Inside the Capitol

Saturday, March 25, 2006

3-29 NFL?

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Oh, c'mon. Get serious. Gov. Bill Richardson has a lot of explaining to do to New Mexicans.
The governor wants to spend $400,000 to examine the feasibility of bringing a National Football League franchise to New Mexico. For two cents, most New Mexicans can tell you that's about as feasible as Terrell Owens being the answer to Dallas Cowboy woes.
Despite Gov. Richardson's lack of success in attracting even a preseason NFL game to New Mexico, somehow he thinks he can get the whole enchilada here.
What do we have to offer? Certainly not population. We are beaten badly there by many metropolitan areas, led by Los Angeles, which supports two major league baseball and basketball teams, but which has no NFL franchise.
Is it Industries to buy those expensive skyboxes? New Mexico ranks close to the bottom in industrialization. Our two biggest are government contractors.
Is it disposable personal income to buy those expensive seats game after game? No, New Mexicans are down near the bottom in that category too.
Is it football mania? Many of us follow the NFL avidly, but we don't have traditions like Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas or Alabama, none of which have NFL franchises yet. Our colleges have small stadiums, by NFL standards, and have trouble filling them.
So we must think on a regional basis, like the Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots. But even that doesn't do it, So Gov. Richardson is looking internationally, at Mexico.
Our southern neighbor is surprisingly turned on to the NFL. They have no trouble attracting preseason games to their huge soccer arenas. But will those fans travel all the way to Albuquerque eight times a year to watch a U.S.-Mexico team play?
That's what Albuquerque is hoping, because it contributed $100,000 to the feasibility study. But how do you get buy-in from Mexico for an Albuquerque franchise?
Maybe the team could be named the New Mexico Chihuahuas. The Santa Fe New Mexican suggests the Chihuahuan Desert Yappers, since that geographical area overlaps the two nations, as we've learned from the battle over drilling Otero Mesa.
Or maybe we could call ourselves Nuevo Mexico and further confuse the rest of the nation about whether we are one of the 50 states.
But Mexican participation is much more likely if the team were to be based, say, in Sunland Park, on the border. The site also borders the state to the east, which is not mentioned in this quest, although El Paso's population and business community would be crucial to success.
One idea is to play games all over the area, including in Mexico. That gets the buy-in, but it also makes every game a road game, which the New Orleans Saints can tell us is no fun.
What sort of NFL owners would want to move their team into such a situation? Only small-market teams desperate enough to gamble on an even smaller market, with problems yet unsolved by anyone else.
Arizona has never been pleased with its Cardinals, which fled St Louis and never have done well in the desert. Ask most fans, and they'll tell you they just as soon the Cards continue to fare poorly enough that they will have to move and hopefully make room for a better team.
Any team New Mexico would get would either be an expansion team or a perennial loser. How much support will they get from a crowd that doesn't support the Lobos very well when they are winning?
Richardson admits New Mexico isn't ready for the NFL at this time, but he's looking five years down the road and wants to be positioned for the future, including stadiums and a financial package. We're already building a spaceport, for which all conditions appear right. Let's not get ahead of ourselves on this, Bill.
Sorry I can't support you. Guess it's the vision thing.

WED, 3-29-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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