GOING TO TAMPA? THE TUNA THERE SMELLS FISHY.
The impending marriage between soon-to-be-Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seems like it was made in heaven—the same place where the Drew Barrymore–Tom Green union was forged. Tampa Bay owner Malcolm Glazer, who strong-armed the city of Tampa into building him a stadium that even the mayor fought against, has all the ethics of Jerry Jones, with none of the charisma or football savvy. Throughout the clumsy courtship, Glazer denied all contact with Parcells, then dismissed coach Tony Dungy in the middle of the night by announcing it on the team’s Web site. Parcells is no better than Glazer. He lobbied for Dungy’s job through Keyshawn Johnson, considered a major ethical breach in the coaches’ code of honor. And local football fans remember that he left his last three franchises—the Giants, the Patriots, and the Jets—with about as much warning as Tom Cruise gave Nicole Kidman. With Dungy’s departure, the two most successful black coaches in NFL history will have been dismissed within two weeks. Before Dungy’s arrival, the Buccaneers posted a .307 winning percentage, won 10 games in a season once, and made three playoff appearances in 20 seasons. During Dungy’s five-year tenure, Tampa Bay had a .563 regular-season winning percentage, made four playoff appearances, and won 10 or more games three times, as well as its first NFC Central title in 18 years. Minnesota’s Dennis Green, forced out earlier this season by Viking owner Red McCombs, posted a 97-62 record with the Vikings for a .610 winning percentage, better than Parcells’s .584 career mark. “We’re good enough to play the game, but we aren’t smart enough to coach it? That’s what it appears to me,” says former Jet linebacker Bryan Cox. “Does that qualify as racist or what? Hell, yeah.” But if first prize is working for the likes of Glazer or McCombs, maybe it’s time to bring on the lovely parting gifts.
THE HOUSE THAT RUTHLESSNESS WANTS BUILT
With the city tabs wrapped up in panic over Rudy‘s escape-clause going-away gift to the Mets and Yanks—only the Times noted, with classic Times-ian understatement, that “many observers believe that the owner George Steinbrenner would never really leave the lucrative New York media market”—a possible portent of battles to come showed up in the trailing grafs of a Wednesday Post story. After noting that Mike Bloomberg had raised the dreaded R-word, renovation, the Post‘s Kirsten Danis reported that an unnamed “Bronx Bomber official” said renovating Yankee Stadium would cost a staggering $1 billion. According to the Deep Throat of River Avenue: “It’s got serious structural situations in there, and to really upgrade it, you’ve really got to start from scratch.”
Those with actual names attached told a different story. Yankee Designated Spokesman Howard Rubinstein insisted he knew nothing of any studies of renovation costs, saying, “I haven’t dealt with that question,” and referring us to deputy-mayor-turned-Yankee-prez Randy Levine; Levine wouldn’t speak on the record and referred us back to Rubinstein. Meanwhile, Dick Blinder of Beyer Blinder Belle, which designed Freddy Ferrer‘s 1998 renovation plan (estimated cost: $189 million), retorted, “That’s a ridiculous statement, in my judgment. What it would cost depends on what their goals and objectives are. Is their objective to have an unlimited number of skyboxes? Is their objective to put a domed stadium on the site?”
If history is any guide, maybe so. Let’s hop in the way-back machine to 1987, when the Detroit Tigers were insisting that an engineering study had showed it would cost a then staggering $100 million to fix up Tiger Stadium, and wouldn’t it be cheaper just to build a new one? Unfortunately for Los Tigres, a reporter for the Detroit News dug up the actual study, which showed that repairs would cost just $6 million, much of which was for an upgraded public address system. The $100 million figure? The projected cost of adding a roof.
THE GOOD BURGERS OF NEW YORK WELCOME YOU!
New Yankee David Wells‘s response to George Steinbrenner’s surprise contract offer? “I almost wet my pants,” announced the still-goateed southpaw at his inaugural press conference—and them’s big pants. Despite his fondness for hogs, Hooters, and Howard Stern, we welcome the return of the portly prodigal, who’s sure to breathe some life into the Yanks’ staid clubhouse. Will he crash Andy Pettitte and Mike Stanton‘s pre-game Bible-study group? (“No, David, Jesus didn’t serve beer at the Last Supper.”) Or help Mike Mussina fill in the Times crossword? (“No, David, the answer to 6 Down isn’t BOOMERWUZHERE.”) A bit worryingly, though, Wells’s reacquisition ups the team’s Fat Guy Quotient—a stat strangely omitted from Bill James‘s New Historical Abstract—to 0.24. In the past, New York’s answer to El Guapo, a vocal fan of the postprandial Snickers bar, has been hampered by gout (twice), heart palpitations, and, just last year, season-ending back surgery. But if Wells can stay healthy, the man with more killer instinct (and post-season wins) than Roger Clemens is going to be worth his weight in gold. We’re wetting our pants already.
Contributors: Allen St. John, Neil DeMause, J. Yeh Sports Editor: Ward Harkavy