Oilers' Pardee, Gilbride have developed life-and-death game plans in own lives

PRO FOOTBALL

December 19, 1993|By VITO STELLINO

Houston Oilers coach Jack Pardee and his offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride, know firsthand what it's like to deal with life-and-death issues.

Both have overcome battles with cancer.

Pardee was 27 and a player with the Los Angeles Rams when he discovered that a black mole on his back was malignant.

"At one time, I was told I might have two weeks to live. My first thought was, 'How am I going to live those two weeks?' All of us need to remember to treasure life because it's so fragile and none of us know how much we have left," he said.

Gilbride had surgery for kidney cancer last year.

"The cancer clarified feelings I've always had, but sometimes drifted away from -- that my family is No. 1 in my life," Gilbride said. "It's so easy in this business to get sidetracked, though. Every moment I can spend with them is precious."

Pardee and Gilbride found themselves dealing with life-and-death issues again last week when one of their players, Jeff Alm, committed suicide after his friend, Sean Lynch, was killed after Alm's car hit a guardrail.

Pardee and his staff had to get the Oilers ready for their biggest game of the year today in Pittsburgh despite the trauma of the situation. Even though football doesn't seem very important at a time like this, the team has won eight straight and could clinch a division title with a victory.

Pardee brought a preacher in to help the players cope.

Punter Greg Montgomery, who was Alm's closest friend on the team, said: "Somehow, we have to find a way to channel this sadness into a positive note. No one would be happier than Jeff to be able to look down and watch us kick Pittsburgh's butt."

Running back Spencer Tillman said: "I don't meant to sound callous or insensitive, but somehow we have to find a way to keep our focus. We can't let this overwhelm us."

Cornerback Darryl Lewis said: "It's so sad. It makes you realize this is real life, not just a game. Real life, real careers."

Linebacker Al Smith said: "You can't say we will make something positive out of this, because it's such a tragedy. I'm sick to my stomach right now. The nature of this business is to move on, but after something like this, it's hard to do."

Money talks

From the network of Edward R. Murrow to the network of Bart Simpson.

That's the road the NFL took Friday when CBS decided it was tired of losing money on the NFL and decided not to match the bid made by the Fox Network for the NFC package.

CBS then bid for the AFC package, held by NBC, but if NBC matches the bid tomorrow to keep it, the CBS-NFL association will end.

That would mean that unless Fox can sign him, John Madden won't be passing out turkey legs on Thanksgiving next year.

By taking the Fox bid, the NFL also was willing to accept lower ratings to get the money because most Fox stations are on UHF channels.

Fox, run by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, is willing to lose the money to promote the network. CBS decided it wasn't worth losing millions to keep the NFC package.

It also signals a change in strategy for the NFL, which resulted in Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell getting booted off the TV committee.

Modell and former commissioner Pete Rozelle believed the NFL should be partners with the networks and that both sides should make money.

That's why when the networks started losing money on the current contract, Modell and commissioner Paul Tagliabue negotiated a rebate for the networks last year.

Each team was going to accept a reduction from $40 million to $32 million this year in exchange for a two-year extension at $32 million a year per team.

Tagliabue, though, doesn't have the clout that Rozelle did. He couldn't persuade 21 owners to go for the idea. The result was that Tagliabue dumped Modell and put Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen on the TV committee.

They were determined to keep the money at the 1993 figure of $40 million per team, although the old package averaged $32 million per team. The Fox bid enabled them to stay at $40 million.

The CBS-NFL connection goes back a long way. The league's first single network agreement to televise all games was with CBS in 1962 for a total of $4.65 million a year.

Two years later, CBS bid $14.1 million a year -- $1 million per team.

When the NFL merged with the AFL in 1970, CBS got the more lucrative NFC package with the bigger markets.

The rights fees eventually became so high that Laurence Tisch, the head of CBS, decided it wasn't worth the prestige of televising the NFL to lose money, even though his brother, Robert, is the co-owner of the New York Giants.

Now it's up to NBC to decide whether it's worth losing money to keep the AFC package. The strange thing is that NBC has complained the most about losing money on the NFL. But it may now decide it's worth it to knock CBS out of the NFL.

Fox runs up salary cap, too

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