Call me old-fashioned if you wish—and I wouldn’t blame you, I did receive a special waiver to fight in the great war after being labeled “no longer spry” by the state department—but I thought a “combine” was a horseless farming implement used for threshing grains (later to be made into various sour mashes) and not a dog and pony show for the National Foot-ball Leagues. Yet, this weekend-last one would swear they were at Pimlico and not Indianapolis after seeing foot-ball managers eagerly watching thoroughbreds (and a few mares) being paraded around the paddock. Deep pocketed team owners drooling at every millisecond ticking off their Henry Pitkins in “hopes” of securing the services of this season’s Lavern Dilweg was about enough to make me to lose my lunch (Sardolive sandwich—on rye, Cream of Celery with Toasties, Scotch).
What happened to our salad days when wooing foot-ball stars was a dignified affair? Sure you recall when “Touchdown” Tommy Mincus was the big man-upon-campus at powerhouse Cornell. Mincus once threw for 3 touchdowns in a single season, and that’s while also punting and serving as his own long-snapper! In one game against Carnegie Tech, Mincus put on such a punting display that it got a mention on Amos and Andy. Sure enough, the next evening the owners of the Muncie Flyers, Racine Legion, and both the Kenosha AND Toledo Maroons show up at his dormitory to secure his services for their squadrons. Muncie was prepared to offer him a year’s supply of chipped beef before Racine came in with an offer he couldn’t refuse—an autocoach AND a sponsorship deal with Shellenberger’s Menth-o-lic cough wafers. That was all it took for Mincus to join the Legion (he joined the Foreign Legion two years later, but that’s a story for another time). No agents, no “combines”, and no vertical leaping.
Why such pomp? Why this “draft”? Drafts are for ales and for cooling off your wool trousers in the fall. If teams want a player to play for their team they should do their diligence by catching a train to the Polo Grounds to watch them play and then at halftime slip them a sawbuck and promise them there’s to be more where that came from. Most schools don’t offer diplomas in more than agriculture and fence-mending anyhow...why not let these players become free of the bonds of schoolwork whenever a high roller with the Hammond Pros or Canton Bulldogs comes sniffing around? Why must they be poked and prodded and preen before the cameras? Paddy Driscoll broke a man’s spine in a game and the next day he had a contract. No one wanted to know his “40 time”...they just counted his teeth, gave him a ration of Mincus’s Menth-o-lic cough wafers and put him on a train to Hammond (by way of Indianapolis, by sheer coincidence).
This cloak-and-dagger nonsense is bad for the game! No one needs millions of dollars and multi-year deals—who are they, the Tsar? Let these boys earn their money in an honest and open fashion. Let these team owners engage in protracted bidding wars and/or fisticuffs for their services! If I had the money of Croesus, I’d look these fellows dead in the eye and ask but three questions: Can you push a plow? Are you willing to play up to five positions on our team? Are you of Dutch ancestry? Boom. The deed is done!
No more softening of our venerated, violent institutions! Draft schmaft, I say!