Washington sports fans believe the current owners of the area's professional sports franchises are more interested in providing good teams than in making money.
"If I were in it just for making money, I wouldn't be in it," said Abe Pollin, owner of the Bullets and Capitals, "Because in all the years I've had the Bullets they haven't made any."
Fans were asked to rate the owners from zero to 10, with zero indicating that an owner is interested only in making money and 10 showing an owner's desire to provide the best team, regardless of cost. Pollin ranked 1-2, Bullers first at 7.0 and then Capitals at 6.8 with Edward Bennett Williams of the Redskins third (6.8) and Steve Danzansky of the Dips fourth (6.3). All received more 10s than any other mark.
Calvin Griffith and Bob Short, who clubnapped two editions of baseball Senators to other locales, were also rated, with less enthusiasm. Griffith earned an undistinguished 4.7 and Short came up shortest of all, with a 2.7, and with almost half his ratings zero. Considering only fans who listed baseball as among their three favorite sports, Short received more zeroes than all other figures combined, and a 2.5 rating.
Asked how he would rate himself, Williams replied without hesitation, "Ten. That 6.8 doesn't sound good to me, considering that we aren't making any money and we're in the playoffs every year.
"I'm sure that reflected in that vote was the fact we have had to raise prices to stay afloat. That's always an irritant in the year that it's done. We need 65,000 seats to meke it. We don't have them and we have no prospect of getting them."
Pollin was inclined to rate himself about where the fans did.
"It's kind of hard to rate oneself," Pollin said, "because modesty intervenes. But I'd put myself somewhere between five and 10. Obviously, I don't want to lose money if I can help it."
"I thing the town is closet to taking the Caps to its heart and sellout situation is possible in a couple of years. And the Bullets are moving ahead."
The survey rating Pollin's Buller operation as No. 1 in the area was concluded just as the Bullets were ousted from the NBA playoffs.
It was made 17 years after Griffith departed for Minnesota and six years after Short opted for Texas, but obviously baseball fans limited to television and Baltimore are unforgiving.
"I know I'm going to be last," Short said before he was told the results. "And you know why? It's bcause I took the team out of there. Did you ever hear ofanyone taking candy from a baby? If there were a contest today between myself and Nixon would win.
"They hung me in effigy there. I'd have been killed if I'd been in the building that night (the last game at RFK)."
Short was the only person to receive a lower rating from fans particularly interested in an owner's sport. His low score was especially striking in that baseball fans, in response to another question in the survey, showed themselves to be more sympathetic to club owners than fans of other sports.
That question was one asking whether individuals generally sided with athletes or club owners in contract disputes.
The overall response showed 39 per cent favoring the athletes and 33 per cent the owners, with 17 per cent hedging that their preference depended on the circumstances of the dispute. Those who listed football as a favorite sport just about coincided, 41-35-16, but baseball fans were more conservative, split between athletes and owners 32-32-22 on the subject.
Many critics have suggested that huge salaries given athletes by such owners as George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees and F. Eugene Dixon of the Philadelphia 76ers have unbalanced pro sports to the point where only a philanthropist has any business being involved. Pollin doesn't agree.
"With all due respect to Mr. Steinbrenner and Mr. Dixon, who make it difficult for the rest of us, you don't buy championships," Pollin said. "They are created by good management, good trades and good drafting, without spending ridiculous sums of money."
The owners received more understanding in the squabbles over those "ridiculous sums" from males, whites, those with more schooling, those with higher incomes, persons over 25 and Republicans.
Blacks of all ages took the athletes' side, although the overwhelming numbers among the young moderated a bit past age 35.
More than half of Republicans were solidly in the owners' camp, with less than one-quarter backing the athletes. With Democrats, the figures were almost exactly the reverse.
By gender, there was another turnaround. Men favored the owners, 39 per cent to 36, while women backed the athletes, 43 per cent to 26.