The Twinbrook Tap Room won the championship of the Rockville Over-35 Sunday Night Slowpitch Softball League about two hours before the I-95 Stars defended their U.S. Football League title. Since each of us got the same phone response from the mayors of our respective cities, and as lavish a victory parade from our fans, the over-35 league decided to see if the rest of America was as excited about our future as it appears to be for the USFL's.
The very questions the USFL used in its poll seemed good enough for us. Only the names have been changed. So . . .
The Rockville Over-35 Sunday Night Slowpitch Softball League is a new league. Should a new league be encouraged or discouraged from growing and attracting fans?
That's a question on the order of: should families be encouraged or discouraged from kicking their puppies? Remarkably, or perhaps not, 70 percent of the public thought the USFL should be encouraged. Betcha there would be similar good wishes for our league.
Moving right along: do you think that the NFL is encouraging the Rockville Over-35 Sunday Night Slowpitch Softball League to grow or discouraging it?
Well, I haven't seen Pete Rozelle at any of the Tap Room games, either, and our record is superior to the Stars. There are only a limited number of NFL players our league could sign, of course, even though the Tap Room has considered checking the birth certificates of some sluggers who have beaten the ball past the 91-year-old left side of its infield.
In the USFL survey, just 11 percent of the public thought the NFL was encouraging the new league on the block. Sixty-nine percent said the NFL was discouraging the USFL. Such treatment borders on the criminal. Imagine an established business losing much of its brightest young talent to a rival and then not sending flowers and candy each week.
One last question: The Rockville Over-35 Sunday Night Slowpitch Softball League should have a chance to have its games televised on network TV the way the NFL does. Agree or disagree?
Trust me, we're entertaining. It takes only four singles for the Tap Room to score a run, though the play at the plate admittedly is close. Also, we kick the ball at least as often as they do in the NFL.
A whopping 87 percent of those interviewed said USFL games should be on network TV. As opposed to what? The action among the McLaughlin Group often is more lively.
I think of the USFL as I do about liver: not often and not much. As the gang at Coke discovered, the most sophisticated surveys don't always produce the real thing. Besides, with the proper questions, you can determine the outcome of a poll before the interviews even begin.
Another question in the USFL poll was one of those agree/disagree statements: If the USFL is successful, it would be good for professional football. Seventy-four percent of the general public, and 78 percent of football fans, agreed.
It's like the midterm essay worded in such a way that you know exactly the response the teacher wants. The surprise in the USFL poll was that a significant number of people either didn't know the answer that the question all but demanded, or chose to be difficult.
I liked the idea of the USFL as a spring venture, as a fresh alternative that knew its place was a notch or so below the NFL and was satisfied; I liked the notion that the USFL would be a trend setter in areas such as two-point conversions and officials using instant-replay machines to check their calls; I liked the USFL as a way to keep the NFL from getting stagnant.
As fall ball, I hate the USFL.
What's the charm?
Why's it distinctive?
There probably are three or four USFL teams that could grow up and eventually be quite competitive in the NFL. The Stars and Oakland Invaders might be as good right now as several teams in the older league -- and in wonderful locations, should that court fight slated to begin in February dissolve into some form of merger.
With the Stars as a centerpiece and a dozen or so compelling stars, the league itself very likely will be seen as inferior to, say, the Big Eight in the fall. Only its salary scale will be higher, though perhaps not by much. If you were a network, would you really want to bankroll what amounted to nonstop football?
Honest, it was not Tex Schramm or Al Davis tapping me on the shoulder and ordering the dial switched away from Keith and Lynn. It was the USFL diluting its product with expansion, then going about tearing down what had made it distinctive.
Unless the USFL shrinks by a few teams, then gets serious about competing with the NFL by signing a half-dozen quarterbacks in their prime, it seems doomed not even to start up again in the fall of '86. That's one of the reasons the Tap Room champs bothered joining the USFL title game in progress.
We wanted to imagine Kelvin Bryant in a Redskins uniform.