NFL is lost without realignment map

December 09, 1993|By Phil Jackman

Problems, problems, problems, is there no surcease?

No sooner are the vagaries of the college bowl situation addressed and dispatched when up pops the realignment dilemma of the NFL to take its place.

After months of intensive study, a blue ribbon committee, in consultation with the best minds at Cal Poly, came to the conclusion that with 30 teams now the NFL can have six divisions of five teams apiece simply by placing the expansion teams, Jacksonville, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., in the divisions currently comprised of just four members.

OK, put Jacksonville in the NFC West with the 49ers, Rams, Saints and Falcons and listen to the West Coast clubs squeal about the expense of having to fly East three times for division games.

Incidentally, why aren't the teams in the East ever heard to complain a fraction as often as their western counterparts? Anyone with any travel experience will tell you it's much tougher to make the trip West and recover than the reverse.

Next, Charlotte goes into the AFC Central and the problem is solved. Pig's eye.

See, sooner or later, the scandalously pampered and spoiled NFL owners are going to have to put aside their self-interest for a while and seriously consider doing something that makes sense with regard to realignment.

Everyone, including shepherds tending their llamas up in the Andes, knows the way to go is geographical, not alphabetical, according to annual rainfall, crime statistics or property tax rate. Not only are rivalries heightened by similarity and familiarity but, most important, expenses are less.

Look at the current configurations of the divisions:

Tampa Bay is in the center of the country, according to the NFC Central, and Atlanta is in the West, as in NFC West. A person really horrible in geography might be able to go along with it if Tampa Bay was at least in the NFC West since it is on the west coast of Florida.

How about Phoenix being in the NFC East? Wait, they argue, that goes back to the days when the team was in St. Louis and, before that, Chicago. Yeah, like St. Louis and Chicago are Eastern cities.

Then there's Indianapolis in the East, and Dallas in the East, too. Yeah, east Texas. Anyway, you get the idea.

Actually, for its answer, the NFL needs only check out the divisions and conferences of the NBA for an answer. East is East and West is West with the hoopsters and never the twain shall meet. Not one of the 27 teams is more than a state removed from its division or conference save for Charlotte, which had to be "moved" a couple of hundred miles west to fill out the Central Division.

But, as we all know, the NFL certainly isn't going to look to those upstart, Johnny-come-lately basketball people for help. That league's too well-run.

When they get around to talking about realignment, which won't be until after the Super Bowl sometime around Groundhog's Day, the air will be filled with owners screaming they don't want to give up this rival or that, don't want to mess with the continuity or chemistry, or (under their breaths) don't want to give up a couple of easy wins.

It could go on for days, months, even years, these men (and Georgia Frontiere) dragging out excuses for maintaining the status quo with one exception: No team would have to be bribed to take the Cowboys into their divisional lodge.

What a joy it would be being designated as the binding arbiter in this assured dispute. You want rivalries, fine, the Lions and Browns, Colts and Giants and the Rams would work fine, they dominated the 1950s.

The Old Guard Division, the teams that ruled in the '40s, would include the Redskins, Bears, Eagles, Cardinals and Packers.

If the Cards don't work there, they could easily slide over into the Inept Division joining the Buccaneers, Patriots, Seattle, Irsay Institute or any other team that shies away from postseason play.

Let's see now, what do the Broncos and Vikings (with four) and the Bills (with three) have in common that would set them up as natural rivals. How many clubs play in domes?

See how easy it could be getting this allegedly complicated problem out of the way, probably before lunch?

Oh, by the way, Guv, has anyone checked with the league to make sure it was Jacksonville, Fla., it gave the franchise to, not the community up off the Jarrettsville Pike?

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