If they could hold a Super Bowl in Detroit, can Kansas City be far behind? Turns out it could, despite the respect Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt usually engenders from other owners in the NFL.
During their recent meetings in Miami, Hunt asked his NFL fellows for sanction to host the league's title game sometime between the years 2004 and 2007. He was voted down, song lyrics to the contrary, because everything isn't up to date in Kansas City.The biggest sticking points were such nettlesome NFL requisites as a roof over Arrowhead Stadium, the availability of 26,000 hotel rooms and two indoor practice facilities, and access to golf courses, without which no pampered NFL owner could really feel at home.
The key element in the Kansas City proposal banked on Hunt getting an $80 million, winterized rolling roof that would move, on rails, between Arrowhead and Royals stadium, ensuring the warmth of spectators attending the NFL's grand football bash. (The roof, incidentally, was part of the original Truman Sports Complex plans KC voters approved in 1967. Construction cost overruns and a strike put it on hold, maybe forever.)
"It's a hard thing to sell," said Jack Steadman, the longtime Hunt associate who is chairman of the Chiefs board of directors, "because they're looking at the roof structure and saying, `Does this really work?' "
Steadman said the Chiefs met the hotel standards, within a 90-mile radius, even though many KC hotels are 150 rooms or smaller and the NFL prefers bigger, convention-type hotels.
As for the golf courses, Steadman said, "We don't have many available in January." Neither did such past Super Bowl sites as Pontiac, Mich., and Minneapolis, of course.
One suspects many fans would delight in a Kansas City Super Bowl, and its promise of down-to-earth, Middle America hospitality, superb barbeque, succulent steaks and a jukebox somewhere playing "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than a pre-frontal lobotomy."
But the Catch-22 in KC's Super Bowl venture is that Hunt probably can't get the game without the rolling roof, and KC voters probably won't go for the roof without the assurance of the Super Bowl.
By the way, can anyone explain why a roof, moving or stationary, costs $80 million?
DUMBFOUNDING: It took a while, but the mad desperation that forced the CBS, ABC and Fox television networks to pony up $17.6 billion for the rights to NFL games over the next eight years finally caught up with NBC and Turner Sports last week.
Still smarting over being outbid for pro football, even though the deal promises to leave each network with a huge financial loss, NBC and Turner declared they would form their own league, without giving any details.
Nor did either address the obvious fact - that the U.S. needs another pro football league about as much as it needs easier access to handguns.
When the NFL announced its new TV package in January, Dick Ebersol, the president of NBC Sports, said, "There was no chance of making money on this deal. I'll guess a loss of $150 million to $175 million a year. We simply don't believe in being associated with that kind of loss."
That was then, this is now.
Ebersol, now apparently convinced that fans do need another football league, has discussed starting up on Sundays in the fall of 1999, with teams representing 10 or 12 U.S. cities.
"Dick's one of the smartest people I know, but this is dumb," Jon Mandel, a senior vice president of Gray Advertising told the New York Times. "This is Dick's folly. You're supposed to find a market that's underserved and serve it."
Neal Pilson, a former president of CBS sports, said, "I'm convinced of two things: General Electric and Time Warner have the financial strength and media power to launch a new league. And I'm convinced it won't work."
Indeed, on seven previous occasions, a new league like the USFL came along to challenge the NFL, and the new league failed six times. Only the AFL survived, at the loss of its identity, by merging with the older league.
GROUNDED JET: Chronic back problems will force the retirement of Jets tackle David Williams after June 1, thereby ending another sorry chapter in the Rich Kotite saga.
Under Kotite, the Jets signed Williams to a $12.3 million, five-year contract in 1996, after he was released by the Oilers. The Jets obviously overpaid big, and are now looking forward to a $3 million salary cap hit.
Williams had hoped he would be able to play 10 seasons when he came to the NFL in the first round of the 1989 draft, but he fell one short. His back problems never diminished during the off season.