In Green Bay, Miami, loyalty is on the move

October 19, 1994|By JOHN STEADMAN

Loyalty, an admirable quality once revered by individuals and organizations, must be stricken from the language of sports. It's obsolete. Passe. Delete it from the dictionary. Don't mention it, .. not even casually, because no longer is there appropriate use for such reference in the area of what used to be fun and games.

As the latest examples of blatant disregard for long and valuable contributions by two major communities, examine what transpired during the same week in two cities as diverse, geographically and culturally, as Miami and Milwaukee.

The Orange Bowl is moving to the suburbs and the Green Bay Packers decided to turn their backs on Milwaukee because no longer will they play any part of their home schedule there, unless they ask the city to buy tickets for meaningless exhibition games -- once referred to as scrimmages by the late Vincent T. Lombardi, who contributed such a momentous role in the reincarnation of the Packers as a power.

In Miami, the Orange Bowl has a rich tradition, with palm trees standing so stately behind the east end zone, reminding visitors they are in an ideal tropical setting.

Greater Miami recognized and supported the Orange Bowl game with passion, which enabled it to gain status as a true American classic. The Orange Bowl, every time it was mentioned, became an advertisement for what is an important part of the state's economy -- oranges, as in Orange Bowl.

Now the Orange Bowl, beginning in 1997, will defect from its in-city site to a place called Joe Robbie Stadium, where professional football and baseball are played. Too bad. Will they dare to call it the Orange Bowl in this bland new venue?

The Orange Bowl is a shrine to college football, has been since Bucknell University and the University of Miami met there in 1935 for the first of the Orange Bowl games played at what was then known as Miami Stadium, located on the exact property as the present facility.

The Orange Bowl Committee, which controlled the game, always comprised the elite of the community. They pursued the best interest of Miami, until the latest decision to desert the Orange Bowl.

Obviously, the rush to take the Orange Bowl extravaganza to more modern trappings is a setback for Miami. The Orange Bowl is being shunted aside. Forget past relationships. Bottom line, it's a selfish desire to make more money.

A newfangled concept called the Bowl Coalition plays a role, but that shouldn't be the consideration it was made out to be. The Orange Bowl, as with the Rose Bowl, is a heritage that needs to be respected and, by all means, protected.

Meanwhile, the Packers divorced Milwaukee. They feel they've grown up enough, after spending part of the last 60 seasons playing between two and four games there. Now they are self-sufficient in Green Bay.

This is not to be interpreted as any kind of a slap at Green Bay, one of the truly magnificent places on the face of the earth, where on Sunday mornings we've heard the priest at Mass ask for divine intercession in behalf of the Packers. Football is indeed a Green Bay religion.

Milwaukee, though, has been a God-send to the Packers for six decades. Without Milwaukee, the Green Bay franchise may have expired. Why? Simply this: When times were tough, Milwaukee provided a financial life raft to ride out the waves of red ink that threatened the Packers' existence.

It was in 1934 when an old friend, later sports editor of the Milwaukee Journal, one Oliver Kuechle, helped form a committee that made a place for the Packers in lower Wisconsin. The National Depression was on and Milwaukee was larger than Green Bay. This meant it could help share expenses while supporting the Packers but allowing Green Bay to continue its identity.

Green Bay, back then, couldn't do it alone, which is why it took some home games to Milwaukee, 125 miles away. This eased the burden of fiscal strain in tiny Green Bay. Its bills were shared by Milwaukee, even though the team still carried the proud Green Bay name.

Now with TV income helping to pay the way and Green Bay more than twice the size it used to be, it wants to recall the loan of its franchise on three Sunday afternoons in the fall. It translates into an insult, tossing Milwaukee into the discard after such a lengthy and profitable association. Milwaukee newspapers, radio and TV stations should give only minimal mention to the Packers because of how the team turned its back on the state's largest city.

Right now the best thing that could happen to Milwaukee is to get a franchise in the Canadian Football League. It will find the on-field excitement far surpasses what the National Football League is offering. If the CFL doesn't move into Milwaukee, then it doesn't deserve the chance to succeed in its U.S. expansion.

It's unfortunate what's going on in Milwaukee and Miami -- where loyalty and devotion to a team, the Packers, and an event, the Orange Bowl, are being given a painful battering. That's gratitude?

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