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Inside the NFL (cont.)

Posted: Thursday April 7, 2005 1:45PM; Updated: Thursday April 7, 2005 2:31PM
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Translation-more luxury boxes, which translate to more revenue. A few years ago the Giants moved the press box way up into the stratosphere, so the original area could be used for more of those luxury things. Now they need more. The facility itself still looks just fine to me, just as nice as when it first went up, but that was before the days of the great spawning of the boxes.

Patriots' owner Bob Kraft was quoted on SI.com not so long ago describing a day in which he took his son to see the team's first home playoff game, against the Houston Oilers in 1978. He mentioned sitting in that "broken-down old stadium," in Foxboro. Hey, the stadium was seven years old at the time.

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I hope the prospective Jets stadium in New York City never gets built, at least not the way they proposed it, with part of it funded by taxpayers' dollars. Too many other projects need it more. Strangely enough, I had a talk the other day with the Jets' former player personnel director, Mike Hickey, and he had a different take on it, something I never thought of.

"I'll bet you right now," he said, "that if that thing ever goes up, you're going to see premiums imposed -- licenses, in other words."

Premiums or licenses, or whatever you want to call them, were the original brainchild of the Dallas Cowboys, where Hickey got his start in the NFL. It means that you have to pay a lump sum for the right to purchase season tickets -- in the Cowboys' case, $10,000. It always struck me as the ultimate ripoff, but Hickey swears that Jets fans can look forward to it.

"All those loyal fans who followed the Jets wherever they went, from Shea to Giants Stadium," Hickey says. "Now they're gonna ask them to come up with a big number in front. You know what you'll see? You'll see the ordinary fans leaving and their places taken by corporations. And that's what the NFL has become, a corporate game."

The Steroids Game

I've had a few readers ask me why I haven't weighed in on the steroid issue yet. Maybe because it brings back memories of a personal setback. Relax, this is not a tragic story, just an annoying one.

I used to do the draft for ESPN. That's right, I was at the anchor desk, year after year. Sometime in the late 1980s, the question was posed: What will the NFL  player of the '90s be like? Chris Berman and Joe Theismann, with whom I was working, came up with the usual "bigger, faster, stronger," and so forth, but I wanted to put a different spin on it, so when my turn came, I said, "The player of the '90s will be so sophisticated that he'll be able to pass any steroid test they come up with."

Ooooh! Skirts hoisted. Sounds of eeeek! I was, you see, waiting for someone to come back with, "What do you mean," comma, "Zee?" question mark. And then I would have told the story of how, while covering the Olympic Games, I gave one of the East German track coaches a ride back to the Olympic Village from the practice field, and he said, off the cuff, not knowing, I'm sure, that I was a writer, "Our masking agents for steroids will always stay ahead of the testing. The steroid labs in Leipzig always will be ahead of the IOC."