Tagliabue's no-move edict has no teeth

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Paul Tagliabue, who speaks loudly and carries a small stick, seems to have forgotten that actions speak louder than words.

The NFL commissioner tried to counteract the image his league has gotten of resembling a floating craps game when he announced at the meetings in Charlotte, N.C., last week that he would fine a team $500,000 for speaking with other cities about moving during the 1996 season.

Tagliabue even said he'd be willing to fight in court to uphold that action.

"If it turns out to be a test case, that would be fine. We believe we have a strong legal position here," he said.

This was the same Tagliabue who used to lecture reporters that the appeal in the Raiders case gave the league strong legal positions to block moves in court.

Yet when St. Louis threatened the league with a $2 billion lawsuit last year, Tagliabue couldn't persuade the owners to fight in court. They approved the move of the Rams from Anaheim to St. Louis, the first of four they've approved in the past 14 months.

Those actions have left fans in cities without new stadiums wondering about the future of their teams. Tagliabue's announcement isn't going to reassure them unless the NFL actually goes to court and blocks a move.

His latest announcement apparently was directed at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are getting nowhere in their attempt to get funding for a stadium. Tagliabue met privately with owner Malcolm Glazer and his sons to discuss the matter.

But Tagliabue's directive doesn't solve the Bucs' problem. After the state legislature shot down a proposed rental car tax, the next move is supposed to be to put sales tax measure on the ballot in September to fund a stadium.

If that measure fails, it'll cast a pall over the team's season regardless of whether the Bucs are talking to other cities.

Not that the Bucs will find it easy to move. There's no stadium deal anywhere in the country right now. Cleveland's stadium won't be ready until 1999, and Los Angeles hasn't gotten its stadium act together.

The Bucs are looking at Osceola County, Fla., about 70 miles from Tampa, although it's uncertain if they can get a deal there.

The selling game

Imagine going into a store to look at a half-dozen TV sets only to have the clerk tell you the price isn't set yet.

You'd be puzzled if the clerk said you could put down a $100 deposit for the set, take it home and then be notified in about three months what the price is.

That's virtually what will be happening to Baltimore football fans Wednesday when the Ravens open their ticket campaign to the public.

The fans can order tickets ranging from $17 to $55 or club seats at $75, but they won't know what the permanent seat license for the ticket in their price range will be. All they'll know is that the PSL range will be between $500 and $3,000.

If their order is accepted, they'll be notified in August what the PSL price is. If they don't like the PSL price, they can get their $100 deposit back, keep their 1996 tickets and then fall out of line for 1997 and in the new stadium in 1998.

But this convoluted, two-step selling process is only going to confuse the fans.

Trying to explain the reason for this approach, team president David Modell, the son of owner Art Modell, said it's designed to give the fans "maximum flexibility."

He added, "Bear with us. We're working at an absolutely frantic ** pace."

He also said there's a logistical problem in starting off at Memorial Stadium and then switching to the new stadium.

"It's not a perfect world playing in Memorial Stadium for two years," Modell said.

The real problem probably is that Modell spent too much time listening to NFL marketing types, who seem to like to make things as complicated as possible.

In effect, this media campaign starting Wednesday is a waste of time and money even if a lot of it is free media. You don't need a campaign to sell tickets at regular prices in Baltimore. That was proved before the 1993 Dolphins-Saints exhibition game.

The message for the fans now is that if they can afford the cheapest seats -- $340 for two -- they should order them even if they don't think they can afford PSLs.

They might get a chance to see the inaugural season at Memorial Stadium, and by the time the Ravens get back to them with a PSL charge, they might be able to afford it.

The salary cap

The 30 NFL teams have only about $59 million left to spend under the cap, even though the rookie pool is about $84 million.

That means NFL teams have to chop about $25 million off their payroll before training camp opens.

They'll probably start the process June 1. That's when a team is charged only the pro-rated share of a signing bonus for this year if it cuts a player. The rest won't be charged until next year. If a club cuts a veteran before June 1, it is charged the rest of his signing bonus under the cap for that season.

The Ravens, who are $683,000 under the cap, have to slash about $2.7 million off their payroll because they have about $3.3 million to spend on their rookies. They're going to restructure the contract of Don Griffin, but that'll be the start for them.

The match

The Ravens didn't manage to sign linebacker Kevin Greene, who left the Pittsburgh Steelers for the Carolina Panthers, but Greene still plans a stop in Baltimore.

He'll be here on June 16 for a World Championship Wrestling tag-team match with former Chicago Bear Steve McMichael against "Nature Boy" Ric Flair and Arn Anderson.

The talkative Greene is perfect for wrestling hype.

"I'll teach him [Flair] that he wasn't born to live in the trenches. I was," Greene said.

The match was set for June 15 but was moved back a day because of a Panthers minicamp.

Pub Date: 5/26/96

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