PHOENIX, DEC. 29 -- Joy is everywhere in the Indianapolis Colts' locker room, from running back Eric Dickerson, who played the lead role, to Ron Meyer, who is 12-6 in his 18 games as head coach. But perhaps the happiest Colt plays a supporting role, offensive tackle Chris Hinton.
In four college seasons at Northwestern and four pro seasons with the Colts, Hinton distinguished himself as an all-America and a Pro Bowl selection, but never played for a winning team. At Northwestern, Hinton's teams were 4-40, including the infamous 34-game losing streak that was an NCAA record until Columbia broke it recently.
Denver chose Hinton with the fourth pick of the 1983 draft, and he assumed his losing days were over. But Hinton was sent to Baltimore in the John Elway trade, and endured a 19-45 record with the Colts before this season's 9-6 mark and AFC East championship.
He has missed making only one Pro Bowl in his five seasons, and that happened when he broke his leg in 1984. Ironically, Hinton (6 feet 4, 285 pounds) made the Pro Bowl this year after allowing eight sacks and not being overly happy with his play.Non-Strikers in Pro Bowl
When prominent NFL union members began crossing picket lines in October during the 24-day players strike, several strikers suggested the union defectors would suffer in voting for Pro Bowl spots. That hardly happened.
Ten picket-line-crossing players were voted to the Pro Bowl, five as starters. The AFC defectors: Cleveland tackle Cody Risien, Raiders defensive end Howie Long, New England linebacker Andre Tippett, Seattle receiver Steve Largent and linebacker Fredd Young. Tippett, Largent and Young are starters.
The NFC defectors: St. Louis Cardinals return man Vai Sikahema, San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana and running back Roger Craig, Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor and Rams running back Charles White. Montana and White are starters . . .
The first hearing in the union's antitrust suit against the NFL is scheduled Wednesday before federal judge David Doty in Minneapolis. The union is seeking a summary judgement declaring illegal the league's compensation/right of first refusal system for free agents and the college draft since there is no collective bargaining agreement in effect.
The NFLPA also is seeking a number of injunctions, including one that would allow all players who become free agents Feb. 1 to shop their services without the old team having a right of first refusal or the new team having to pay compensation.
The NFL has filed a motion to dismiss the suit on grounds that the dispute concerns labor laws and should be settled through collective bargaining. If Doty follows the lead of a federal judge in Newark in a similar suit involving the National Basketball Association, he will deny both a summary judgement and a dismissal and it may be mid-1989 before the case goes to trial.Giants May Laugh Last
The Giants' 6-9 record following their Super Bowl championship marks only the fourth time in the Super Bowl era (since 1967) that a champion has finished under .500 the next season. That distinction does merit an asterisk, however, since the real Giants finished 6-6 if you discount the 0-3 record of the replacement team.
The only other Super Bowl champs to finish under .500 the next season were the 1968 Green Bay Packers (6-7-1), the 1981 Oakland Raiders (7-9) and the 1982 San Francisco 49ers (3-6 in another strike-marred season).
The Giants, however, may have smirks on their faces when thinking ahead to next year. With most of the club's key players still in their prime, the Giants get to play the enviable fifth-place schedule for finishing last, not to mention the improved draft position they've gotten. They'll pick 10th in the first round. . . .
Wade Wilson, who led the Minnesota Vikings in the season finale against the Redskins on Saturday, will be on the bench when the Vikings open the playoffs Sunday at New Orleans.
Coach Jerry Burns said today he will start Tommy Kramer after watching Kramer practice. Kramer had been bothered by a pinched nerve in his neck, but said he is feeling healthy and is ready to play Sunday.The Upset Pick
The Upset Pick blew it the final week of the regular season by losing three of four to go 6-15 for the regular season. But the playoffs are a new season. Seattle, favored by three points in the Astrodome, will lose to Houston by more than a field goal.