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Scorecard OCTOBER 20, 1997
Edited by Richard O'Brien and Hank Hersch
October 20, 1997
Butch Johnson Takes to the Triathlon...Oilers: Trouble in Tennessee...Bunting Adds Color to Baseball...NASCAR Fan Wins Big...ABL's Sophomore Season Tips Off
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October 20, 1997

Scorecard October 20, 1997

Butch Johnson Takes to the Triathlon...Oilers: Trouble in Tennessee...Bunting Adds Color to Baseball...NASCAR Fan Wins Big...ABL's Sophomore Season Tips Off

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Oilers owner Adams, who has raised ticket prices 28.8% over what the team charged in the Astrodome, recently sent a memo to everyone in the organization requiring that he preapprove every expense of more than $200. He's reportedly also considering relocating the Oilers to Nashville or the 1998 season—a year ahead of schedule—and playing in Vanderbilt Stadium. The problem there is that a) Vanderbilt forbids the sale of alcohol on campus, so concession revenues would be severely weakened, and b) the lack of skyboxes at Vanderbilt would limit the Oilers' ability to gouge their richest customers.

Last season, when the idea of playing at Vanderbilt Stadium was first raised, there was concern that its capacity of 41,448 would be too small for an NFL team. Now the Oilers would be thrilled to draw that many.

Taking a Bath II
When it comes to sparse attendance in an interim home, things aren't any better at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum, where the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes will play until moving into a new building in Raleigh for the 1999-2000 season. After drawing 18,661 to their opener at the 21,000-scat Coliseum, the Hurricanes (né the Hartford Whalers) announced crowds of 6,083 and 6,352 at their next two home dates. Those appeared to be very generous estimates given the sea of empty seats. But even if accurate, the two-game total of 12,435 is some 500 fewer than turned out to see the American Hockey League's Hartford Wolf Pack play its Oct. 4 opener at the same Civic Center the Whalers abandoned after last season.

The Art of Bunting

Orioles tan Mark Morais is a bunting fanatic. "When I'm watching a baseball game, that's my primary passion," says Morais. "How's the bunting holding up? The next day at work, that's all we talk about."

No, Morais isn't employed by the Omar Moreno Preservation Society. He's a sales manager at F.W. Haxel, the Baltimore-based flag company that provided and tended the red-white-and-blue drapery that has festooned Camden Yards this fall. That kind of bunting—which encompasses those semicircular flags known in the business as full-pleated fans—has been a postseason staple in major league parks since at least 1886. All eight playoff teams this sea son laid down bunting. At Camden Yards, some 155-full-pleated fans have hung since Day One of the postseason. "Maybe it's silly," says Angela Knight, the Orioles' purchasing agent. "But bunting makes the whole place look festive."

Like the sacrifice and the squeeze, decorative bunting is a dying art. There are still election days and county fairs, and there's always the Fourth of July, but the bunting business pines for the glory days, when a political rally without 5,000 pieces of red-white-and-blue fabric wasn't a political rally at all. In old pictures of Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds, bunting is ubiquitous. Now, in this era of "signage" and corporate logos, those in the industry can only root, root, root for their home team to make it to the postseason.

All Bets Off

When Arlington International Race Course went dark after the end of last Friday's card, horse racing lost another round in the fight for gambling dollars. The suburban Chicago track once attracted crowds of 30,000 and horses like Citation, Secretariat and John Henry. It hosted the first $1 million thoroughbred race in 1981 and survived a grandstand-leveling fire in '85. This year, having lost customers to Native American casinos, riverboat gambling and the state lotteries, Arlington's daily on-site handle was $612,000, compared with the $1.7 million average in its peak year, 1975. Three days shy of the track's 70th birthday, owner Richard Duchossois shut the place down.

Duchossois bought into Arlington Park in 1983 in an effort to save Midwestern racing. After the grandstand burned, he spent $200 million to rebuild it and has lost about $70 million since then. "I kept hoping that we'd get light at the end of the tunnel, that things would happen, so I just kept hanging in there," the 76-year-old Duchossois said, referring to his requests for tax breaks and for legislation to permit slot machines at racetracks. The state government granted neither wish, and he decided his fortunes weren't going to improve. "No one has spent more money to help racing than I have," Duchossois says. "Now I'm up against a wall. It's time to move on."

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