Now comes the shocking news that Brett Favre used a phone the Green Bay Packers might have given him, to call another team for a job. I want you to raise your hand if you've never sent your resume to a prospective employer on company time. That's what I thought. Anyway, the battle between Favre and the Packers is just the latest in a long line of player-team disputes, going all the way back to the beginning of organized sports. For your edification, I will recap some of the previous conflicts that you may or may not have heard about:
George Halas versus George Halas
The year was 1928, and 33-year-old George Halas, one of the founding fathers of the National Football League, was at war with himself. As player-coach-owner of the Decatur Staleys/Chicago Bears, he had done about as much as anyone to get the young league off the ground. By 1928, however, Halas the player was slowing down. His days as a starter had come to a finish the year before, and herein dwelt his torment. Halas the head coach, no longer wanted Halas the player, while Halas the player wanted to keep his on-field career going. Meanwhile, Halas the owner liked the idea of saving a player's salary by using himself off the bench. "He was a mess," recalled Bears guard Bill Fleckenstein many years later. "He would pace the sidelines arguing with himself. A couple times, he tore his jersey off and threw it on the ground. Then, he'd suddenly change character and point at the shirt and start laughing. It was a distraction." Indeed it was. The Bears had boasted a combined record of 21-4-5 the previous two seasons. In 1928, with Halas constantly berating himself, they fell to 7-5-1.
Jinx Doter versus the Brooklyn Gladiators
The lot of the 19th-century ballplayer was a far cry from today's millionaire athlete. Take the case of Jinx Doter and his grievance against the Brooklyn club of the American Association in 1890. Doter considered himself one of the team's stars, as did the fans of the team, who would often mail him pennies in gratitude for his diamond services. What was Doter's complaint with his club? He detailed his displeasure in a letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, dated June 5, 1890: " As a superlative player, I am wont to have mine own wash bowl whilst on the travel with the ball club. I mind not sharing bed with teammate -- provided it is of sufficient width -- but I must insist on separate bowls for I am weary of finding their shaved hairs on mine own razor. If this situation is not rectified by the date of our next excursion, I will resign myself from the ball club and return to the pulpit of the Ezekiel Doomsday Church of Oblivion from which I was called to take up our nation's past time." Doter did, in fact, abandon the club on a swing east, never to return. He was true to his word and returned to preaching his church's doctrine, which mainly foretold the end of the world at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, 1899. That we remain extant over 100 years later, suggests that Doter might have misstep.
Johnny Druvic versus the NPBL
Bowling was much more popular in the 1950s than it is now, so much so that there was, very briefly, a professional league apart from the PBA tournament circuit. With teams on the Eastern seaboard and in the Midwest, the National Professional Bowling League debuted in 1951 and was telecast on the Dumont Television Network. Its best player was Johnny Druvic of the St. Louis Rollers, a former teamster who insisted on bowling without a shirt. Therein lay the conflict. Druvic was a large man, taken to consuming cheeseburgers and pizza slices between frames. He was not telegenic in the least bit. In fact, his huge, pale mass could and would white out the unsophisticated television pictures of the day. The league begged Druvic to put on a shirt for a big televised match against the Chicago X-Frames, but he refused and they claimed they had no choice but to suspend him. With the fledgling league's best player sidelined, hardly anyone watched. Druvic did not return and the NPBL struggled on for another year before folding. Who is to say what might have been had Druvic only chosen to wear a shirt?
Samuel "Screechy" Roundtree versus the Harlem Globetrotters
He couldn't dribble very well and he was certainly not a great shooter, but Screechy Roundtree did have one skill that none of the other Globetrotters possessed: He could let out a high-pitched shriek that could, in the words of teammate Goose Tatum, "peel paint at 50 paces." Screechy would be brought into the game when opponents were taking free throws and let out his patented screech just as they were releasing the ball. They would inevitably miss. Sometimes he wouldn't screech, but the anticipation of him doing so would make them miss anyway. By 1951, Screechy felt he should be starting for the team, while team owner Abe Saperstein and the players thought he was a one-trick pony whose novelty was wearing out. In a snit, he asked to be let out of his contract, which Saperstein was only too happy to do. He then formed his own team, the Homestead Screechers, and made his screeching routine the centerpiece of their show. You can probably imagine how well that went over. The team disbanded immediately after their third game, a loss to the faculty of a middle school. Screechy soon drifted into the obscurity of the donkey basketball circuit.
Jay-Bob Scropes versus NASCAR
Jay-Bob Scropes had come to NASCAR the way a number of others had -- through his years running illegal whiskey. However, Scropes had come out of the experience with one strong conviction his competitors did not: "I believe I drive better drunk," he would often say. NASCAR did not see things his way and subjected him to any number of sobriety tests -- all of which he failed. "They're against me," he told anyone who would listen. "They won't let me race my way because they're afraid I'll beat 'em all!" In 1957, Scropes finally passed a sobriety test for a race in NASCAR's long-since discontinued Convertible Division and got off to a slow start. He then, very visibly, began drinking from a fifth of Wild Turkey behind the wheel. Sure enough, he soon caught up to the leaders. Driver Bob Welborn remembered what happened next this way: "Jay-Bob pulled ahead of me on a straightaway and he's tilting his bottle up and looking into it to make sure it was empty. He takes his harness off and leans over the seat into the back and pulls up another bottle. We come to the turn and he didn't get back around in time and hits the wall." With no roof to stop him, Scropes went flying. The actual distance has been given over to legend, but he did come down well clear of the track. Legend also says that he was seen taking a last drink as he sailed clear of his car. He was buried with the steering wheel of his Oldsmobile.
Jim Baker is a regular contributor to Page 2.