Kid: O great and learned Guru, please enlighten me as to what happened in sports in the '70s.
Guru: Piece of cake. You had your basic Big Five -- your Skirtorama, your Mondo Cash Flow, your Legalismo, your Fleeseamundo and your Statusitis. You with me so far?
Kid: O yes, Wise Man.
Guru: We'll take them one at a time, though they're all interrelated. Skirtorama came from the Women's Movement -- women demand equality across the board, sports included. They started watching sports, playing sports, even writing about sports. As a result the popularity of sports ballooned. Women interested in sports opened up a new market for the sharks -- Tension. Now get your ears on, kid.
Kid: I got it. CB talk. A little nostalgia, Guru.
Guru: Gary Davidson started in the late '60s with the ABA, but this full impact wasn't felt until the '70s when he had the ABA, the WHA, the WFL and World Team Tennis. He attempted to capitalize on the sports boom by selling franchises in these leagues, and the by-product was competitive bidding for pro athletes to stock the teams. Mondo Cash Flow. It had happened before, in the AFL, but not at these prices. Suddenly salaries were going out of sight; a first round ABA/NBA draft choice was getting $1 million over five years. Milwaukee Bucks? You bet. Even after the new leagues folded or merged the direction was set. You still there?
Kid: Riding shotgun in the pace car, Chief.
Guru: It's simple. Athletes started saying to owners, "How you gonna keep us down on the farm, now that we've seen Paree?" This is where Legalismo comes in. In the '70s, athletes demanded their freedom. Every day it seemed another one sued a league or an owner, and every other day, it seemed, an athlete won. The most important case was decided by an arbiter named Peter Seitz, and it led to free agency in baseball. With athletes freer than ever, contracts were being negotiated and renegotiated in record numbers. That led to Legalismo's by-product, which is Fleeseamundo. Either the athlete went to the agent, or the agent went to the athlete. No matter. They got together, and men like Jerry Kapstein, who represented almost all the top baseball players the first year of free agency, got very rich, very fast. By the late '70s a $2-million contract was no big deal if it was spread over five years -- not when Bill Walton signed one for $1 million per year.
Kid: What about Statusitis?
Guru: I was getting to that. That happened late. Sports got so big that it was no longer enough to watch it, you had to play it. A lot of people started playing tennis, but when the beer and pretzel crowd got into tennis, the Dannon and Perrier people had to get into something more chic, something more strenuous to help them fit into their designer jeans -- Sasson doesn't make a 38-stout, you know. So we get into the ultimate '70s sport of the Me Generation, jogging. That's all of it. Pass me that quiche, kid.
Kid: That's amazing. Where did you learn this?
Guru: TV. Where else?
Kid: TV? Is that important?
Guru: Do bats see in the dark? Let me tell you a secret, kid -- what sports in the '70s were really all about was TV. TV made it happen. Johnny Carson made tennis. ABC made gymnastics and running. NBC and CBS made football, and everyone's going to take a shot at making soccer. Look, hockey isn't on national TV. Name the top five goal scorers in hockey.
Kid: I can't.
Guru: Okay. Did you ever hear of Howard Cosell?
Kid: Sure.Who hasn't.
Guru: I rest my case. Kid, as long as you're up, get me a Chablis.