This is so funny. In 1997 I wrote a novel called Combat Mole And The Turk. This is during the Clinton Presidency and around the time of the O.J. Simpson trial. In one chapter of the book the National Football League is sued to stop play of the Super Bowl. If you follow the NFL then you know a group of New Orleans Saints fans are suing the NFL to stop the Super Bowl until last weeks controversial loss to the L.A. Rams in the NFC Championship Game can be replayed. And I thought I was writing fiction.
In this scene the main character, Tony Sachs, has just finished his daily 3 mile run. He grabs a water bottle from the refrigerator then sits on the floor to visit with his cat. He drifts off into a daydream….
Tony was sitting at the bar, a cold mug of beer in front him. The big screen television was on. The picture on the television displayed a football field with the National Football League Logo. Superimposed on the screen were the words, “Super Bowl XXX.”
“Super Bowl?” said Tony out loud. There was no one there to hear him. “It’s July! What’s the Super Bowl doing on TV?”
“Good afternoon everyone. This is Dick Enberg, along with Merlin Olson, set to bring you day one hundred and sixty of Super Bowl Thirty.”
“What the ?” exclaimed Tony
“For those of you who may have been living on another planet the last five months, let me bring you up to date. The San Francisco 49er’s and Dallas Cowboys are late in the fourth quarter of the championship game. The Cowboys are leading by a score of twenty-one to twenty. There are thirty five seconds left in the game and the Forty Niners have the ball on the Dallas forty-two yard line. At least, that’s where we think the ball is. Right Merlin?”
“That’s right Dick. When the Federal Court issued the injunction to stop the game, the Forty Niners were driving steadily toward what could be the winning score. The game was stopped on this controversial play.”
The image on the screen switched to a replay of the down in question. The ball was on the Forty Niner forty-five yard line. The first down marker was on the Cowboy forty-five yard line. The down marker indicated third down.
“Third and ten,” muttered Tony. “They’ll throw to Rice on a down and out pattern.”
Sure enough, the play started and Rice took off up field then broke sharply left toward the down marker. Waiting for Rice at the marker was Dion Sanders. Rice accelerated as fast as he could toward the sideline as Steve Young fired a spiral.
Rice and Sanders jumped into the air simultaneously. Rice drove his left shoulder into Sanders, going for the ball. The field microphone picked up the distinct sound of the two players colliding. Sanders was clearly heard to say “Ouch.”
The arms, hands and legs of the two star athletes mingled as they fought for position. Young’s pass was perfect, two feet on the Cowboy side of the down marker.
Rice and Sanders grabbed for the ball. Rice was able to pull the pigskin away from Sanders with his powerful hands, yanking it to his midsection while falling backwards. “Brat,” yelled Sanders. The two players, legs entangled, fell across the sideline. The sideline judge dropped the seven-foot tall yard marker and got out of the way.
The camera angle now shifted to a shot of the sideline. Four legs and feet could easily be seen landing in the edge of the field. Both Rice and Sanders had endorsement contracts with the same shoe company so it was hard to tell which foot belonged to which player.
Two feet landed cleanly in the field of play. A third foot landed on the sideline stripe, still in play. The fourth foot landed on the stripe but was pushed quickly out of bounds by the players’ momentum.
The players continued to fall. Next, the camera switched to the side judge who immediately signaled that Rice had caught the ball. He then signaled first down. The crowd went wild. Enberg and Olson could barely be heard over the roar of the crowd.
While the down markers were being reset NBC switched to a commercial. “We’ll be right back after a commercial message,” Enberg told the millions of people around the world who were watching the game.
“Hi! This is OJ Simpson,” the familiar voice of the former football great announced. Simpson was shown, standing in the front yard of his Brentwood Estate taking practice swings with a golf club.
“I’d like to tell you about my latest video. It’s called, Hey Sucka That Wasn’t Me! In my video, I will explain to you how it couldn’t possibly have been me that broke the National Football League’s single season rushing record of 2,003 yards in 1973. I will prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was someone else, using my name, when those records were broken.”
“Now,” went on the superstar, “If you buy my new video today I will throw in free, as a bonus, my golf instructional video How To Slice Your Way To A Winning Score. Many of you have already purchased this great video and know the powerful techniques I teach on how to effectively lower the number of total swings you need to complete your round.”
“To order call One, Eight Hundred ILAUNDER4U. Your video, Hey Sucka, That Wasn’t Me! plus the bonus video, How To Slice Your Way To A Winning Score will be mailed on July 30th. when my attorney, F. Lee Bailey gets out of jail. Remember, that’s his number, One Eight Hundred ILAUNDER4U.’ And don’t forget to watch for Mr.
Bailey’s new book, Selling Vaseline For Fun And Profit.
The television picture switched back to the empty stadium where Enberg and Olson were ready to begin the rest of the programming.
“Well, Merlin, now we’re up to date on what happened on the field to cause this one hundred and sixty day delay in Super Bowl Thirty. It’s your turn to tell the audience what happened next.”
“OK Dick. As most of you know by now, when Sanders and Rice collided and fell out of bounds there was a huge argument. The Cowboys, naturally, contested the referee’s in bounds call that resulted in the first down.”
“As soon as the controversial call was made, Jerry Jones, owner of the Cowboys, immediately sent his personal attorney into the next sky box where Federal Judge Warren Spoon was sitting. The attorney handed the judge a summons and complaint that ordered a temporary restraining order on continued play of the game until the issue of whether or not the National Football League was violating international law by measuring its playing fields in yards rather than by the international metric standard could be resolved.
Judge Spoon had no other option but to order a halt in play until a hearing on this matter could take place and a resolution of the controversy reached. The Forty Niners objected to the Judge’s order on the spot, arguing that Jones clearly intended to stop the game on any controversial play because his summons and complaint were already prepared. Jones denied the Forty Niners’ claim and Judge Spoon issued the order. Back to you Dick.”
“Thank you Merlin. During the last one hundred and sixty days, attorneys for the National Football League, the Cowboys and the Forty Niners have been involved in continued hearings. After the first thirty days, Judge Spoon ordered a jury trial which began on March 1st in the court room of Judge Lance Ito.”
“You all remember Judge Ito of course. Ito was chosen by mutual agreement of the parties because of his status as an international celebrity.”
“Ito’s first problem was to determine the jurisdiction within which this case should be heard. Normally, jurisdiction is determined by the place where the injury occurred.
But, as we learned in the OJ Simpson case, this does not always happen. Indeed, this case involved an international dispute over standards of measurement so Ito contacted the United Nations. The United Nations convened an emergency meeting of the Security Council.”
“This august body met for a week, discussing the issue of jurisdiction. The major topic of their discussion, however, was whether or not they even wanted to become involved since soccer is the only true international sport.”
“While the United Nations was debating this, NATO jumped in asking to be joined in the matter. The generals of the various NATO nations saw this as a perfect opportunity to finally solve a problem they had been dealing with for almost fifty years.”
“Ever since the establishment of NATO and the presence of American troops all over Europe, fist fights take place on a daily basis in the thousands of pubs that dot the European country side. The fights occur because the ladies and frauleins who frequent these pubs have a hard time choosing which soldier to date for the evening. The ladies don’t know how to convert inches to millimeters. While the girls are pondering this problem, the soldiers take matters into their own hands by punching it out.”
“When NATO joined the debate the Warsaw Pact Countries decided they wanted in too. They felt they couldn’t allow NATO to participate in the discussions if they weren’t involved.”
“Finally, Judge Ito called for a side bar. The side bar was held at the Los Angeles Coliseum so all parties could attend. After a lengthy discussion, mostly about seating, Ito made his decision.”
“All right, All right,” Judge Ito exclaimed hammering the bench with his gavel. “If I don’t get order in this court I am terminating television coverage.” The crowd quieted down.
“I have determined that the only fair way to handle this is to impanel a jury of twelve Australians. Australians spend their days playing rugby, drinking beer and having fun so they won’t know much about what’s going on here.”
“Also, they speak English, sort of, so they will understand the language that trial will be conducted in,” explained Ito. The crowd began to murmur in fifty-six different languages.
“Good job, Dick,” commented Olson as the video ended. “So the panel of twelve Australians was chosen. They arrived in the United States on April 1st. and the trial began on the fifth. Opening arguments began and Barry Scheck, attorney for the Cowboy’s made his opening statement.”
Again, the scene changed to Judge Ito’s courtroom. Barry Scheck was standing before the jury. The jury was dressed in Kangaroo and Koala Bear costumes. The disguises where worn so that when the jury members returned to their homeland they wouldn’t be subject to ridicule and abuse.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury,” Scheck began. But before Sheck could continue a Kangaroo raised its paw.
“Bailiff, go see what the Kangaroo wants,” instructed Ito.
The Bailiff walked over to the Kangaroo, listened as the Kangaroo whispered in his ear and then consulted with Ito.
“Mr. Scheck,” said Ito. “The jury has requested that you address them as ‘mates.’ Not as ladies and gentlemen.”
“G’day Mates,” continued Scheck. “The Dallas Cowboys intend to prove to you, twelve good and honest kangaroos and koala bears, that every game played in the National Football League over the past one hundred years has been done so illegally.
These games were played on a field measured by a standard that is not recognized anywhere in the world, except the United States. As a consequence, the scores and outcomes of these games are invalid.”
“Further,” Scheck continued, “The Cowboys will prove that the standards of measurement used in the National Football League are really a conspiracy by a small group of elitist American businessmen who use this tactic to maintain control over the game thus preventing anyone from any other country in the world to share in the billions of dollars of revenue generated by American style football.”
“In addition, the Cowboys allege that football subjects many Americans to a lower standard of living than they might otherwise enjoy. It is nothing more than blatant discrimination.”
“There really is only one issue here,” concluded Scheck. “This issue is easily demonstrated by asking a simple question,” Scheck looked into the camera. “How many of you, citizens of the world, members of the jury, have a yardstick in your home?”
There was silence in the courtroom. In the jury box, in bars, offices, living rooms and tents around the world people stopped to consider Scheck’s question. Slowly, each them began to nod their heads. “You know,” they said the themselves, “I think he’s right. I don’t have a yardstick.”
“Thank you Mr. Scheck. You’re statement please Mr. Darden,” requested Ito.
Christopher Darden, attorney for the San Francisco Forty Niners, got up to make his opening remarks.
“Thank you Judge Ito,” said Darden, stepping to the microphone. “Your Honor.
Mates. This case is a simple one in the view of my clients. It has to do with following the rules. Playing a game within a set of specific, well defined, accepted and fairly enforced guidelines that all participants fully understand and are willing to abide by.”
“There is no conspiracy here. No discrimination. The National Football League has played their games on a field one hundred yards long and fifty yards wide ever since the league was organized back in 1920. Surely, the method of measurement used to lay out the field is not relevant.”
“What is relevant is that the playing field is consistently laid out in the same manner for every game. That the owners, players, coaches, referees and fans can be confident in the knowledge that the field is the same and consistent every time is what is relevant.”
“So there you have it,” said Enberg, his face occupying the television screen once again. “What should have been a simple judgment call by a highly experienced referee in Super Bowl Thirty has turned into an international incident.”
“Excuse me, Dick, I’ve just been handed an important message. It seems that National Football League Commissioner Tagliabue has just completed a press
conference. I have a short report I’d like to read. Viewers at home, the text will appear on your television screens.”
NFL Announces Affirmative Action Guidelines
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue of the National Football League made a surprise announcement this afternoon concerning secret negotiations with the Clinton Administration regarding quotas and affirmative action in the National Football League.
Mr. Tagliabue spoke at league headquarters during a hastily called news conference. He explained to the stunned media that newly drafted guidelines involving quotas and NFL team make-up will take effect beginning with the next football season. Apparently, the timing of the announcement was geared to coincide with the kickoff of the new season and the Women’s’ Rights Conference being held in China this week.
Commissioner Tagliabue, who looked a bit drawn and haggard, said in part, “We are pleased to announce that, after months of secret negotiations with officials of the Federal Government, the National Football League will comply with Federally mandated quotas concerning the ethnic, racial and gender make-up of teams in the National Football League. Our league will now comply, across the board, with quotas that are representative of the make-up of the communities in which our league franchises operate. In the future, our teams will consist of men, women, men who think they are women and women who think they are men. We will even hold open one roster position for those who are not sure,” the Commissioner explained.
“No longer will the National Football League be a forum where just the most highly skilled, trained and competitive athletes vie for a limited number of positions on our teams. Rather, it will be a place where anyone, no matter of the color of their skin, gender, or level of competence, will be allowed to participate and earn the big contracts that only an elite few have been able to compete for in the past,” continued the Commissioner.
“Teams in each of our communities will receive official records from the Census Bureau which they will use to determine the percentage of each gender and race that will make up their individual teams. Compliance will begin next season,” concluded the Commissioner.
Tagliabue left the podium immediately after the news conference and was not available for questions. No official responses were available from any team ownership or management although it was rumored that the teams in Green Bay and Phoenix were very worried while the management of the teams in Chicago and Detroit were less concerned.
Reporters at the news conference were stunned and wondered about possible rules changes. One reporter speculated that players would no longer be able pat each other on the fanny or hug each other after a great play in deference to the female team members. Another reporter wondered how many short, fat, slow, bald white guys would have to be on each team–especially in the predominately retirement communities.
The television picture switched back to Olson and Endberg. The two men sat silently, starring at each other until Endberg realized one of them had to start talking.
“My goodness, Merlin. That’s quite an announcement. Things are happening faster and faster in the National Football League. I’m stunned,” stated Enberg quietly.
“Dick. I can’t believe it either. Between this lawsuit about measuring the field causing the delay in the Super Bowl and now this affirmative action policy. I don’t know. Our cherished and respected game of professional football may be falling apart right before our eyes. The legal system and government may bring an end to professional football as we know it,” concluded Olson.
“Yes, it certainly seems that way Merlin. Ladies and gentleman, the trial is about to begin but before we switch to Judge Ito’s courtroom we have one more commercial message to share with you.”
The scene switched to a view of a busy freeway at night. Cars raced past a man standing along the side of the road. With him were a woman and a small child. Above them, hanging over the freeway was a well-lit sign that depicted a man, woman and small child making ready to dash across the road.
An announcer’s voice came on. He was speaking in spanish while english subtitles rolled across the bottom of the screen. The subtitles read, “Have you or has someone you know and love been injured while crossing the freeway after sneaking across the border into the United States? Even if you are hit by a car driven by a licensed driver, who is sober and going the speed limit, if the driver is insured you may be entitled to huge damages. Mucho dinero!”
“Call us now One, Eight Hundred CONTFEE. Our service is FREE!! Your only expense is a percentage of the damages paid by the insurance company and automobile driver. We don’t get paid unless you get paid. So call now!! One, Eight Hundred CONTFEE.
Once again, the scene returned to Endberg and Olson. “Today’s testimony should be very interesting,” said Olson. “Bob Makarule, the NFL’s supervisor of rules will be testifying. I think they’re ready to start Dick.”
Meanwhile, in a high-rise building located in Manhattan, the host of an evening network news program completed his telephone conversation.
“Listen Morris, I don’t care if the President wants to come on my news broadcast to explain the Whitewater Case. I control access to who appears on my program and I’m not interested in letting him on. My reports on the Whitewater Hearings are generating more market share than any appearance the President can give me. My show is not about the news or the truth, it’s about ratings and selling advertising. Get a clue! I’m hanging up.” The well-known news reader put down the phone, then turned up the volume of his television set. He wanted to here Makearule’s testimony.
Down the street, in another Manhattan high rise, the host of a competing evening news broadcast turned up the volume of his television. Then he turned off the cassette tape recorder that was playing Elmer Fudd’s Hooked on Diction.
“I’wl pwactis waiter,” he said to himself. “I want to hear dis.”
And in yet a third Manhattan Sky Scraper,another evening news anchor put down the high school equivalency exam he was taking and turned up his television. He pressed the button on his intercom,”Veronica, will you send in the guys who know about the law stuff please.” After a pause he pressed the button again and said, “Veronica?”
“It’s Monica sir,” came the little voice from the intercom. “Whatever.”
“Do you mean the legal staff sir?”
“Yes, I guess so. And after they leave, I need to see my tutor again. I don’t get this metric conversion stuff.”
Back in the courtroom the camera showed Judge Ito taking the bench. “Let’s begin. Mr. Scheck, please call your witness.”
“Yes Your Honor. I would like to call Bob Makearule.”
The witness took the stand and was sworn in by the court clerk.
“Mr. Makearule, what is your position with the National Football League?” began Scheck.
“I am responsible for maintaining the Official Rules of the National Football League,” answered the witness nervously.
“I see,” said Scheck. “And what do you do? Specifically.”
“Well, I make sure that all the rules governing the play of National Football League games are properly recorded in the Official Rule Book which is disseminated to all the teams and officials,” responded Makearule.
“And who makes the rules, sir?” “There is a Rules Committee.” “A Rules Committee?”
“Who is on this Rules Committee?” asked Scheck, a note of disdain in his voice. “It’s made up of certain owners and coaches,” responded Makearule.
“You mean wealthy business men and millionaire coaches don’t you? They make the rules, right?” queried Scheck.
“Objection!” exclaimed Attorney Darden, getting to his feet. “The financial status of the members of the Rules Committee is not relevant Your Honor.”
“Your Honor, I intend to prove that their financial status is very relevant,” responded Scheck.
“Proceed Mr. Scheck. You may answer the question,” instructed Ito.
“I’m not aware of their financial status Mr. Scheck,” answered the witness. “Everyone knows they are all wealthy Mr. Makearule. That’s common knowledge isn’t it?”
“Well, they all do have nice cars. Pretty young girls hanging around too,” said Makearule.
“OK, now then. Does your Official Rule Book contain any information or instructions on the dimensions of a football field?” asked Scheck.
“Yes, of course.” answered Makearule.
“I see. How many pages is the section containing the requirements for a football field’s dimensions?”
Makarule paused, trying to recall the number of pages. “Six, I think.”
“You’re not sure?” asked Scheck raising his eyebrows and looking at the jury. “Well, no. I’m more concerned with making sure the information is written accurately and in an understandable manner.”
“You mean to tell me, Mr. Makearule, that you are responsible for maintaining the Official Rule Book of the National Football League, a set of rules that has immeasurable impact on the lives of millions of people and untold financial repercussions on the nation and you don’t know how many pages are in this vital section?” asked Scheck incredulously.
“That section hasn’t changed much so I don’t pay a lot attention to it.” “How many paragraphs does that section contain Mr. Makearule?”
“I have no idea,” answered the witness. “How many periods?” demanded Scheck.
“I don’t know,” answered the flustered witness. “How many commas?!” shouted Scheck.
“Mr. Scheck, I don’t know how many paragraphs, periods or commas are in that section. It’s what the rules say that matters. It’s the substance of the material that contains the meaning, not the form that it’s in,” responded the frustrated league official.
Scheck was quiet for a minute, and then continued, “Mr. Makearule, do you realize that literally billions of dollars are wagered on National Football League games?”
“Yes,” answered the witness, relieved that the attorney had changed his questioning.
“Are you aware that many of the people wagering on these games are poor?” “I don’t know Mr. Scheck. I suppose that could be true,” said Makearule.
“You suppose? Well, what if I tell you that some people wager an entire months allotment of food stamps on a game. What would you say then?”
“I don’t have anything to say about that Mr. Scheck,” said Makearule.
“You don’t have anything to say? You’re telling me that you, Bob Makearule, who is responsible for maintaining the Official Rules of the National Football League for a bunch of wealthy businessmen and millionaire coaches who drive fancy cars and have pretty girlfriends and you don’t care if a person losses a months worth of food stamps on a football game!!”
“It’s not that I don’t care, Mr. Scheck. It’s their choice isn’t it?” answered the witness, visibly shaken.
“Their choice,” responded Scheck in a quiet voice, moving his head slowly from side to side.
“Mr. Makearule, these people don’t really have a choice do they? They have to rely on a set of rules established by individuals who have a distinct economic advantage over them. The people who wager have no control over the rules does they?”
“No, Mr. Scheck. But they are the rules of the National Football League.
Everyone knows what the rules are. That’s what the rules are for. So the players, coaches and officials will know how to play the game. Isn’t that why we have rules Mr. Scheck?” asked the flustered witness.
“No Mr. Makearule. You don’t seem to understand. That’s why we have attorneys.”