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Scott Ostler

Don't Talk To Him About Eric 'Til You Have Considered . . .

November 03, 1987|Scott Ostler

Please, please don't phone me or stop me on the street to offer any of the following comments regarding the dearly departed Eric Dickerson:

This guy was a Benedict Arnold. His terrible timing in trying to hold up the Rams for more money upset the whole team.

Right, Dickerson single-handedly derailed the Rams' Super Bowl express. They were 1-5 and just getting ready to make their big move.

Better Eric would have waited for a more opportune time to present his demands, like during the off-season, when his leverage would be sky-high.

"Give me more money or I won't come in to be photographed for my media-guide mug shot," he could have demanded.

His salary demands created a major distraction to a team trying to go about its business.

The reason Dickerson was a major distraction is that he has been carrying the team for four years. Why do you think he wanted more money? He wanted to be paid like a major distraction.

This guy isn't curing cancer. He was making $685,000 or so with the Rams. That's enough money for playing a game. A lot of coal miners would love to be making $685,000.

It's all relative. Compared to coal miners, Dickerson is well paid. Compared to starving Biafrans, U.S. coal miners live like Joan Collins.

Is Dickerson an overpaid athlete? Well, glancing at the Monday morning results, we see that Ivan Lendl earns himself $215,000 Sunday for winning a tennis tournament. Tom Watson picks up $360,000, plus a $24,000 bonus of some kind, for winning a golf tournament that is not even one of the majors. Not once in the tournament is Watson's putting concentration disrupted by a vicious blind-side sack by Greg Norman.

Neither Watson nor Lendl discovered new uses for nuclear energy or even a better method for recycling aluminum.

In New York Sunday, Eric Dickerson puts on 25 pounds of armor, wades into a gang war and makes himself $87,500, or about what Watson tipped his caddy.

Eric obviously picked the wrong sport. Baseball and basketball pay better. Jerry Reuss and Benoit Benjamin make more money than Eric. With all the money pouring into amateur athletics these days, Eric could probably do better in synchronized swimming.

Hey, the guy signed a contract. A contract is a contract.

Let's try this. Every time an athlete or coach or team owner (signed to a contract with a city or stadium) demands to have his contract renegotiated, let's turn on a flashing red light and siren. The sports world will look like one of those low-rent Las Vegas casinos where every five-nickel jackpot sets off World War III.

Renegotiation is a legitimate method of keeping one's sports contract current with the market. Renegotiation should not be classified with arson, kidnapping or even littering.

The Rams aren't cheap. They gave Jim Everett a fair contract.

Yes, but Everett refused to give any of that money to Dickerson. If the Rams are so generous, why couldn't they extend Dickerson the same courtesy as Everett, a fair contract?

Georgia Frontiere and John Shaw pray daily that Everett never blossoms into a Dan Marino, because if he does, there's always the frightening possibility that Everett will want to be paid like a Dan Marino.

In which case the Rams would ship the ungrateful malcontent to the Pottstown Firebirds for draft choices.

Guys like Dickerson are ruining sports. They push salaries up and up, and pretty soon they're going to break the bank. As it is, the average fan can't afford to attend a game.

I checked the financial section of my favorite newspaper Monday morning. Robert Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, did not declare bankruptcy. I'm assuming, then, that Irsay can afford to pay Dickerson's huge salary. If stadium popcorn sales are up, and television proves to be more than a passing fad, Irsay might even turn a profit on his team.

It was about 10 years ago that player greed was going to send sport to immediate financial ruin. Every team owner I know of still drives a real nice car, or has it driven for him, or her.

As for ticket prices, wise up. Ticket prices do not rise and fall according to owner need or team payroll level. Ticket prices rise--never fall--according to the market. Whatever the fans will pay, the owners will charge.

Dickerson is a bad guy. Arrogant. Who needs him?

If we start paying all athletes according to their perceived niceness or humility, I can give you a list of superstars who will wind up each year owing us money. Coal miners would make more than baseball players.

Arrogant? Dickerson? I hope so. Surprisingly few wallflowers will charge fearlessly and effectively into a wall of vicious thugs 30 times each Sunday.

The Rams made a great trade. Those draft choices will help them build a great future.

Fine, if you're into future.

And if by some bizarre twist of fate the Rams manage to draft great players, and then actually sign them to contracts, then we all owe Dickerson a vote of thanks.

The Rams should then erect a statue of Eric the Arrogant, father of a dynasty.

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