Them that has, gets (it's the same idea as the bank lending you money if you first prove you don't need it). Michigan, Chicago and Philadelphia have spent the most money in the United States Football League--and they are the best teams. If money can't buy a championship (as dreamy romantics insist), it sure makes a nice down payment.
The windows of Berl Bernhard's office above 16th and L streets NW are in one piece. This means the Federals' owner, though provoked by fate and his team's 2-14 record, has not thrown anything through those windows, in particular himself. Instead, Bernhard feels the Federals have improved and will improve next season because he has decided to make a down payment on success.
"Shockingly, I am upbeat," Bernhard said to a visitor dropping by to take his temperature before Sunday's game against Los Angeles at RFK. He likes it that his Federals haven't quit. When the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a train, running hard, the Federals climbed out from under the wheels and dared another train to run them over. Three or four did.
"Call us the Rocky Federals," running back Craig James says on a radio commercial this week. They keep getting off the canvas. At 1-10, 1-11 and other ghastly stations, many teams begin to lose 38-0, 42-3. The Federals lose, 27-25, on the last play.
"These guys have had every chance to roll over and quit, but they haven't," Bernhard said. "The defense has come together, the offensive line finally is opening holes, our running backs and wide receivers are very good--not a championship team or even a winning team yet, but we're going to get there."
The boss is tired of losing.
Bernhard is tired of 10,000 no-shows at RFK.
He is tired, mostly, of USFL teams spending big while he sticks to the modest budget prescribed by the league to prevent high-dollar bidding wars.
So the Federals are junking a four-year budget to get into the big-bucks free agent market, as well as spending big for college talent.
"We're going to compete," he said. "One of my points of naivete (as an innocent among cutthroats) was that we were going to win with young, spirited players . . . I was disheartened by teams putting out all that money, but I became upbeat once I got over the shock. Eventually, this league will be judged by the quality of play.
"Alfred Taubman (the Michigan owner) is picking off the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line. John Bassett (of Tampa) signed Fred Dean, Dan Ross and Cris Collinsworth.
"We've got to upgrade, too. We need more available funds to put talent on the field . . . We have reduced the size of our front office and shifted dollars from there to talent. We don't need many players, just a few top hands.
"I budgeted at four years. What really hit me is this: we can do that for four years, but is it better to use the funds in three years? Then we can go big time instead of treading water at less than a championship level.
"Either we go for the kill or we should get out of it. We might as well use the money up in three years because if we want the fans to respond, we better win. Go for broke."
Hearing that last word, Bernhard smiled. "I hope I don't mean that literally."
With money coming to each existing franchise from expansion fees, the Federals' bank account soon will grow. Bernhard also hopes to persuade a minority partner, Gordon Davenport, a Memphis businessman, to invest more heavily in the team.
Bernhard says he expects to name a player personnel director next week. That man's job will be to find talent that Ray Jauch, the coach, can turn into a winning team (Bernhard, incidentally, isn't ready to say Jauch's job is safe, but he implied as much: "Ray is taking charge. The last month he's been a different Ray Jauch from what I've seen. With the right kind of personnel guy, Ray can really do the job.")
Kim McQuilken, the Federals' starting quarterback in the absence of injured Mike Hohensee, believes the last two games "can affect what happens here next year. Being a realist, when you're 2-14, nobody's job is secure. These last two games are a chance to show the coaching staff there is a nucleus here."
It has been suggested that the Federals most need a quarterback.
Someone such as Doug Williams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers star now a free agent, could make the Federals' offense very good.
"If that's something they need to do, they need to do it," McQuilken said. "I didn't get scared off at Atlanta when the Falcons had the No. 1 draft pick, Steve Bartkowski. With the Redskins, Joe Theismann didn't scare me--and I think he's the best in the NFL. I don't know who the Feds could get who would intimidate me."
Other NFL quarterbacks now free agents: Dan Fouts, Don Strock, Ken Stabler, Dan Pastorini.
"Fred Dean (the former Redskins' guard) came to us," Bernhard said. "Two months before, I would have said, 'Good name, good player, get him.' But now I'm more sophisticated. Dean plays one of the positions we're not worried about. It's not one of the building blocks we need for a championship team, and that's what we're after here."