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'Can I interest you in a late-model dome?'

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By GARY SHELTON

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 27, 2001


News item: In an attempt to salvage the entire NFL playoff schedule, the NFL has begun negotiations with the National Automobile Dealers Association to exchange dates with them, freeing up enough hotel space in New Orleans so the Super Bowl can be moved back a week until Feb. 3. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue plans to meet with NADA president Phil Brady for further discussions.

The way it might be. . .

In the stillness of the afternoon, a man walks around the Louisiana Superdome. From time to time, he will gaze up at it. Every now and then, he will kick a pillar.

After a few minutes, the front door opens, and another man hurries toward him. He grins broadly. He sticks his palm out widely.

"Afternoon," he says.

"Hi," the first man says.

"She's a beaut, isn't she?" says the second man, looking at the dome.

"Uh-huh," mumbles the first, reaching forward and rubbing a patch of graffiti on the wall. Archie Rules, it says.

"I'm Paul Tagliabue," the second man says, stepping a little closer. "I'm from the NFL."

"Hmmm," says the first. "I'm Phil Brady. I'm the president of NADA."

"NASA?"

"No, the National Automobile Dealers Association."

"Oh, right. So, have you guys been shopping long? I can put you behind the wheel of this baby in nothing flat."

"Well, I'm just looking, you know."

"Service, Phil. You need to think about service. Other leagues may talk about service, but in the NFL, we're the kings of service."

"Well, I'm sure you're very good. ... "

"Why don't we go for a test drive, Phil? Wait till you see the way she handles."

"I'm sure it's a fine dome. I just don't want to rush into anything."

"I understand. Take your time. But I gotta tell you, this baby isn't going to last long."

"Really? It looks kind of old."

"Old? It's a classic. Look at those lines. Look at that headroom. This is a genuine, 1975 deluxe edition. Low miles, too. It's been driven by one owner, the Saints, and they never do anything in the playoffs."

"Really?"

"Phil, look at this face. Wouldn't you buy a used dome from this man?"

"Well, Paul, let me tell you. It isn't just the dome. It's the whole town that I'm interested in."

"That's great! Look, I like you, and I can make you a deal on a convention center. We can provide financing, too, if you need it."

"Have anything sportier?"

"Ha! A little midlife crisis, Phil? I understand. Tell you what. You know that bar on Bourbon Street where the legs stick out? I'll throw that in. All the jambalaya you can eat. Do we have a deal? Come on, now. Shake my hand, Phil. Be my friend, Phil."

"I don't know. I really was just shopping today."

"Phil, I see what you're saying. Tell you what, call me crazy, but we'll take that Feb. 3 week you've got as a trade in, and we'll make you a deal on New Orleans for the week of Jan. 27th. And we'll throw in the undercoating and dealer prep. How's that?"

"I don't know. We kind of like the week of Feb. 3. For one thing, I have reservations at Commander's Palace. Do you know how hard they are to get?"

"Phil baby, you're killing me. Just think. If you wait until Feb. 3, all the beignets are going to be gone. You don't want to come in here after the Super Bowl when the place is slap out of crawfish and all the strippers are tired. You want to be here before. Right? Besides, it's New Orleans. Your guys are going to be so drunk, they won't know what week it is."

"Paul, I don't know. We have all the rooms ready, and our flights are booked."

"Phil, you're an American, right? I'm an American. Well, America needs the Super Bowl moved back a week."

"Why?"

"Why?"

"Yeah, why? Why not just eliminate the first round of wild cards? Why worry so much about four 9-7 football teams?"

"Phil, listen to me. The beauty of the NFL is that anyone could make it. The Chargers! The Bengals! Michael Jordan! Besides, it isn't just about the teams that make it. It's about the fans in all those cities that are close, teams that are 7-8 going into the final week of the season but still have a mathematical chance at the playoffs. It's about hope. It's about dreams. It's also about the $70-million or so the league will make."

"Come on, Paul. You guys could move the game to Los Angeles or Tampa Bay or Miami. Heck, wait two weeks and play the game in Salt Lake as the opening ceremony to the Olympics, I don't care."

"Phil . . . you drive a hard bargain. Look, I'm going to have to take this to my owners, but how about if we throw in financing. You know, like $10-million to take care of the changes you'll need."

"Gee ... that would help. What would the payments work out to be?"

"That's the beauty, Phil. We're talking lump sum. And being the commissioner, I'll cut my own commission to throw in a set of white walls."

"Well, it's not a bad offer, Paul. I mean, my car dealers like football, too. It's just that . . ."

"Come on, Phil. Talk to me. Tell me, what do I have to do to close this deal?"

"Well, Paul. I like the dome, and I like the deal. There's just one more thing I want."

"Yeah?"

"Do you have any tickets?"

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