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Now, however, Tagliabue maintains that the revenue generated by the extra wild-card games was less of a factor than sustaining fan interest. "In December, there's tremendous excitement week in and week out in the league," says Tagliabue. "Last year we entered the final weekend with 17 teams having a shot at the playoffs. Then we went from 17 cities hyped on NFL football to four cities the next weekend. It's kind of a letdown. Adding the two teams helps us keep the excitement up."
That's true. However, increasing the number of playoff teams from eight to 10 to 12 since 1978 is severely testing the integrity of the regular season. Who says 22 teams should be in the playoff hunt in late December? The new postseason format doesn't cripple the game. It just cheapens it—unnecessarily.
SHAME HAS NO PRICE
After weighing the contents of the 60-page report on the Patriots-Lisa Olson sexual-harassment case prepared by special counsel Phillip Heymann, Tagliabue last week levied fines totaling $22,500 against three New England players and $50,000 against the team. But, says Tagliabue, "I was tempted to impose no fines. I don't have any doubt about what Zeke Mowatt did. [According to Heymann's report, Mowatt 'purposely displayed himself to (Olson) in a suggestive way.'] But one of the reasons you impose sanctions is to try to deter future similar behavior, and I don't think the people involved need much more of a deterrent."
In other words, Tagliabue believed that the guilty parties had suffered substantially from the tremendous amount of publicity—99% of it bad—generated by the incident. That's also why Mowatt's fine ($12,500) for harassing Olson in the Pats' locker room on Sept. 17 is only 45% of what Bengal coach Sam Wyche was fined ($27,941.18) for barring a female reporter from the Cincinnati locker room after a defeat on Oct. 1 in Seattle. Wyche had violated the league's media policy on two previous occasions in his seven seasons as coach. Tagliabue believes that Wyche's defiance was likely to continue unless he was heavily fined.
MEN OF TROY
In Steve Walsh's return to Texas Stadium as quarterback of the Saints on Sunday, he threw for 177 yards. The man he couldn't beat out for the Cowboys' starting job, Troy Aikman, threw for 177. New Orleans ran for 113 yards. Dallas ran for 113. The difference in the Cowboys' 17-13 win? A hot Aikman in the second half, during which he completed 11 of 11 passes and Dallas scored all of its points.
"It's like when a basketball player gets hot," Aikman said after finishing with 15 completions in 21 pass attempts. "When you're on, you're on." Aikman said a cordial hello to his old rival before the kick-off, but since they weren't close as teammates, they didn't pal around before or after the game.
That was better for everyone, really, as was the trade of Walsh to the Saints in September. "I've never said this before," said Cowboy coach Jimmy Johnson, "but I couldn't get close to Troy as long as Steve was here."
THE BUCS STOPPED HERE