Memory Lane - the 1982 Players' Strike
Channel 4 had just launched in the UK and was running a one-hour American Football show each Sunday presented by Nicky Horne and Miles Aitken. Highlights of the previous week's Monday Night game and an introduction to the world of gridiron for British fans. Everything looked great for producer Gary Franses and the team at the fledgling station.
And then the NFL went on strike.
'82 strike changed salary dealings forever|
by Gordon Forbes of USA Today
There were very few signing bonuses. The general managers were always grumbling about big payrolls and empty seats. The incentives were scribbled on the back of the contract, and the general manager would recite the same promise to everybody: Make the Pro Bowl, kid, and we'll throw you an extra $10,000.
This was in 1982, the year the NFL endured a 57-day players strike and staged a nine-game season. The NFL Players Association's negotiators won a laundry list of benefits, including the right to obtain copies of all individual contracts. Before that, salaries were anybody's guess. Former Kansas City guard Tom Condon, now a super-agent, remembers learning in a shower conversation that his backup was earning $65,000, or $15,000 more than his own salary. The Chiefs dug down and gave Condon $65,000 plus 2 more years, each with a $10,000 raise. "I was just happy as hell and said, 'Let's sign,' " Condon said.
And when the NFLPA's first salary survey came out in 1982, Condon learned that the Chiefs were an equal opportunity employer. Condon (10th round), right tackle Charlie Getty (second) and left tackle Matt Herkenhoff (fourth), all from an offense-heavy 1974 draft, each earned $130,000 in base salary in 1982. Left guard Brad Budde, their first-round pick in 1980, earned $90,000. Jack Rudnay, a Pro Bowl center, earned $175,000. Shockingly, Bill Kenney, the starting quarterback, also earned $130,000.
Dick Berthelsen, the union's general counsel, actually won a North American Soccer League case that concluded its union was entitled to salary data. The NFLPA jumped on the decision, publishing the "1982 NFLPA Base Salary Directory." "It made a very significant difference," Berthelsen said. "Even more than we anticipated. What it did was make sure that false information was no longer being passed around. Players felt they would get in trouble if they talked about salaries."
In 1982 the Herkenhoff-Budde-Rudnay-Condon-Getty line earned $655,000 in base pay. Last year the Chiefs' blocking unit earned $7.161 million in base salary. Condon says he never allows himself to think about today's soaring payrolls and benefits. The Chiefs' average salary in 1982 was $77,448, 24th among 28 teams. Denver led with a $118,460 average. "I got more than the players before me, and the players after me got more than I did," Condon said.
According to the '82 directory, there were $50,000 backups and $40,000 starters. And there was Minnesota's Tommy Kramer, who threw for 3,912 yards in 1981, and San Francisco's Guy Benjamin, a backup who threw for 171 yards. Kramer got $100,000 and Benjamin $130,000. Kramer didn't know about other salaries. None of them knew until Berthelsen won that soccer case. After that, salary negotiations would never be the same.
It wasn't until eight weeks later that the 1982 season resumed and a set of events went in motion that led to yours truly watching the Bucs beat the Dolphins on the second show aired. The season itself was shortened to nine weeks, the normal playoff scenario went out of the window, and a 16-team "SuperBowl tournament" took place that culminated in the Redskins beating Miami 27-17 in the first live game shown on British television.
|Click above to review the Bucs' 1982 season|
Was it really 21 years ago? The 1982 season was the one of "The Cardiac Kids", the Buccaneer team that won all its five games in the last few seconds before bowing out to the Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs. It was the year of the famous "Snow Plough Game" where British kicker John Smith gave the Patriots a 3-0 win when a convict on day release used his snow plough to clear enough snow to allow the ex-pat and current Pat (nice gag eh?!) to become the first UK gridiron star. And it was also the year when Mick Luckhurst scored his only touchdown on a fake fieldgoal for the Falcons even though the way he tells the story now, he was the second coming of Jim Brown!
We were still two years from the birth of the Bucs UK and Gridiron UK magazine and the internet was still a dream in some mad professor's brain at Berkeley. But 1982 will remain in the memory of NFL fans on both sides of the Atlantic for very differing reasons.
Strike left void on Sunday afternoons
by Bruce Lowitt of the St.Petersburg Times
Thursday night hadn't been so bad. Atlanta's scheduled game at Kansas City, even to some Falcons and Chiefs fans, hadn't been missed that much. But now it was Silent Sunday -- the first autumn Sunday in 63 years without NFL games -- and to many, the void was inescapable. Yards and attics were cleaned. Books and magazines were read, cars and pets were washed. Golf and tennis and touch football were played. Errands were run and long walks were taken.
In Pittsburgh, a tailgate party promoted by a local radio station drew an estimated 5,000 fans to the parking lots at Three Rivers Stadium, where the New York Giants were scheduled to play the Steelers. It was as though America was trying to convince itself that Sept. 26, 1982, was just another day.
It wasn't, of course. It was the first full day of the NFL players' 57-day strike. It would reduce the season from 16 games to nine, costing league cities thousands of dollars in taxes that would have been paid on tickets, food and concessions. In each city where football was a Sunday staple, an estimated $2-million was lost on restaurant meals that weren't eaten, hotel and motel rooms that remained unoccupied and other businesses that rely heavily on football. Sports bars, usually packed in midafternoon, had few if any customers.
And beyond that, 15,000 people with football-related jobs -- ushers, security guards, vendors, grounds crews -- were out of work and unpaid. Charities that maintained stadium concessions as fund-raisers lost thousands of dollars. Teams lost millions in TV revenues. Players lost hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars in Sunday's unpaid salaries. None of them was going broke. Some, though, were opening NFL Players Association credit union accounts in case they'd need to borrow money before the strike ended.
But to NFL fans, who lost what or how much was not important. On this day they had lost their games and, more than a few fans said -- some not entirely jokingly -- they were losing their minds. Newspaper stories and television programs featured sociologists discussing the evolution of the human animal to this point of dependency on sports and the attendant ramifications, and psychologists suggested how to deal with the withdrawal. The networks that normally carried NFL games showed two Canadian Football League games. The NFL Today, normally a half-hour show on CBS, ran four hours of interviews and a replay of Super Bowl XVI (at least it was a good game, San Francisco's 26-21 victory over Cincinnati). Another network carried the Baltimore Orioles' 3-2 victory over Milwaukee.
The next evening, when Brian Sipe and Ken Anderson should have been staging a shootout on Monday Night Football, fans wound up instead with the Outlaw Josie Wales. "You know, this really feels strange," said Dan Allison, a fan who normally would be in front of his TV but instead was in Williams Park in St. Petersburg. "It's some kind of psychological displacement. I guess I'm conditioned to watching football on Sundays this time of year."
Was there a lasting impact on the fans? To some, perhaps psychologically. But the average attendance for the abbreviated 1982 season, and for 1983's full season, weren't very different from prestrike years.