Notre Dame said no. It said it wasn't interested in playing a "home" game in Japan. Rumor of the refusal reached the desk of Joe Doyle of the South Bend Tribune. Joe gets around. He knew a free trip to Japan when he saw one, and he saw this one flying out the window.
Doyle did what any red-blooded American columnist would do under the circumstances. He advised Tele Planning in his column to ask a team that had a home game coming up with Notre Dame to make the switch to Tokyo. A team that could use the money. Navy, say, or Miami. Miami didn't like the idea. Fujita did. He raised the ante to $200,000, and said he would pay for not only the team's expenses but also the band's, cheerleaders' and official parties'. Miami said yes.
Fujita had to charter jumbo jets to transport the two teams and their parties—Miami from about 9,000 miles away, Notre Dame from 8,100. He made a deal with Japan Air Lines. The entire package wound up costing $3 million to put together—but Tele Planning grossed $3.5 million. "It should have been better," Fujita sniffs. "With Oregon State and UCLA next [Nov. 30], it will be better. Expenses will be less. They are not so far away."
Michi interrupts to bring the translation up to date just as Fujita begins to explain the ins and outs of Tele Planning's methods. Getting a word in edgewise, we tell him we're somewhat suspicious of his intentions. We tell him this has all been very impressive, and we're in awe, but promoting an American football game on Japanese soil with teams most Japanese have never heard of still doesn't strike us as the ultimate for a promoter with vision. What, we ask, does he really have in mind?
Fujita's eyes light up. He thrusts his chin at us.
What he has in mind, he says, is a four-team Japanese professional football league. With American players. Soon.
"American players?" we ask, incredulous.
"They go to Canada. They can come here. Of course, some of the 'larger' Japanese could play, too," he says.
And there would be none of this foolish pretense you find in the National Football League, he says. It would be a totally commercial venture. Right up front. With Tele Planning packaging everything from the television rights to the team magazines—for high-powered sponsors, willing to pay a price to share in the glory.
There would be no naming teams after animals or birds or factory workers, he says. "It is a waste of product identification," he says, "to call a team the Dallas Cowboys or the Pittsburgh Steelers. The impact is diffused. There is no product identification." He says he would name the teams after their sponsors. Tokyo Sony, for example. Or Osaka Panasonic. Just like the Mirage Bowl. Such a league, he says, "would not fail."