To better understand the disturbing developments in the NFL, we sent a crack investigative team into this week’s owners meetings in a Dallas hotel disguised as caviar delivery drivers.
Following is a partial transcription of one discussion, picked up by a microphone hidden in a lobster’s thermidor:
Art Modell, Cleveland Browns: … so the governor says to me, “Look, my state’s been without NFL football for 11 years. I bring it back, they elect me God. So name your price.”
I say $50 million. Up front. He says OK. I say a new stadium. Rent free. He says fine. I say all stadium income goes to me. He says no problem.
I excuse myself, go into the next room and fall down laughing. I call my family and say, “Go ahead and close on that Caribbean island purchase. I’ve hooked and landed the biggest guppy ever.”
Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys: Congratulations, Artie, you old coot! What a deal. Reminds me of the time I foreclosed on an orphanage just to get oil drilling rights to the property. A lotta people were upset, but I found an old tank of heating oil, about 50 gallons, so it was worth it.
Ralph Wilson, Buffalo Bills: Jerry, the man’s just abandoned one of the great football markets and you’re calling him a hero. This mess is mostly your fault for raising the stakes in the league.
Jones: You old fool, what are you talking about? If you were half as smart as me, you’d have twice the money you got now. Who knows, you might even have a Super Bowl ring too. Hahahahahahaha …
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue: May I remind all of you of the negative implications that these franchise shifts are creating for the premier sports league …
All: Shut up.
Jones: We’re out of coffee.
Tagliabue: Right away.
Robert Irsay, Indianapolis Colts: Scotch. Don’t forget the scotch.
Robert Kraft, New England Patriots: Whether we like it or not, there will be long-term consequences to these relocations. We can’t keep betraying fans.
Al Davis, Oakland Raiders: Sez who? Fans are sheep. They’ll show up no matter what. They have no lives, no brains. If they don’t show up, we find a town where they will. And politicians are dumber than fans.
Dan Rooney, Pittsburgh Steelers: Al, fans aren’t showing up in Oakland. You have an average ticket price of $51, and you’re not selling out.
Davis: So what? After the Seahawks move to L.A., I’ll take Seattle. They’ll put $150 million into the Kingdome and give me $100 million for driving up I-5.
Ken Behring, Seattle Seahawks: Then I can move to L.A.? Is it OK with you guys?
Jones: If your act isn’t cutting it in bush-league Seattle, what in the world makes you think it’ll work in L.A.?
Eddie DeBartolo, San Francisco 49ers: Forget it, Kenny. We’re saving the L.A. market for Disney, or Time-Warner. You know, heavy hitters. Unless you want to have Paul Allen as a partner …
Behring: Hey, he can’t have my team. The Seahawks are mine.
Jones: Then you might consider moving to Portland, or Boise. Sounds like a better match to me.
Behring: I don’t have to take this. I can go anywhere.
Bud Adams, Houston Oilers: Well, if you do go to L.A., you’re dumber than the people in Seattle think you are already. I’m telling you, the NFL’s future is not exclusively in the big cities. We’re already out of L.A., and nobody there much cares. It’s the smaller cities that’ll bend over backwards to be major league. That’s why I’m going to Nashville.
Wellington Mara, New York Giants: It looks terrible when you’re not in the big markets.
Bud Adams, Houston Oilers: That’s only for now, and when has the NFL cared about appearances? Too many of our athletes are drug-takers and wife-beaters, and we’re all ruthless robber barons. Besides, if we’re the only game in a smaller market, they’ll give us every nickel out of huge new stadiums because their politicians want the glory.
Wilson: What about the fans in our cities who’ve made us rich?
Jones: Ralph, this ain’t the Salvation Army. This is bid’ness. You wanna feel sorry for people, feel sorry for the fans who’ve been drilling in a dry hole cheering your oh-for-the-Super-Bowl teams.
Tagliabue: Doesn’t anyone here understand about loyalty between fans and teams?
Tagliabue: I know, I know. Who needs cream?
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