Shuffling Off from Buffalo?
Ralph Wilson, the 78-year-old owner of the Buffalo Bills, has long been the go-to guy for expressions of outrage at franchise moves in the NFL. He's been critical of commissioner Paul Tagliabue for not stopping the moves and of carpetbagging owners eager to pull up stakes at the first hint of financial ills. "This whole thing has turned into a broad comedy," Wilson said last year. "I wake up every morning wondering who's going to throw the next pie."
It might be Wilson himself. After weeks of strained negotiations among Wilson, Erie County and the state of New York, it's possible the Bills could be Cleveland's or Los Angeles's team after their stadium lease expires at the end of next season. Having sustained a precipitous drop in season-ticket sales at 80,024-seat Rich Stadium, Wilson wants a five-to-10-year agreement with revenue guarantees to protect him against the effects of the area's sinking economy. Erie County, which owns the stadium, wants to lock in the Bills through 2013 with no revenue guarantees. With season-ticket sales down from a team-record 57,132 in 1992 to a projected 34,000 this year, local officials don't like the prospect of subsidizing a team with a dwindling fan base.
Franchise relocation is alienating NFL fans across the country, and the league, which hopes to negotiate its most lucrative TV contract ever this fall, must do something to stop them. Tagliabue and the owners need to channel revenue so that wealthy teams like the Dallas Cowboys don't continue to make $40 million more in off-field stadium revenue than teams like Buffalo and the Indianapolis Colts. Unless the league finds a way to aid teams in need, the broad comedy will only get blacker. If Ralph Wilson can contemplate a move, anyone can.
The rule adopted recently by a baseball league for players ages 9-12 in Willington, Conn., that a pitcher hitting three batters in a game be immediately replaced has sparked debate in youth-league circles. We sought the opinion of a higher authority: San Francisco Giants righthander Mark Gardner, who once hit three batters in a single inning.
While pitching for the Montreal Expos against the St. Louis Cardinals on Aug. 15, 1992, Gardner plunked a trio in the top of the first, the last two with the bases loaded. "I just grazed all three of them," Gardner says. "As for the little-league rule, kids that age don't throw that hard, so the batter has time to get out of the way. But still, it's probably a good idea to get a pitcher out of there if he hits three guys, because it means he's not throwing strikes." Good thing Expos manager Felipe Alou didn't apply the same logic five years ago. After his wild fling Gardner retired 19 batters in a row.
History may show that the epitaph of the Indianapolis 500 was composed on the last lap of the 81st running, by the winner, Arie Luyendyk: "What the f—- are they doing?"
Luyendyk said it all, as the rain-delayed race finally was completed on May 27. He was referring to confusion on the track, created by a mistake on the part of race officials, but the foul-up was so symptomatic of Indy's decline (SI, June 2) that the champion could just as well have been describing the 500 and its future.