"We bought (the Washington Diplomats in October) as an investment, not to leave town. We did not come in as carpetbaggers."
-Sonny Werblin, January
"If there is no growth by the end of two seasons for us with the club, then we'd have to sit down and seriously think about moving."
-Sonny Werblin, June
During the latest intervier, on Sunday, Werblin added: "I don't want to sound like Bob Short." Of course, he knew he was sounding exactly like the rascal who a decade ago demanded a loyalty oath from Washington baseball fans - and then moved the Senators to Texas.
Werblin's tough talk about the Diplomats, about how the town had better get cracking by the end of next season - or else - makes the wisdom of John McKay relevant once again.
When he still was a genius, at Southern California, McKay considered the loud public grief over the financially troubled University of Vermont being forced to drop football and said: "Nobody realized that school even played football - until they gave it up."
so as a service to the great majority of Washingtonians, let it be known that the Diplomats are the pro soccer players you have managed to exist without for years. But just when they were about to tug a bit at our hearts a plucky bunch with as fine a coach as any in the sport. Werblin threatened to move them. Or sell them.
Why wait? Unless Werblin shows some of the flair that made him arguably the primary force in big-bucks sports in the last decade, the Dips are doomed here. He will have alienated the knot of devoted fans, and caused an even larger yawn among the already apathetic.
The blame will be Werblin's.
For the first time in a remarkable career, Werblin has complained about lack of support instead of offering compelling reasons for fans to cherish his teams.
This is the man who bought Joe Namath for the dreadful New York Jets, the man who brought much of athletiic New York City to its knees by developing the Meadowlands out of Jersey swamps, the man who gave the staggering Rangers Fred Shero and slickered the Boston Celtics in the Bob McAdoo trade.
If Werblin did not invent the star system, he made it works as well as anyone. When he resigned as president of Music Corporation of America, Variety said:
"If he was not braodcasting's greatest showman, he certainly qualified as its greatest promoter and salesman. No one had better contacts, knew more secrets, swapped more information, flew more airlines, ate more at 21, more deals or sold so many hundreds of millions of dollars worth of programming."
shortly after signing Namath - and giving the American Football League the credibility it needed during the war with the National league - Werblin said: "I know the value of names . . . I negotiated Ed Sullivan's long-term TV contract. I put together jackie Gleason's package show . . . Why? Because we gave our clients service."
As the man who controls Gulf and Western's sports dollars, Werblin has given Washington nothing beyond a few imaginative promotions. With money available and the inclination to spend it, Werblin's Dips could have given the Cosmos a fierce battle.
The Dip's Namath could have been Johan Cruyff, the Dutch World Cup star.
"Frankly," Werblin said, "at the time when Cruyff was available we hadn't seen any indication that Washington was accepting the Diplomats or that it is doing so now."
That jolts the mind. Werblin is the fellow who always took the gambles, who signed the Namaths and developed the teams and stadiums that gave fans good reason to spend their money.
In fact, Washington fans havebeen spending more on the Dips than ever, double and triple in some instances. But Werblin, in less than a year in control of the team, is impatient.
His instincts may be correct. Washington may well be able to successfully resist soccer's pitch for its pocketbook. In 12 years with assorted teams, support has increased steadily but hardly spectacularly.
And the pro teams often have tried to force themselves into the area in too grand a manner. When they were beginning to fill high-school stadiums, the Dips suddenly moved to RFK Stadium.
Werblin's Sunday threat leads one to wonder whether Gulf and Western ever was serious about giving soccer a serious go or simply anxious to catch what seemed a rising soccer wave and jump off at the first sign of danger.
Or whether he had a move from Washington in the back of that once-daring mind all along. He may have been plotting all along to fight the Cosmos on their home turf, New York.
That would be consistent with his sporting history. Having whipped the Giants, he eventually lured them to the stadium he developed.
Werblin clearly enjoys a sporting scrap. In Washington, though, he is backing away without offering even one solid jab.