Live, from New York, it's The NFL Tonight, with host Howard Cosell. Yes, every Tuesday at 9:30 - just after the family hour - Howard will be injecting two NFL celebrities with a half-hour's worth of truth serum and asking their HONEST feelings about each other.
The first week will be George Allen vs. Edward Bennett Williams. And as the season moves along we'll have Carroll Rosenbloom vs. Don Shula, Al Davis vs. Pete Roselle, Billy Kilmer vs. Joe Theismann, Roger Staubach vs. Diron Talbert, Joe Thomas vs. Ted Marchibroda plus occasional wild-card bouts involving Ed Garvey.
You can see there'll be no problem finding a first-rate feud each week.And in the off season we'll offer Reggie Jackson vs. Billy Martin, Bowie Kuhn vs. Charles O. Finley, Elvin Hayes vs. George McGinnis, Dwight Stones vs. the entire U.S. Olympic Committee and . . ."
Think that wouldn't play in Peoria? Although it would violate a basic right - privacy - the NFL hardly could avoid its blessing, having already made free speech a sin.
Rozelie is allowed certain unusual powers as commissioner to assure the integrity of the NFL. But fining George Allen $3,000 for public remarks about his former Redskin boss, Edward Bennett Williams, and warning him about tampering with Billy Kilmer is the off-the-field equivalent of clipping and piling on.
Pete, your mind was offside on this one.
Only in the last few years has the NFL grown up enough to laugh at itself now and then. From assorted sermons by Roselle in its game programs, the NFL now sanction filmed "follies" that show the players as less than gladiators.
But management folly still gets censored. In the NFL, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is overridden by the Roselle Commadment: Thou shalt say nothing that makes anyone in the league look bad.
For months Allen and Williams have been going at one another. After Williams began deducting what will total more than $14,000 from the deffered payments to the coach he fired, Allen fired another verbal jab.
"Petty, mean and vindictive" is what Allen called Williams. Newspaper accounts suggest this was part of the package of adjective that will cost the coach $3,000. However, some of us believe Allen was right on two out of three. What constitutes tampering? The NFL is in sorry shape when a coach cannot attend his former quarter-back's wedding without charges of tampering filtering to the league office.
Kilmer is just the sort of quarter-Rams this season - and Allen was back who would be useful to the simply acknowledging that fact when he said he would like to have him. Also Kilmer helped Allen at least as much as any other Redskin in his seven years in Washington.
Can't a man show some loyalty?
Though no mental wizzard, Kilmer is bright enough to sense Allen's desires even if the coach had kept silent on the subject. Even some reporters can add two and two.
And who would be leaping to Allen's defense if his crime had taken place in the real world? Attorney Williams, championship of the underdog and free speech and sometime defender of slippery souls.
We need not establish a George Allen Defense Fund. The coach has been careful with his pennies and seems capable of scrapping up $3,000. Possibly, he would have been fined much less - or not at all - if he had not violated rules and been such a thorn to the NFL in other years.
If Allen were not responsible to a general manager, Don Klosterman, Kilmer might well be a Ram by now. Allen must win a Super Bowl in two years - and in that regard Kilmer might well be more valuable than, say, the gifted young thrower Vince Ferragamo.
Why else would the Rams fail to sign place kicker Tom Skladany when Allen needs special-teams help in the worst way? When was the last time Allen failed to land a player he needed while he was a general manager here?
Allen is well out of field goal range of being a saint. But if Rozelle continues to fine coaches and players for speaking their minds in public and warn them for obvious evaluations it might not be safe for a coach or player even to dream.
A scene comes clearly in mind. After 21 straight hours of practice, planning game strategy and watching out-of-focus men hop about a screen in his office, Jack Pardee falls asleep at his projector.
He dreams of a perfect world, of linemen in a wave of synchronized fury opening holes that swift and durable runners dash though to arrive in the end zone without soiling their jerseys. In his sleep, he cries: "Yary, Upshaw, O.J."
And a voice from somewhere in the room replies, in a somber tone: "That'll cost you $2,500."