Tune in home team shopping network

JOHN EISENBERG

October 31, 1993|By JOHN EISENBERG

Suddenly, Sundays are shopping days in our bustling metropolis.

Suddenly, there is an antidote to the tedium of watching pro football.

Go ahead, make your day. Add a tingle or three to the experience of watching such thuds as today's festival of incompletions between the Bears and Packers.

Try on a team.

Yeah, that's the hot new ticket in town. Much as you give new clothes a look-see in the store mirror or take a car you covet for a test drive, try putting an NFL team on for size. Our size.

How about the Baltimore Rams? Can you see it? Does it fit? Or what about the Baltimore Buccaneers? Yes, you're right, it sounds like a marshmallow cereal. But would you complain?

The Baltimore Patriots? The Baltimore Raiders? Do they fit? Do ++ you want them? Go ahead, close your eyes and try to envision it. Ask yourself the essential questions. Would you build a stadium for Al Davis? Or, more to the point, would you build an outhouse for Al Davis?

There is much to contemplate while we wait again for the Royal Brotherhood of Tagliabue to clobber us on the cabeza with their expansion hammer.

Yes, we do still have a shot at that second team. A small but measurable shot. If those wacky, dueling millionaires in St. Louis loose the boys in legal on each other and their bid spontaneously combusts, the Brotherhood might just have to knight us. Much to their chagrin.

Meanwhile, there is no need to waste so much as a second wondering whether that might happen. If it does, great, but, considering the steep slope of the playing field, let's start trying on teams.

Of course, immediately you run into the conundrum underlying the concept of coveting thy neighbor's team: We turn to it out of frustration with the owners and their cruel ways, but, as Yogi Berra might say, the owners do own the teams.

In other words, you can't talk to a team without talking to the owner.

It's a problem.

That an owner is included, like batteries, means that trying to pry a team away will be, like expansion, something less than pleasant. Please understand the basic principle. Owners are never eager to move teams, but, like the rest of us, they are always eager for a little leverage.

In other words, you can be sure we would be used, strung up, made to show our hand so some owner we don't know can run home, extort the mayor and double profits. Only if there is no comparison, if we are far superior, would we win.

Such is Tampa Bay's unfortunate lot as a baseball town, Jacksonville's in football. No, we don't want that company, not unless we're really desperate to get on "60 Minutes." And yes, maybe it's less than 50-50 that you escape such an unseemly business with any of your dignity, much less a team.

But our expansion bid is so strong that several owners are sure to approach us. They already have, in fact. It's not too early to start asking questions.

Remember, these owners have the teams we want, but we have the stadium they want. So, what of it, people? Do we build it for just anyone? If not, what are the criteria for deciding?

Well, wherever the yay-nay line is, we can agree that Al Davis is below it, right? Much as it would be a kick to cheer for the Raiders, Davis is an inveterate deal-maker and that's being kind. hard enough to reconcile the use of so many millions on a stadium; to base such an outlay on Davis is not only unreasonable, but, simply, bad business.

What about the other owners? Do we build a stadium for Georgia Frontiere? Alex Spanos? It seems to make more sense, although we know these people about as well as we know the new prime minister of Canada. What, you thought this was actually going to make sense?

Obviously, the best, safest solution would be for Boogie Weinglass to buy a team and move it here. Then we get the owner we wanted all along, and we get the team, too. There's a problem with that, though. The league is not fond of teams being moved and sold at the same time. You'll notice that it hasn't happened in years.

Anyway, these are some things to consider while trying on teams today. The ethics issue is another, but that's not a biggie: If we get a team from L.A., they've still got one. They aren't left out.

One person integral to the Baltimore football bid said this week: "We will get a team one way or another." It's just big talk, but it sure beats thinking about expansion, and pitchers and catchers don't report for 3 1/2 months. So, go ahead and shop until you drop. And remember: Al Davis is watching you.

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