Steve Brown is steamed. You don't know Steve Brown. He's the owner of the New Orleans Pride. You don't know the Pride, either. The Pride is a team in the Women's Professional Basketball League. You didn't know there was a women's pro league, did you? Well, there is, and Steve Brown is steamed at Ann Meyers for making the league look bad.
Ann Meyers, you've heard of. She is the chief comedian in the Indiana Pacers' publicity gag about her playing NBA basketball. Four times an All-American on the UCLA women's team, sister to NBA star Dave Meyers, Ann Meyers is 5-foot-9 and 135 pounds, several of which are misplaced if she expects to play basketball against Elvin Hayes.
I'm sorry, but this stuff is hard to type. I keep laughing every time I see Ann Meyers' name in the same sentence with NBA basketball. She probably is a wonderful person who has never kicked a cat in her life. But NBA basketball? Anyone who knows a basketball from a cantaloupe knows that Ann Meyers couldn't play first-string on a decent boys high school team.
And here the Pacers have given her a $50,000 contract that includes a chance to try out for the team. I am 5-foot-9 and weigh 175 pounds and haven't shaved my legs in 38 years. I have a better chance of dancing with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes than Ann Meyers has of playing basketball in the NBA. Well, in case Ann doesn't make it, the Pacers say she'll stay with the team "in some capacity," which could mean, I guess, she'll cook pregame meals for the real players.
Steve Brown is steamed, but not because Ann Meyers and the Pacers are getting all this publicity. Business is business, and you don't complain as long as they spell the name right. And if newspaper guys from all around the country are calling up Steve Brown, he is going to talk about Ann Meyers. He likes publicity, too.
That's one reason, to get some ink, that he sent a telegram to the Pacers challenging Ann Meyers to a one-on-one basketball duel with a Pride star. He proposed a $10,000 winner-take-all game in the New Orleans Superdome.
The main reason that Brown is steamed, though, is that he thinks Ann Meyers, the Pacers and the NBA are making a laughing stock of women's basketball by propagating the idea that Meyers is the best woman basketball player in the country.
Meyers couldn't carry Karen Logan's purse, Brown says.
"Ann Meyers would be an average player in our league," said the Pride's owner-general manager. "Maybe she'd start for some teams, maybe not. She didn't sign with our league last year because she wanted to play in the Pan American Games. She averaged about two points a game there. So when she realized she wasn't going to make the 1980 Olympics team, she and her agent or her brother or somebody cooked up this thing with the Pacers."
Karen Logan, a 5-9 forward, "is one of four or five of our girls who could beat Ann Meyers one on one," Brown said.
So the $10,000 winner-take-all challenge was made for the publicity of it, to begin with, and to give vent to what Brown says is "lots of bitterness over what Meyers and the NBA are doing. Someone had to say she's not that good."
I love a good joke. Muhammad Ali has been running loose, saying he might run for the U.S. Senate in 1980. That's my idea of a real knee-slapper. Too Tall Jones as a boxer? Bobby Knight as a diplomat? None of those laughers is even in the same league with Ann Meyers, who in the NBA would be a misshapen midget who can't run or jump and would set a pick only after notifying her next of kin.
With $50,000 of his boss' money invested in this farce, Lee Daniel, the Pacers' publicity man, is suitably enthusiastic over Meyers.
"She's a heckuva little player," he said. "It's just a shame she isn't five or six inches taller. Fundamentally, she makes the plays as well as a lot of players in this league."
Which tells you a lot about the NBA.
"In a scrimmage today, she had three hoops in about 15 minutes," the publicity man said. "She has done nothing at all to embarrass herself. The other nine guys have taken to her, too. They really respect her for getting in there."
The Pacer management respects Meyers too, but she failed to survive the club's first cut last night after three days of rookie camp.
I respect her, too, for making $50,000 out of nothing. I tell you. For $50,000, I would shave my legs and try out for the Rockettes. Even if it meant I couldn't play in the Olympics next year.