They met last weekend, the franchise owners, for the league's annual draft. Traditionally, it's held on the last weekend before the regular season, after the exhibition games, when everyone's had a chance to see what's what and who's who, and to bring judgment to bear on the matter.
Not that judgment is any guarantee: Last year one owner drafted a player who'd just broken his leg -- he was the only one at the table who didn't know that. Nobody told him, of course, until he'd committed himself and used up his turn in that round. It's a tough game.
Despite what you may have read in the papers, the annual draft is not held in New York City in June; it was held a week ago in a modest roadhouse not too far outside the Beltway, a place tht some little children used to cross the street to avoid back when what's now suburbia was country, a place where Little League coaches now bring their teams after a win. The restaurant can't be named: These are Washington people, people who prize and protect their privacy. The names have been eliminated because nobody would give one.
The idea of the league was classically simple; its execution, once someone has blazed the trail, isn't really hard -- elaborate, but not that hard. But the working out of it -- that was a job for a mathematician, an analyst, a -- all right why not say it? -- a strategist:
Take a bunch of pro-football nuts. Select eight, or let them select themselves. Each one pays $60 at the beginning of the season to buy a franchise in the league. Each one has probably spent at least that much in the off-season on fanzines, out-of-town newspapers and whatnot to keep up on which players are comers and which are goers, and the like.
Set up some rules.
Then let the nuts pick their players, broken legs and all, and make up their teams -- irrespective of actual pro rosters -- and follow them through the season, with weekly prizes and, especially, end-of-season awards.
For example: You've chosen as one of your two quarterbacks, one of the Vikings' quarterbacks; and the Pacers are one of your two defensive teams. This weekend, as the two temas meet in one of their periodic Midwestern blood-lettings, your Vike throws a 47-yard touchdown pass. In the same game, your Packer defense recovers a funble on the Vikes' 35 and takes the ball to the end zone. So they cancel each other out, right?
Wrong: In this league, they add to each other, and you wind up with 25 points. Twenty-five points? Sure: 10 for the touchdown pass -- if the play had gone less than 40 yards it would have been worth only 5 points -- and 15 for the recovery/touchdown; under 40 yards that would have earned you 10 points.
It's really no more complex a way to follow pro football than any other, just different: Except for defense, you watch individual players, not teams, and you couldn't care less about NFL standings. When someone asks you, as someone's bound to between now and Christmas, "How 'bout those Skins?" you may or may not know what he's talking about -- unless, of course, it's the dee fense. Otherwise you just follow your tigers, no matter what teams they think they play for.
One more wrinkle: Same Vikings-Packers weekend, but you're playing your other quarterback, Steve Grogan of the Patriots. So when your Vike tosses his bomb, it doesn't do a thing for you. Same if you're playing your other defensive team: The recovery/touchdown is nothing but a might-have-been to you.
Now, in addition to the who-got-the-most-points-this-weekend derby, in which $5 is given out each week, this is a league, so your team meets every other owner's team at least twice by the end of the season, in a carefully choreographed sequence. Suppose that in a given week it's Team One vs. Team Eight, Two vs. Seven, Three vs. Six and Four vs. Five.
One beats Eight, 59 to 15; Two downs Seven, 40-26; Three bows to Six, 52-17; and Four loses to Five, 35-25. So One, Two, Five and Six rack up ictories and Three, Four, Seven and Eight post losses. At the end of the season, final standings bring their own reward: First place wins $200, second place $100, third place $60 and fourth place $20. There's also a special $20 award for the most points scored in a single game.
All the mechanics of this intricate set of transactions were worked out last weekend, about 20 miles from the Washington Monument, in a room festooned with beer signs and political posters, where a chili dog runs 65 cents and a bottle of beer is a buck five. A crowd playing bar games calls the barmaid "nurse," and the TV competes with the shuffleboard, and the evening ends when Mike plays the national anthem on the jukebox.
But though they met without you, you don't have to be shut out: Find seven pals with $60 each who are as nutty about pro football as you are, and start your own league. Or, in this era of double-digitry, find three $60 friends and make up two teams each -- or one friend and grb off four teams each. You can even do it on the cheap, with $6 per franchise and scaled-down prizes -- after all, it's your league and you can make the rules.
Or, if you're really schizo, be a league of your own, make up all eight teams follow each fiercely and religiously and at the end of the season, as a Christmas present, take yourself out to dinner -- seven times, once on each of the losers.
The official rules follow. If you're a griper, watch out: Grievances and disputes are settles by a committee of the whole, made up of all your opponents. Teams may abstain, but majority shall rule.
If you're playing the solo game, you could really be in trouble. RULES OF THE LEAGUE STRUCTURE The league shall consist of eight teams. Each team shall constitute a franchise. Each franchise shall be purchased for $50. Team standings shall be determined by won-lost records in intra-league competition (ties equal 1/2 win, 1/2 loss). Officials: 1: LEAGUE COMMISSIONER with duties as follows: preside at all meetings; handle all grievances, arbitrations and disputes; settle ties in dispute voting. 2. LEAGUE SECRETARY with duties as follows: provide weekly selection sheets for all teams; record up-to-date weekly totals and standings; keep weekly selections on file for examination; maintain league records. 3. LEAGUE COMMITTEE comprised of voting owners with duties as follows: settle dispute brought to the commissiners; teams may abstain; majority shall rule; elect commissioner and secretary. AWARDS WEEKLY: The team scoring the most points each week shall be awarded $5. SEASON: Final standing as follows: 1st place -- $200 2nd place -- $100 3rd place -- $60 4th place -- $20 Most points in a single game -- $20 (In case of ties, money shall divided equally) POINTS Points shall be scored during team competition as follows: Player runs for TD 0-40 yards 5; more than 40 yards 10 Player passes for TD 0-40 yards 5; more than 40 yards 10 Player catches pass for TD 0-40 yards 5; more than 40 yards 10 Player scores extra point 1 Player scores field goal 0-40 yards 3; more than 40 yards 6 Player scores filed goal more than 40 yards 6 Team scores safety 5 Team returns punt, kickoff, interception, blocked kick or fumble for TD 0-40 yards 10; more than 40 yards 15 Points will be awarded for any score achieved as a direct result of the participation of any player or team you have chosen to play in that particular week. In other words, players are drafted by position but are scored on the basis of their participation in the scoring effort.
Any grievances shall be voted upon by the league committee. TEAM STRUCTURE 2 Quarterbacks; 1 plays each week 4 Running Backs; 2 play each week 2 Tight Ends; 1 plays each week 4 Wide Recievers; 2 play each week 2 Kickers; 1 plays each week 2 Defensive Teams; 1 plays each week
In addtion to the above, each team will be allowed one wildcard draft; this selection may be used to expand any of the six positions, but must be used in that position, if played. The wild-card player may be interchanged with any player in his position either to play in a given week or prior to buying a new player. INITIAL DRAFT
At least one week prior to the draft, the eight owners representing the league will participate in a random drawing to determine their team number. This number will determine their order in the draft.
Each team shall provide the commissioner with $60 at the beginning of the draft. Failure to do so shall result in the delinquent teams' drafting last in each round. The order of the delinquent teams shall be by descending team number.
A player must be drafted in the position for which he is registered in the 1981 Street & Smith's Official Yearbook, Pro Football . INTERIM DRAFT -- An interim draft shall be held between the fourth and fifth week of the season. The draft shall be based on the team standings at that time; i.e., the last-place team shall draft first and the first-place team shall draft lst in each round. In case of ties in the standings, the team with the least points shall draft first. To draft a player, the drafing team may relinquish rights to a player in the same position as the drafted player; the released player may then be drafted by other teams. The draft shall continue until no team wishes to release any more players. Refusals to draft are allowed by any team in any round. Eligibility of drafted players shall be the same as in the initial draft. A TYPICAL DRAFT In each case, the players or teams marked with a star are the first choices; those marked with a diamond are the second. QUARTERBACKS star Terry Bradshaw (Pittsburgh), with some concern as to whether he can come back from his acting career; diamond Steve Grogan (New England) RUNNING BACKS star Earl Campbell (Houston) and star Wilbert Montgomery (Philadelphia); diamond John Riggins (Washington) and diamond Wendell Tyler (Los Angeles) TIGHT ENDS star Junior Miller (Atlanta); diamond Joe Senser (Minnesota) WIDE RECEIVERS star John Jefferson (San Diego) and star Harold Jackson (New England); diamond James Lofton (Green Bay) and diamond Tony Hill (Dallas) KICKERS star Tony Franklin (Philadelphia); diamond Ray Wersching (San Francisco) DEFENSIVE TEAMS star Los Angeles; diamond Tampa Bay REPLACING PLAYERS *During the first four weeks of the season, no replacement of players will be allowed. *After the interim draft, a team may replace any player by submitting a written request to the commissioner with $7. The team must relinquish rights to the replaced player, and the replacement must be eligible as defined by the initial draft. The $7 will be held by the league and distributed $1 each to the other seven teams at the end of the season. Selections each week must be turned in to the secretary, in person, by mail or by phone. All selections must be turned in before 11 p.m. the day before the first game scheduled for that weekend. Selections sent by mail must bear the postmark of the previous day. In the case of late selections, your team picks from the previous week will automatically be considered your selections for that week. NO EXCEPTIONS!!!!