Posse can't round up enough fans or keep horses in line

ON THE CFL

July 31, 1994|By KEN MURRAY

The Las Vegas Posse has the highest ticket price in the Canadian Football League, and the two smallest crowds to go with it.

When the Baltimore CFLs travel to Las Vegas this week for a Saturday night game, they will be greeted by intense desert heat, a half-dozen horses galloping around cozy Sam Boyd Stadium, and rampant apathy.

The CFL is alive, but not entirely well, in Las Vegas.

Already this season, the Posse has had to deal with issues concerning the singing of "O Canada," scantily clad cheerleaders distracting opposing players, horses leaving debris on the field, and ticket prices that range from $9 (end zone) to $75 (first three rows).

When the Saskatchewan Roughriders played in Vegas two weeks ago, coach Ray Jauch complained about the cheerleaders wandering dangerously close to his cramped sideline. "They just didn't know where to go during the game," Jauch said, "so they kept walking back and forth at our bench. Our guys were young, and they were hot and sweaty. Naturally, they're going to look at young ladies and take their minds off the game for a few seconds."

Of the horses that roamed a shorter, narrower CFL field (15-yard end zones instead of 20, 63 yards wide instead of 65), Jauch said: "I mean someone could have been run over and badly hurt. Who knows when one of us could have stepped in something."

Still, the crowd count looms as the biggest problem for the Posse. After attracting a preseason crowd of 6,200, the team drew 12,213 for its season opener and 10,740 last week. Because Posse owner Nick Mileti held a public stock sale before the team ever played, he made it financially solvent. He insists he has a two-year commitment. He says once fall arrives, the fans will, too.

But the small crowds of summer are hardly a promotional tool for CFL expansion in the States.

"I told Nick before the opener if he got 12,000, it'd be real positive, because he's starting from ground zero," said CFL commissioner Larry Smith.

"There has to be an identity there first. You get casual fans to become hard-core fans, then bring out more casual fans. I wasn't one of those who thought we'd sell out [there] right away."

Part of the strategy -- and perhaps part of the reason for the low attendance -- is that Mileti says he is not giving out complimentary tickets.

Even if his crowds have been small, they have been enthusiastic.

Vegas remains a hard sell for the CFL. Going into 1993, nine of 10 professional teams that arrived in town failed to last.

Among the pro teams in Vegas now are an International Hockey League team (Thunder), an Arena League football team (Sting), a flash roller hockey team (Dust Devils) and indoor and outdoor soccer teams.

Obviously, not all will survive. The CFL Posse is keeping its fingers crossed.

Making good

Lounge singer Dennis Park, who created an international furor when he butchered the Canadian anthem July 16 at Vegas, got a second chance Thursday night -- and made the most of it.

Park sang "O Canada" without a problem in Hamilton's Ivor Wynne Stadium before the Tiger-Cats' game with the Ottawa Rough Riders. He received a rousing ovation from the crowd of 11,000.

When Park appeared at Vegas, he sang the wrong melody and lyrics, plus sang out of key. The backlash had Mileti sending Prime Minister Jean Chretien a written apology.

"I feel relieved it's over and done with," Park said Thursday. "I haven't slept since Tuesday."

Your Baltimore Fillies?

There is concern across the border about Baltimore's identity crisis. At least one Canadian city is ready to help Baltimore owner Jim Speros pick a new name if the courts say he cannot use Colts.

The Calgary Herald held a call-in poll recently, and those entries receiving the most votes were Stallions, Mustangs and Golden Colts (a

no-no).

Other nominations included the Colt 49ers, Thoroughbreds, Fillies, Crabs, Broncos, Bills, Breakers and several variations on

Roughriders.

Bolstering B.C.

The arrival of three castoffs has stabilized a chronically weak defense in British Columbia, and helped the Lions get off to a 3-0 start. Halfback Enis Jackson (cut by Baltimore this summer), cornerback Charles Gordon (cut by Ottawa) and linebacker Brian Forde (formerly with the New Orleans Saints) have made major )) contributions for the Lions.

But the Lions had their big test Friday night and fell flat, losing at Calgary, 62-21.

They haven't beaten the Stampeders since Oct. 6, 1991 -- or since quarterback Doug Flutie left B.C. to go to Calgary.

Let's go for 100

When Flutie's Stampeders scored 50 points in the first half of a 58-19 win over Winnipeg, it left him speechless.

"I told [my teammates] in our pregame warm-up we could get 50 points if we were aggressive the entire game," he said. "Well, we had 50 at halftime. Now what do I say?"

Horsing around

That made for a busy first half for Alibi, the horse that races around McMahon Stadium after every Stampeder touchdown. The team had to scratch Alibi this week after it hurt its left fetlock in a scrape with a barbed-wire fence.

A5 The replacement was Rookie Rocky, a gray gelding.

It's news to CFLs

The Gaston Gazette in Gastonia, N.C., ran this headline on a July 25 story about running back Marshall Faulk signing with the Indianapolis Colts:

"Baltimore signs No. 1 pick Faulk".

$ Any confusion there?

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