Rams for not giving him what he wanted. Well, try it some day with your own money, when an employee of yours flogs you publicly and refuses to put in an honest day's work. See how you like it.

You hire a plumber. You ask him to fix your commode. He agrees on a fee of $500. He starts work. One day, he announces that other top plumbers get $1,000 for fixing commodes. You ask him to stick to his deal. The plumber says he wants another $500, or you can forget it.

It's a form of extortion, what Eric Dickerson did. Only with plumber Dickerson, you can't fire him and sue to get your original $500 back. All you can do is stand there up to your ankles in water, and eventually hire someone else. Because if you pay him the extra five bills, you will never be able to look at yourself in the bathroom mirror again.

Before today's game against the San Francisco 49ers, the Rams installed a new option offense for their superstar running back. The options they presented him were these:

--Shut up and play football.

--Make like a quarterback and take a hike.

--Prepare for an exciting new career in computer technology.

--Walk a picket line with a sign that reads: "Rams Unfair to Me."

--Move to Irwindale.

--Consider the possibilities of Australian Rules.

--Instead of us doubling your pay, continue to play half a game, as at Cleveland.

--Sell shares of yourself to investors, as the Boston Celtics did.

--Go back to Southern Methodist University, where the money was better.

--Go to Indianapolis.

Late Friday, the Rams exercised Option 10, peddling that gifted money-grubber of theirs to the Colts. By butting him off their roster the day before, the Rams, in true Hollywood tradition, were saying to him: "You'll never work in this town again." Which was OK with Eric Dollarsign, who just wanted out.

Money was more important to him than anything--more important than the contract he endorsed, more important than the men he played with, even, as it turned out, more important than staying in the area where his daughter would be living. She had a birthday on the day daddy got his wish to be traded. She turned five days old.

For sports fans, it is sometimes impossible to be reasonable. Many don't care what it takes to pay a player, or to have a good team. Just do it, they say. Dickerson deserves the money, they say. He's the best, they say. So, in other words, it shouldn't matter what he says or what he does, so long as we keep him on the premises.

Their hearts keep reminding them of games like the one of Jan. 4, 1986, when, in a playoff contest against the Dallas Cowboys, Dickerson ran 34 times for 248 yards. How fondly they remember Coach John Robinson saying, "He played as great a game as I've ever seen a man play."

Their heads, however, forget to remind them of the Dickerson who held out on the team for 46 days until Sept. 13, 1985, over money, of course. The Rams had to start the season without him. A team can't count on someone who counts only money.

Sure, it's hard to see him go. Even Robinson, during the last holdout, went so far as to say that seeing the Rams without Dickerson was "like going to see the Jacksons, and Michael isn't there. It's just not the same."

Well, now all the coach can do is sing, "He's Out of My Life." Dickerson is gone, and the Rams are better off. He was a malcontent, a malingerer and an ingrate. Goodby and good riddance. We will miss his long runs, but we will not miss him in the long run.

What a terrible year this has been, by the way. We have endured freeway shootings, earthquakes, stock market crashes, Persian gulf clashes, a football strike, bad baseball teams, airplane disasters, presidential campaign turmoil, congressional hearings regarding aid to Iran and Nicaragua, and Geraldo Rivera getting his own talk show. Things can't get much worse.

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