Let them play in Peoria ZTC

January 23, 1996|By Derrick Z. Jackson

BOSTON -- The Green Bay Packers are the new living-room pet of sports. They are the last pro sports team that does not play in a metropolis. They almost made the Super Bowl, but were beaten by the Dallas Cowboys.

The Packers, the only nonprofit, publicly owned pro team in a city of 98,466, were proclaimed ''America's Small-Town Team'' by the New York Times business pages. The players leap into the stands after touchdowns. Players sneak bratwurst from fans at tailgate parties. While the Cowboys are the most ostentatious and insufferable winners in sports, the Times called the Packers, 120 miles from the state's biggest city, Milwaukee, a ''refreshing exercise in public pride and a mutual long-term commitment.''

As a native of Wisconsin, I am amused at the Huck Finn attention lavished on them. Everyone claims to be tired of greedy owners who evacuate their teams at the mere dangle of dimes from another city. The Packers show us the way to end the whole thing. Let's give football back to the towns.

To properly duplicate the Green Bay aura, we are looking for cities, counties or clusters of towns of similar size. They must be at least 75 miles from a metropolis. This eliminates the Woody Allen/Spike Lee Effect. Messrs. Allen and Lee love to be seen at Knicks basketball games when the team is hip and hot. Seventy-five miles should give dedicated fans a shot at tickets, fans who -- like Packer fans for many years -- still come when the team is ice-cold.

By the way, we are ruling out places like South Bend, Indiana; Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Lincoln, Nebraska, since we all know they have NFL franchises disguised as universities.

The new, guaranteed-to-be-nonprofit NFL:

Arizona -- From Tempe/Phoenix to Flagstaff as the Navajo-Coconino County Cardinals.

Atlanta -- The Albany Peanuts.

Jimmy Carter will come 40 miles down the road from Plains to do the first coin toss.

Buffalo -- The Utica-Rome Guernseys.

Carolina -- The Asheville Dulcimers.

Chicago -- The Bears have been woofing about fleeing to Gary, Indiana, and a casino complex. We would simply return them to where they started from, Decatur, Illinois.

Or the Ashtabula Flashes?

Cincinnati -- The Bowling Green Mammoth Cavemen.

Cleveland -- Art Modell wants them to go to Baltimore. They go where the NFL Hall of Fame is: Canton, Ohio.

Dallas -- Jerry Jones and Prime Time won't last long in Abilene.

Denver -- The Pueblo Baby Steelers.

Detroit -- Lions go from Silverdome to zoo. Kalamazoo.

Houston -- They think they are going to Nashville. Little do they know. They stay in Texas as the Odessa Outcasts.

Indianapolis -- The Colts stole out of Baltimore at midnight to come here. They will need the flashlights again to find their way to Evansville.

Jacksonville -- The Pensacola-Panama City Blue Angels.

Kansas City -- Out with the tomahawk chop. Bring on the Salina-Manhattan-Junction City Sunflowers.

Miami -- We try to keep cute and relatively nonagressive Dolphins nickname. However, World War III breaks out over traffic and environmental issues for Key West Dolphins.

Minnesota -- The Duluth Superiors. And no dome.

New England -- The Lewiston-Auburn Shoelaces. And no dome.

New Orleans -- The Saints go marchin' in to Lake Charles.

New York Giants and Jets -- These slimy teams play in New Jersey and call themselves New York. No more. Jets fly to Scranton. Giants become Binghamton-Elmira Lilliputians.

Oakland -- Raiders can't make up their minds. Down to Los Angeles and back. They become the Redding Raiders.

Philadelphia -- Eagles die of exposure as the Blair County-Altoona Alleghenies.

Pittsburgh -- Super Bowl this year. Erie, Pennsylvania, next year.

St. Louis -- From Los Angeles to St. Louis to Joplin.

San Diego -- NFL goes to Mexico to Ensenada.

San Francisco -- Jerry Rice retires in Eureka on the Humboldt County 49ers.

Seattle -- Seahawks extinct. Yakima Valley Apples.

Tampa Bay -- To Meridian, Mississippi, as the Lauderdale County Regional Rambling Rogers. (Jimmy Rogers started country music.)

Washington -- Forced to change the most embarrassing name in sports to one just about as bad as they move to West Virginia to become the Huntington-Charleston Polyethylenes.

Derrick Z. Jackson is a Boston Globe columnist.

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