Friday, May 25

Cry Me A Navigable Waterway

I HELD off all week out of respect for the bereaved, but Monday's shattering news that Indianapolis will not be hosting the 2011 Super Bowl deserves a comment.

That comment is, "Good."

Our story thus far:

• Looking at the prospect of the first Democratic Indianapolis mayor in thirty-five years rapidly approaching his second campaign, and possessed of a team with actual talent for the first time since his Daddy's midnite move to Indy, Colts owner Jim Irsay decides it's time to start making noises about how he can void his contract with the city (that runs through 2014) as early as 2008 or so unless he gets a commitment for a new stadium to replace the shabby 63,000 seat Dome he's now forced to play in for no rent.*

• Irsay starts making public noises about how great it would be to relocate to L.A.

• NFL capo di tutti capi Paul Tagliabue, after a couple of reported secret meetings with the Mayor (which the Star treated as though Indianapolis had nuclear secrets which might be revealed in exchange for continued Democratic domination) comes to town and allows as how the NFL is just itching to move into L.A. and will feel both dirty and incomplete until it does so.

• This despite the fact that the highly intelligent citizenry of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Poriuncula had told two NFL franchises to get lost back in '94, and the NFL had expanded twice since then without looking West of the Ozarks.

• No one in Indianapolis seems to notice that Tagliabue is doing the same tapdance simultaneously in Phoenix, Minneapolis, and San Diego, all embroiled in demands for publicly-financed stadia. No insiders ponder the potential for the City of Angels to host Its Own Fucking Division, despite the fact that the taxpayers clearly refuse to ante up for one team.

• Jim Irsay reminds everyone that 2008 is scheduled to follow 2007.

• The Indianapolis Star headlines local law enforcement's interest in Jim Irsay's involvement in an oxycontin ring.

• Jim Irsay decides he loves Indianapolis so much he couldn't imagine ever leaving, at least not before his two-month stay at a Rehab resort in lieu of criminal proceedings has ended.

• Colts and city agree on new half-billion dollar stadium.

• We're just going to skip the part about the Republican-controlled state legislature getting involved on the grounds that Governor Munchkin Mitch Daniels had nightmares of a groundbreaking ceremony held without his being invited, and we'll ignore that having seized the project and the assignment of major contracts for themselves the Party of Entrepreneurs managed to overlook a required payout to the Colts. This had been in the original budget the city worked out, so they naturally tried to blame the city for their having missed it. Final cost: no man can say. Beneficiaries of the couple million per year which granted some grease monkey the right to paint his name on the stadium we paid hundreds of millions to build: the Colts. Why do you ask?

[While we're talking about numbers, let us note that this Sunday a 500-mile race will be run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's an annual event. It, plus the stock car race and F-1 deal later this summer will bring in an estimated 800,000 people, many of whom will come from more than fifty miles away and will stay for more than the afternoon. For this the IMS has asked for, and received, zero taxpayer dollars. The Colts, assuming the maximum seating capacity now bruted about, two not-bloody-likely home playoff games/year and the indifferently attended preseason games they force season ticket holders to pay for, might manage to approach that total.]

• Through all of this the stadium idea--about which city taxpayers had no say whatever--was nevertheless being sold (some habits die harder than others) by a coy fan-language suggestion that the NFL had kinda sorta suggested, well, we Might Possibly Be Assured of Hosting a Super Bowl if we built the thing.

• And, indeed, a committee was formed to sell Indianapolis to the NFL owners, and its work was breathlessly touted for the past What Seems Like Decades by the local media and all the other types whose job includes long stretches of telling you how much you'll love something that benefits them a lot more than it does you.

• Now, I don't know whether you've ever lived in a city whose inferiority complex was once richly deserved, but it's not always pretty, and every so often so bit of Public Nonsense so utter and so perfect for news gathering organizations which would rather cheerlead than almost anything else you could name will come along, and the artificial excitement will build like a gathering boil. And then it explodes all over your best dress shirt.

• And no one ever bothers to say, "Th' fuck do we want a Super Bowl for?" But somebody's sure to mention that it would bring millions of dollars into the local economy, without adding that those millions will all leave again as soon as the game's over, with a few of them having stuck to the local waitperson and hooker communities. And nobody ever noted that of the XXXIX Super Bowls played in an assigned city only III, or VII%, have been played north of the Mason-Dixon line.

So Monday the NFL announces the 2011 extravaganza will be played somewhere in the vicinity of Dallas. This is not even satisfying in an I Told You So sense, because it was too damned obvious for that. But it was plenty satisfying to know that this time it was the fattest of cats, and their relentlessly cheery and well-coifed boosters, who took it in the shorts.

Then came Tuesday. Now all anybody wants to talk about is our bid for the 2012 Super Bowl.

*Not technically accurate, and I, like 99.9999% of Indianapolis taxpayers, have no idea where our money actually goes, a circumstance which led our Forefathers to grab their muskets but leads the modern American to reach for the remote. What seems to be clear is that the first order of business on the Colts lease was to assure them of a profit equal to a sell-out for every home game, even back when the monotony of 2-14 seasons was only broken by the occasional 1-15 tally. It's been widely reported (which, of course, makes it true) that the city's share of parking and concessions revenues were reduced by the difference in American $$$ between actual ticket sales and the Platonic ideal of ticket sales. In spite of this, those tickets were never counted as "sold", and games were routinely blacked out locally, so my videotape collection of the Year of the Great Art Schlichter/Mike Pagel quarterback controversy is sadly imcomplete. The city somehow managed to wind up on the hook for millions of dollars due the Colts for the inconvenience of having to break their lease on the Dome to move to Lube Job Stadium, this fact being reported as though it were the common practice of moving companies to pay you for the inconvenience of having to pack.


Anonymous said...

LA serves the same function for NFL owners and league officials as Ahmandinejad does for the Bush Administration -- utility boogieman. The Great Untapped Resource, the monster media market just panting to squat and blow the first franchise that gives us a wink. As a threat to muncipalities who don't necessarily want to get into the Skybox-building business every decade or so, LA is much scarier than Fresno or Helena, and if we ever did accept an NFL team, the owners would have a collective pants-peeing episode.

But we won't. Local billionaires have tried and failed for fifteen years to build a new stadium, and they've all run aground on the same shoal: parking. Any new facility would have to be built in Exposition Park (there were plans to use a retired gravel quarry in Irwindale, but none of the billionaires seemed too enthusiastic about that idea). Unfortunately, that's where the Coliseum sits, which they can't tear down, because it's a landmark, and if they built an adjacent stadium, there would be no place for fans to park.

No NFL owner would agree to occupy the Coliseum again, since it's so old and low-tech, although soccer fans seem to have no problem with it. But we've gone without football for so long that the toxins and cravings have worked their way out of our system, and we find ourselves wondering what the big deal was to begin with. Oh sure, the cold turkey symptoms were tough at first, but now we look at some city trying to buy the love of its local franchise the same way we regard smokers spending their coffee break puffing miserably in a doorway in the rain. So this is the rare situation in which everyone gets what they want: The NFL robber barons get their leverage, we get our smug on.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Oooo! I remember this one! Sounds very reminiscent of the Rogering that Bud Selig gave us here in Milwaukee.

AND we got it from the other end to build it with a Way-Cool HiTech moveable roof that almost immediately broke.

Not to mention that now that the debt is nearly retired, it turns out that the plumbing is substandard and has been discharging directly into the Menomonee River. So the talk is of continuing the regional sales tax to pay for repairs, maintenance, and other pet projects of the ruling class in Madison.

Got any of that lube to spare?

Anonymous said...

My old home town of Cleveland knows this drill, and the Browns still suck.

Happily, here in Boston the new owners decided Fenway was just fine, thanks, and have begun to squeeze every dime out of the place, to good effect. They paid through the nose for Dice-K, and a seat 40 rows behind 3rd base is $80, but the kind folks who gave me the ticket happily paid the price.

Riley, you get better every day. Watch out when fame comes your way!

Anonymous said...

Can I still be your Official Stalker when you get famous? Or are you going to throw me over when you have better options?

Anonymous said...

Let me just add to Scott C's remarks:

We won't build it because we won't pay for it. We've already been "Al Davised." It was uncomfortable and made us ashamed afterwards. And, really, anyone who can make us feel vaguely fondly nostalgic about Georgia Rosenbloom must be a terrible, evil person.

No, we won't be getting any NFL team any time soon because we won't make a nice, cushy deal. There's gonna have to be at least three more iterations of the biennial "Why Is There No Football in L.A.?" expose article before we get fooled again.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, to be from a mid-sized city, which regularly gets to be threatened with a royal screwing-over by the big money types, as rightful payment for the privilege of being screwed over by the big money types.

Oh, wait, I'm from Pittsburgh. Never mind.

Nice work, Mr. Riley.

Anonymous said...

Well, y'all are smarter than us, anyway. We built new stadia, next door to each other, for our football and baseball teams. And then we renovated the arena where our basketball team plays, but they're still making "New building!" noises.

Pathetically, we vote on all this crap, and it gets paid for by a combination of local sales taxes, "tourist taxes", and lottery funds.

The sense of shame has not yet sunk in. I keep waiting...