A dumb choice for dumb game has him dumbfounded


The anger has passed, and now we're just depressed. Look around. I've seen happier scenes in a Bergman movie.

Yeah, just like you, I've had the blues for days. I didn't just have 'em for breakfast. I had 'em for lunch, dinner and two between-meal snacks, topped off with a generous helping of extra-strength Prozac.

And all because of football.

Well, it's not just the football anymore. I mean, football is basically a dumb game wherein great masses of steroid-enhanced freaks crash into each other. It's the sport in which athletes celebrate by cracking their heads together.

No, it's not the football. Nobody really needs football. It's now a matter of, well, self-esteem, if that's not too '90s for you.

I mean, they gave a ball to Charlotte, and not to Baltimore. Who's crazy, the boys in the NFL or us? They awarded Charlotte the one expansion franchise and practically promised the other to St. Louis. We'll know in a month. Until then, we sit here wondering what the deal is. How did we suddenly get to be chopped liver?

Every city worthy of the title except Baltimore has a team. Green Bay, Wis., has a team.

And now Charlotte?

Does this make any sense?

Charlotte is supposed to be a hot, new city. That's the argument you get, that Charlotte is exactly like Paris was in the '20s, except without the art and literature. It does, however, have a lot of banks. Also, one of its most prominent citizens goes by the name of Humpy.

The truth is, it's a 200-year-old city in a part of the world that couldn't have gotten less attention if it were a penal colony. You could fit the town history in a fortune cookie. The mayor actually said getting the football team was the greatest event in the city's history, replacing, I guess, Jim Bakker's affair with Jessica Hahn.

As for size, well, the metropolitan area is one step ahead of Providence, R.I. The New York Times, in a recent story, had this to say about Charlotte: "hard to spot on a map."

I don't understand the excitement of Charlotte. I've been there. I've had more fun in Cleveland. As for night life, the town closes down at the exact same hour the banks do, including your new neighbor, NationsBank, which just happened to bankroll the Charlotte Panthers and help lead the Charlotte delegation. The revenge-minded know what to do.

One Charlotte resident said of his hometown, "Some people say New York is the city that never sleeps. Charlotte may be the city that never wakes. But it's a nice place to live."

OK, a nice place to live. You just wouldn't want to visit there. And why would you want to put an NFL team there?

Its downtown resembles a fold-up movie set, with approximately three tall buildings on one block built to give the impression of a skyline. They built it just for the blimp appeal. You can drive through downtown in maybe 15 seconds, after which the tallest building -- and maybe the best food -- is courtesy of Stuckey's.

However you define a city, Charlotte does not qualify. Cities have neighborhoods. Charlotte has a lot of people wearing shiny green slacks. Cities have ethnic food (well, Charlotte did recently get a Taco Bell). Cities have restaurants without stock-car-racing motifs. In cities, people don't buy bagels at a grocery store. They don't think a pastry means a deep-fried Krispy Kreme.

What you've got in Charlotte is a collection of suburbs and golf courses and shrines to Richard Petty.

It used to be the site of the Orioles' Class AA minor-league baseball team. Now, it's in Hagerstown. Does that give you an idea?

According to the tourist guide I read, Charlotte's biggest attraction, other than the defunct Heritage Park and Tammy Faye's collection of eyeliner pencils, is the Mint Museum of Art, which, I assume, celebrates mints down the ages. I know I'd love to visit the Certs (it's a breath mint, it's a hair cream) Two Mints In One Pavilion.

Look, I can settle the argument here in two words: Jesse Helms.

You want to know how ridiculous it's gotten? The man who owns the Charlotte team is head of Denny's. The guy who supposedly is going to own the St. Louis team married into the Wal-Mart family. We're losing out to the twin high temples of white-trash culture. We're losing out to the 35-cent can of Coke and the grand-slam breakfast.

It's downright embarrassing.

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