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Why export MLB teams when nation's capital awaits?

By HUBERT MIZELL, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 1, 2002


Too bad Bud Selig doesn't have the commissioner courage, ample sporting common sense or the old Bowie Kuhn for the good of baseball mentality, prodding him to tell Orioles proprietor Peter Angelos to keep his overbearing carcass in Baltimore and forget the nonsensical idea that he owns not only Maryland but also Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Through all the testy years of Tampa Bay's clawing to get a major-league franchise, I became a bit of a civic campaigner, suggesting not only that a team would thrive on Florida's west coast but also that Washington, having twice lost ballclubs called Senators, did not merit a chance for strike three.

Now ... geographical correctness.

I confess, I have been off base about some things. We're still awaiting high life from the Devil Rays and, in my new life as a Virginian, the facts and principles on D.C.'s behalf are being efficiently and constantly implanted in my hardball head.

It's time for another election. While the Rays, with Lou Piniella coming home as manager, merit an extended American League opportunity, boss Selig's struggling sport -- burdened with troubled operations, the Expos most notable -- would benefit mightily by a 21st century recasting in Washington.

Notice, my term is Washington, not northern Virginia, which has the population and wealth but no viable plot or thrust. I am charmed by the latest D.C. initiative, featuring plans for a 41,000-seat nation's capital stadium in the sweet, modern baseball architectural spirit of Pac Bell, Coors and (yes) Camden Yards mode.

This captivating, nationalistic site would allow a backdrop of the Capitol dome and Library of Congress. It is within a few dozen steps of two Metro subway stations, making the locale easily commutable from all D.C. "burbs." It could recharge a neighborhood, as great ballparks often do.

But instead of telling Angelos to mute his blockade of any Washington-area MLB franchise, Selig opts for the desperate Expos, who have zero chance of succeeding in Montreal, playing 22 regular-season games in Puerto Rico next summer.

San Juan, with an out-of-date stadium seating barely more than 20,000, is a predictable farce. Consider the travel complexities. Compare the demographics to the nation's capital. Selig needs to bump his noggin on reality, rebounding from screwball gimmicks to do the right thing, allowing American League baseball to continue in Baltimore while being complemented by a National League deal in D.C.

* * *

WOULDN'T YOU LOVE IT?: If the BCS mafia decided this sweet Sunday to make the college football world a better place, discarding its computerized 1-2 hogwash, here's what you could anticipate in 2002 national championship quarterfinals ...

In the Cotton Bowl, Miami vs. Oklahoma. In the Gator Bowl, Ohio State vs. Notre Dame. In the Citrus Bowl, Kansas State vs. Southern California. In the Outback Bowl, Iowa vs. Georgia.

BCS, indeed.

Next, as America roared with excitement, would be the semifinals. In the Rose Bowl, the Hurricanes-Sooners winner meeting the Wildcats-Trojans survivor. In the Orange Bowl, we would have the Buckeyes-Irish winner against the Hawkeyes or Bulldogs.

Then the final in the Fiesta Bowl.

Put this to a vote of public, coaches or players and I would bet my lovely house that the MBS (Mizell Bowl System) would be chosen in a smiling landslide over the Baloney Bowl System.

You know I'm right.

* * *

SAPP SLAP: E-mail from Taylor Cone Cooke of Tampa fumes, "Having been encouraged to follow the Bucs by my late father in the '70s, going through a lot of horrible seasons, the huge win over Green Bay last Sunday was so delightful until Warren Sapp again exposed his absence of class.

"Sapp did take a cheap shot. Greed, glory hogging and football desire are clearly dominant in his soul, but not sportsmanship or humanity. (Green Bay coach) Mike Sherman was right in his anger because No. 99 is a colossal human embarrassment.

"I'm proud to be a fan of Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Brad Johnson, Mike Alstott, Ronde Barber and most every other Buc, but it sours me to know Sapp is part of my team. Around the area, many of us have heard ugly stories of Warren's rude, vulgar public ways, even in the presence of adoring but sickeningly rebuffed children.

"Maybe this obnoxious clod will be in the Hall of Fame, but as a role model Sapp belongs in the Hall of Shame. When did he do anything, beyond football, for the Tampa Bay community? He is a vibrant force on the field, showing some imposing leadership, but on the street Sapp is a snake when it comes to class and conscience.

"Do the coaches and owners care?"

HUBERT'S REPLY: There was extreme care on former coach Tony Dungy's part, taking on Sapp the man as a project, knowing well Sapp attitudes that triggered dozens of unhappy communiques to the Bucs office. But as long as No. 99 stays out of legal trouble and his football presence is desired, there seems a limit to what can be done.

* * *

Whatever happened to Errict Rhett?

-- To contact Hubert Mizell, e-mail him at mmizell02@earthlink.net or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA 22958.

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