•Houston. The Nashville Somethings—they won't be called the Oilers—have one very large hurdle to overcome before they can become Tennessee's first major professional football team. Even after state officials sign a relocation contract with Adams this week for the team to begin play at a new 65,000-seat open-air stadium in 1998, the true test will come in January. That's when Nashville's fans will be given about a month to buy 44,700 personal seat licenses priced between $500 and $5,000 per seat. If enough licenses, which merely guarantee the right to buy a season ticket, are sold, Nashville will have a team. Houston will lose the Oilers because the city refuses to build a new stadium—and that also means trouble for Houston as a future NFL expansion or relocation site. "If the people of Houston believe expansion is an option should the Oilers leave, I think they're barking up the wrong tree," says Tagliabue.
•Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are negotiating a move to Orlando, 95 miles to the east, because of the failure last month of owner Malcolm Glazer's seat-deposit campaign. The plan began with great promise on Oct. 17, when the five Tampa-St. Petersburg TV stations simultaneously broadcast a 30-minute infomercial that said, in effect, that the Bucs would leave town if they didn't get a new stadium. The campaign asked fans to pay between $190, and $2,450 per seat to acquire rights to at least 50,000 seats in a new stadium. But in the first two weeks of the four-week program, less than 25,000 tickets were sold, and Glazer's son Bryan, the team's executive vice president, said that his family was "devastated." The Bucs would play in Orlando's 70,349-seat Citrus Bowl until a new stadium is built.
•Arizona. Cardinal owner Bill Bidwill spent last week trying to drum up support in Phoenix for a $200 million multipurpose stadium, which he says he was promised when he moved his team there. But he also held secret talks with Baltimore before the Modell deal was signed, and Arizona observers believe that he will pack up his team once again, moving perhaps to Los Angeles or even Cleveland if he doesn't get a commitment for a new stadium soon.
•Cincinnati. The Bengals will stay put if local voters approve a 1% increase in the Hamilton County sales tax next March. Those proceeds would help fund new baseball and football stadiums. If the vote fails, Bengal president and general manager Mike Brown says he will consider moving the team to another city.
•Chicago and Detroit. The Bears are contemplating a move to the suburbs, the Lions a move in the opposite direction, The Lions have a bad lease at the Silverdome in suburban Pontiac, and unless they can rewrite it and get relief, they may move back into the city they abandoned in 1975. On the other hand, the Bears have a $156 million offer from the city of Chicago to refurbish Soldier Field, but CEO Mike McCaskey is leaning toward a move to suburban Indiana, 22 miles southeast of Chicago.
What's more, the Seattle Seahawks have said they will leave Seattle if they do not get a new stadium, and Washington Redskin owner Jack Kent Cooke is still trying to build a new stadium in the northern Virginia suburbs. "Some owner ought to get in the moving-van business," says Pro Football Hall of Fame vice president Don Smith.
On Monday, Cleveland mayor White was vowing to light to keep the Browns. "They never even read our final package," said White, who had planned to give the Browns the city's final offer after Tuesday's vote to extend a cigarette and liquor tax in Cuyahoga County that would have helped to defray the cost of repairs to Cleveland Stadium. "Like a thief in the night, our NFL franchise has been snatched from the community."
"Thief in the night!" Modell said to SI on Monday afternoon. "I'd better count to 10 before I respond to that. I've given my life—my blood, my sweat, my tears—to the Cleveland Browns and to Cleveland. They were too late! I've been waiting for their final package for six years."
While he waited, Modell saw the city help finance a new baseball stadium for the Indians, a basketball arena for the NBA's Cavaliers and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And Modell saw what the waiting was doing to his chances for survival in Cleveland. The Cavaliers, for instance, have 92 luxury boxes at Gund Arena, for which tenants had to sign leases of up to 10 years at as much as $150,000 a year. All 120 private boxes at Jacobs Field were also sold. That helped to convince Modell that the business community in Cleveland was tapped out, contributing to the Browns' failure to lease 24 of their 108 luxury boxes this season.
"One law firm canceled its $50,000 loge this year," Modell lamented on Monday, "then I read where they donated $50,000 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." Even if the city committed to a $175 million refurbishment of Cleveland Stadium, Modell believed, it wouldn't be enough to make the kind of money he feels he needs to compete in today's NFL.