Scouting, Volume 67, Number 5, October 1979 Page: 14
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BY BOB DEINDORFER
Money, Money, Money
When still another college all-America
football player signed his first profession-
al contract earlier this year for a total
package running well into seven—count
them, seven—figures, an old friend of
mine whose home furnishings include the
Heisman Trophy he won in 1943,
couldn't help but offer up a wistful com-
ment. "I was born maybe 35 years too
soon," he said, memories of his own
$8,500-a-year salary rising in his mind.
As discriminating readers who regular-
ly focus on the sports pages know only
too well, pro ball has become an instant
money machine for everyone involved
nowadays, especially all those par-
ticipants with thick legs and rather less
than the normal ration of teeth. Players,
owners, coaches, agents, scouts, even the
hot dog vendors who deal in a somewhat
different form of pigskin, have all
become blinking plutocrats.
Even in rare instances where the man-
agement end happens to lose money,
which isn't often, it doesn't matter that
much because most of them are men
with impressive Dun and Bradstreet
ratings to start with. A friend who
casually wondered whether Kansas
City Chief club owner Lamar Hunt's
father, the colorful multimillionaire
H. L. Hunt, realized the dimen-
sions of the sport, reportedly re-
minded the old bird that Lamar's
original team lost something like
$1 million in its first season.
"Well, at that rate the boy
only has 124 years to go," H. L.
Yet the money-spinning
years of bulging player sal-
aries, bulging crowds,
bulging television revenues
amount to a fairly recent de-
velopment. There was a time, a long time,
in fact, when pro ball was a lickpenny en-
terprise. Differences between now and
then are so glaring as to be positively ab-
For years, the men who owned profes-
sional teams were not wildly celebrated
for their generosity, for example, which is
to put it mildly. According to an old bull
tackle, one owner even went so far as to
order his team to run for extra points in-
stead of kicking what were then $12 foot-
That may be a mild exaggeration, of
course, tackles being tackles, but the un-
varnished truth isn't much different. As a
matter of record, one owner actually ra-
tioned the supply of protective adhesive
tape, another billed an end for shoulder-
pads ripped in line of duty during a
game, and still another trimmed his
squad well below the legal player limit
with several games left to go. One way or
another, many owners were noisy cheap-
jacks whose interest didn't extend far
beyond the gate receipts, which were
modest, if not downright stunted.
One young fan's first memory of
George Halas of the Chicago Bears shows
the two of them bolting up a hotel cor-
ridor and down the fire escape, the boy
carrying an official game ball, the mogul
so hotly pursuing him in an effort to
recapture the ball, momentarily function-
ing more in his role as club president than
as head coach, dual roles Halas filled for
economic as well as strategic purposes.
Whether Halas is and was essentially a
frugal man or a free-handed profligate,
which several who know him tend to
doubt, is something I cannot determine
for sure. But I know he had little choice
during those hard times. Back in the
1930's, pro ball was an infant sport, short
of money and wide acclaim, still trying to
catch the public fancy.
Poorboy economics of that era can be
seen in what size melon a team whacked
up for winning the championship. In
1933, each member of the winning Bears
received a total of $210.34 as his share of
the gate receipts for outmuscling the New
York Giants. Last year's Super Bowl
champs made out considerably better, as
any old Bear may sourly have observed,
almost $30,000 apiece for the Super Bowl
winners, plus endorsements, personal and
The dollar had a real kick to it in 1933
for anyone who could locate one, such as
my father, who had his problems, same as
everyone else, but a growth rate of 15,000
percent would appear to offset easily the
difference in the cost of living index, no
matter what the Committee for the Sane
Nickel may say to the contrary.
The differences between now and then
apply generally to all phases of the game,
such as a player's annual wages. In the
wild old days, an owner could sign on a
good tooth-rattling fullback for as little as
$2,000 a season. Any respectable
fullback who earns less than
$75,000 nowadays must have
flunked the basic math course
back at Sweetwater Teachers,
and the better young ones sign for
more than that.
Beyond a doubt, the cost of labor has
reached a point where even a hum-
drum college lineman can put the
arm on enough capital to buy his
own feed store after a season or so.
A scout for the Baltimore Colts
recently tracked down a fairly
obscure small college guard to
open the normal negotiations.
"How does $50,000 sound?"
the scout asked.
"Not bad as a bonus,"
the prospect (continued on page 60)
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Boy Scouts of America. Scouting, Volume 67, Number 5, October 1979, periodical, October 1979; New Brunswick, New Jersey. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth353681/m1/14/?rotate=270: accessed May 24, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Boy Scouts of America National Scouting Museum.