HOW many years ago was it -- 35, 40? Bob Elliott and Ray...

Salmagundi

November 10, 1993

HOW many years ago was it -- 35, 40? Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding, doing comedic business as Bob and Ray, did a routine on radio in which they imagined the U.S. post office advertising postage stamps. "They come in all denominations, sizes and colors," went the Bob and Ray commercial.

It seemed hilarious at the time. The post office -- this was long before it became the U.S. Postal Service -- was a secure monopoly and had no reason to advertise its wares. But a couple of generations later, profit-making competitors who can move the mail cheaper and faster are lapping at the post office foundations. And the post office is advertising. There it was the other night on TV, pushing postage stamps in all sizes and colors. Not so funny this time around.

Speaking of the post office, one of its commercials says its "Two-Day Priority Mail" service can deliver a two-pound package in two days for $2.90. But a congressional report discovered that 23 percent of the mail in the program took three days to deliver.

The post office's reply has been noted in the Quarterly Review of Doublespeak, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English that roots out Orwellian euphemism and obfuscation. Robert Marin of the postal service was quoted: "I would call Priority Mail a delivery commitment, but not a guarantee."

* * * FOR those anxious to see pro football at a new Schaefer Stadium at Camden Yards, take heart. There are numerous National Football League franchises already on shaky ground. All you have to do is read the box scores and search for the line the indicates attendance.

One Sunday last month, the Los Angeles Rams drew 43,000 to Anaheim and the Buccaneers drew 47,000 fans to Tampa. Two && Sundays ago, the L.A. Raiders drew 45,000 and the Phoenix Cardinals drew a whopping 36,000. Even the now-hated Colts of Indianapolis might be tempted to look favorably upon Baltimore: The Irsays put only 46,000 fans in the domed stadium's seats.

One of these teams could wind up in Baltimore.

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