But Where's The Swimming Pool?
This season the Buccaneers and the Ravens move into new stadiums, giving the NFL a total of six facilities that have debuted in the last seven years. Docked behind the north end zone at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa is a 103-foot long, 78-foot tall replica of a pirate ship. After each Bucs touchdown, eight cannons will be fired, shooting confetti and miniature footballs into the stands.
The stadium in Baltimore, which sits next to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, boasts the two largest permanent video screens in the world—100 feet high, 24 feet wide. Following 1 p.m. games, fans can stick around and watch the late-afternoon NFL games. For instance, if there are five late games, the one with the most appeal to Ravens fans will be carried on one screen, and the other four games will be shown simultaneously on the other, which will be divided into quadrants for this purpose.
Browns Receive a Blessing in Disguise
If you're a Cleveland Browns fan, you should be delighted that Art Modell moved his team to Baltimore two years ago. If he hadn't, here's what you'd be facing this year: another season in ramshackle Cleveland Stadium with no franchise quarterback and a nondescript coach.
Instead, you're a year away from a preseason date with the Cowboys. You have a new stadium under construction. You will have an ownership group, no matter which one of the six candidates is awarded the franchise, with some of the deepest pockets in sports.
In addition the Browns will have two distinct advantages the Jaguars and the Panthers lacked when they entered the NFL in 1995. Those two teams picked in a quarterback-poor draft, while Cleveland could get a franchise passer ( Kentucky's Tim Couch or Washington's Brock Huard, if either comes out after his junior season). Also, with no competition from another expansion team, the Browns will be able to select the top players from a pool made up of at least five players from each of the 30 NFL teams. Jacksonville and Carolina had to split the pot, meaning each got 14 of the best unprotected players from the 28 teams then in the league. Says Falcons coach Dan Reeves, "Whoever buys this team is going to have some incredible advantages that no expansion team has ever had."
Marino Not the Retiring Type
Next year Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino could be confronted with his own professional mortality. As he prepares for his 16th season, he's enjoying a strong training camp, and he says flatly, "I'd love to play a lot longer." The question is, Does Miami want that? Coach Jimmy Johnson seems as if he'd like to wean the Dolphins from Marino—who will count for $7.14 million against the salary cap next year—and break in Craig Erickson in '99....
If you're wondering why NFL teams, with multimillion-dollar training facilities in their home cities, light out for the countryside each summer, listen to Giants coach Jim Fassel. He likes having his players bunk two-to-a-room at the University of Albany (N.Y.). "Guys are rich today, living luxurious lives," he says. "It's great to get them back to the basics for a month. It gets their mind-set right."...