South Florida Sun Sentinel from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on April 1, 2004 · 42
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South Florida Sun Sentinel from Fort Lauderdale, Florida · 42

Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Issue Date:
Thursday, April 1, 2004
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6C Thursday, April i, 2004 NWS SPORTS SgjJTHFlgRIPA NFL MEETINGS NOTEBOOK i 9 ,.. - b .'iy.H'-v- ' I Iwtftr' "i- 'i --1 nfli.riir r""iftjrr-irf iiiiiitrTirtirrritffWa illitilWiinuiliirrriiilH Inn. niiiiiiwiirriliiBll iHHiinmpinwiiii imi jimmum imn.iinniP irrrnin7lf 1 1 i If TIMES TO REMEMBER: Ravens owner Art Modell, being honored with his wife in Baltimore this past January, took heat for moving the Browns from Cleveland but "enjoyed every second" of his 43-year run. Baltimore Sun file photo It's a tough job . . . But does the thrill of victory make up for the headaches? NFL owners say yes. By Ethan J.Skolnick and Sarah talalay S T A F F W K I T (: K S palm beach Here sat a man who had been called every name in the book, and not a book appropriate for children. A man so reviled in Cleveland that he hasn't shown his face there since moving the Browns to Baltimore. A man who still wouldn't have done anything else with his life. "I enjoyed my 43-year run," Art Modell told reporters Monday at the NFL Owners Meetings at the Breakers, a few hours after peers honored the outgoing Ravens owner for his service to the game. "I enjoyed it for my children, I enjoyed it for my grandchildren. I enjoyed every second of it." What's not to enjoy, you say, about being an NFL owner?Joiningafew handfuls of men and women ultimately responsible for a football team's fortunes, sharing the fruits of a well-run league, using it as a platform to promote other businesses, sitting in ritzy boxes and schmoozing with elite athletes, wearing a warmup jacket everywhere at age 74 (see Al Davis) , wowing reporters with your tired jokes, wielding power over executives and coaches, benefiting from franchise appreciation and getting to be the biggest of big shots? More than you might guess. Start with this: you have less control over the bottom line (wins and losses) than in other businesses. And little, short of taking a political oath of office, puts you so squarely in the public's glare as buying a team. Many owners privately admit the negative publicity is bothersome and even hurtful, to themselves and their families. But it is unavoidable, unless the team wins every game and pleases every fan. "If we went 10-6 every year and lost in the first round of the playoffs, then that's not success," the Broncos' Pat Bowlen said. Finally, while football owners generally fare better financially than other sports owners, the year-to-year profit margins still pale compared to the other endeavors of these captains of industry. So this question was posed to those mingling and meeting and noshing and drinking before trickling out of town Wednesday: Why own? "Competition," Modell said. "It's Sunday at l o'clock. Monday at 9 o'clock. Saturday at 2 o'clock. All the games we play. I didn't sell my home and my businesses in New York and move to Cleveland because I liked Lake Erie. No, I did it because I wanted to be in professional sports. Or I moved from Cleveland to Baltimore because I like crabcakes? I can't stand crabcakes." "For the love of the game," Bowlen said. "Obviously, a lot of us could sell our teams, take the money and invest it in something else and make a lot more money. Some people would look at it like, why the hell would I want to pay that much for a football team and get significantly less in return? But I think it's a very exciting business to be in." Dolphins owner H.'Wayne Huizenga made much of his fortune in garbage. But he has tired of getting trashed about the way he has run his teams, clear again when he called a sports talk show Wednesday to make his case. Asked Monday why he owns teams, Huizenga laughed, and asked the questioner if he could think of a good reason. Then he came up with this: "It keeps the adrenaline moving," he said. "It's the competitiveness of the business, that just makes you want to win, want to get out there and make it happen. I'm not just talking about myself. Entrepreneurs in general, they're competitive guys, they want to make something happen." Ego? Sure. It's not enough to own a luxury vehicle like a sports franchise. You have to prove you can drive yours the fastest. Arthur Blank bought the Falcons in 200 1 because he's a "competitor" who "wanted to give back to the "Competition. If s Sunday at 1 o'clock. Monday at 9 o'clock. Saturday at 2 o'clock. All the games we play. I didn't sell my home and my businesses in New York and move to Cleveland because I liked Lake Erie. No, I did it because I wanted to be in professional sports." community." But he also saw a troubled franchise, with frequent TV blackouts and few playoff appearances. "So there were a variety of things I thought I could bring as far as my skill set," Blank said. "You do get very, very competitive," Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said. "And not a lot gets said on the day of the game between owners." This competitiveness transcends the NFL's collective, almost socialistic approach. "There's no other industry like it," Modell says. "We are propping up our competition to beat them on Sunday. No other business does that. Can you imagine Macy's sending over some inventory on shirts because you are low on shirts?" Or Home Depot sending extra wood to Lowe's? Blank ran the nation's second-largest retailer, but has found it tougher to be covered on the sports page than the business page, and answering to ticket-holders trickier than appeasing shareholders. He even took out a full-page ad to apologize to fans for the Falcons' performance. "Obviously, Home Depot is a very successful company, a very public, public company," Blank said. "Having said that, it was nowhere near as public as the National Football League. So that aspect is really very different. It takes a little getting used to. You have to be prepared to be on stage, and understand that comes with the territory. It's not difficult if you're always honest, speak your mind, try to be clear about your position on things, think of who you are serving, your fans, your players and coaching staff, front office, etc." Lurie, a self-described "football fanatic" and film producer who bought into the Eagles a decade ago, said "thick skin" and strong principles are requirements, because "you've sometimes art Modell got to make decisions that are unpopular but are the best to create winning teams." "It's a very visible operation," Pittsburgh's Dan Rooney says. "That bothers different people. Sometimes something's written that you just don't think is right or fair, but that's part of the deal." So is trying to treat the team like a public and in Rooney's case family trust. He says that's what makes it "different than just being with AT&T." He doesn't use the term "owner," deeming his responsibility to be closer to a guardian, passing the franchise to his son as his father passed it to him, " hoping the family represents "Pittsburgh in the National Football League to the best of our ability," with a goal of winning while operating "with integrity and character." While the Rooneys have enjoyed relatively good press, Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell has been widely mocked for his frugal ways, running a franchise that's been part of his family for seven decades. . Monday, he talked about being "in that little club of sorts" for as long as he can remember. "I enjoy football very much, I played it in high school, I enjoy watching and I enjoy being around the team," Bidwell said. "I'm very comfortable with people, they are really nice, and I don't think I've had anyone approach me on the street for years that would be anything other than pleasant and ' saying good luck." Of the scrutiny, he said: "I've learned to live with that, too." That's one part of life as an owner. Then there's what owners live for. "You get very passionate," Lurie said. "It's not like selling shoes. You wake up and go to work, very passionate, what can we do today that might give us an advantage? And that's kind of cool." Players' antics maybecostlyl By Michael Cunningham STAFF WRITER . palm beach NFLplayers who engage in choreographed group celebrations or use props next season will be penalized 15 yards under rules adopted by owners at the annual meeting Wednesday. The vote comes after wide receivers Joe Horn of New Orleans and Chad Johnson of Cincinnati used props for elaborate touchdown celebrations last season. Horn pretended to talk into a cellular phone he retrieved from a goalpost standard, and Johnson dug a sign from the snow that pleaded for the league not to fine him. Both players were fined, two of the 6 1 total fines the league levied for excessive celebration in 2003, according to Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, co-chairman of the competition committee. That's up from 18 such fines in 2002 and four in 200 1 , Fisher said. Now similar celebrations can result in 15-yard penalties along with a fine. The league said it is addressing the matter in part because the NCAA and a national high school sports association expressed concern that the players' antics were seeping into their games. The vote for the new rule was 3 1 -1 , with the Raiders dissenting. Props are not allowed, and if they are "foreign, extraneous or hard objects," the player can be ejected from the game, Fisher said. Mike Pereira, NFL senior director of officiating, said a rule banning such objects already was in place, after wide receiver Terrell Owens pulled a marker from his sock and signed a football after a touchdown in 2002. Pereira said Horn should have been ejected for having the phone on the playing field. Group celebrations that are judged to be spontaneous or individual celebrations that are choreographed still will be allowed as long as they don't progress to the point of taunting. Also, choreographed group celebrations are allowed in the team area on the sideline. "We are not trying to take the fun out of the game," Pereira said. The penalty for excessive celebration will be for unsportsmanlike conduct. If the penalty comes after a touchdown, it will be enforced on the ensuing kickoff. JOB SEARCHES EXTENDED The other major rule change involves interviewing for head-coaching and executive front-office positions during the playoffs. Owners extended the five-day period for interviewing candidates on playoff teams to seven days or the conclusion of the wild-card round, and included executives in the policy for the first time. The policy comes after Patriots assistants Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weiss said at the Super Bowl in January that not being able to interview for a longer period during the playoffs hurt their chances at becoming head coaches. Larry Kennan, president of the NFL Coaches Association, said Norv Turner in 1994 was the last assistant coach from a Super Bowl team to become a head coach in the following season. Turner was named Redskins coach soon after guiding the Cowboys' offense to the Super Bowl. . Kennan had hoped the competition committee would recommend that interviews alo be allowed the week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, btit that wasn't on the agenda this year. Kennan said he's alio concerned that lower-level assistants are being signed -to long-term contracts and given no chance to interview for coordinator jobs with other teams. , "It is partly our fault," Kennan said. "We should have told them that if they want to be coordinators, they should sign one-year contracts. Now teams are asking them to sign long-term contracts. That does two things for them: locks coacji-es in, and it is cheaper." MINOR CHANGES Owners also adopted four other rules changes: The size of practice squads from was increased from five to eight players. i Head coaches or any player, not just the captains, can call a timeout. u A punt or missed field goal that goes into the end zone untouched by the receiving team or touches a kicking team player in the end zone is immediately ruled a dead ball. There were slight changes to the rules on free kicks, fair catches and personal fouls. ' RULES WITH EMPHASIS 4 The NFL's competition coiti-mittee each year creates "points of emphasis" for rules that are already on the books. This year, game officials will be watching closely and penalizing defenders for grabbing wide receivers. ' Fisher said passing yardage was at an 1 1-year low last season at 202 yards per game. "The coaches said their No. 1 concern is illegal contact, defensive holding, and they want to get it cleaned up," Fishfcr said. "We've gotten lenient over the years." Pereira said other points of emphasis would include false starts, blocking in the back dn punts and kickoffs, and determining fumbles for wide receivers that are going to the ground or turning upfield after a catch. j Game officials will go to each team training camp thjs summer and show a video demonstrating the points fof emphasis. The Dolphins' defensive backs play an aggressive style, but General Manager Rick Spielman said the sessions with officials should allow players to learn the limits, j "When the officials come into training camp, they da & good job of explaining of what is and isn't allowed," he said.;' NFL NETWORK GAMES? NFL Commissioner Paul Ta-gliabue said the 5-month-old NFL Network could televise games in the future but that it wouldn't be likely to happen in the next television contract. The current eight-year, $ 1 7.6 billion deal expires after the 2005 season, and the league is about to start negotiations on a new one. The Associated Press contributed to this story. 'I Michael Cunningham can be reached at mrcunninghamsun- I m Heat Notebook Scheduling quirk with Bucks puts Heat at a disadvantage BY IRA WINDERMAN STAKI; WRITER Atlanta Generally, strength of schedule is not a factor when discussing NBA playoff races. You play 41 at home, 4 Ion the road. But should the Heat wind up in a playoff tiebreaker with the Milwaukee Bucks, Stan Van Gundy's team would have a legitimate gripe about the composition of its schedule. Unlike most Eastern Conference rivals, the Heat and Bucks were scheduled for only three meetings this season, instead of four. Further, Milwaukee was given the additional home game. The home team won each of the three meetings, giving the Bucks the head-to-head advantage, the first tiebreaker. "It's unfortunate maybe," Van Gundy said before Wednesday's game against the At lanta Hawks at Philips Arena, "but it is just the way things go." The confusing part is that while the league only sched uled the Heat for three meet ings with Milwaukee, it scheduled it for five against New Jersey. "That I have not understood," Van Gundy said. "You understand it's going to be a little bit unbalanced on the schedule, but when you're already not playing everybody four times, why you would play one team five times is beyond me." Actually, NBA Vice President Matt Winick explained Wednesday that for each team to be guaranteed four games within its division, and with the Central Division having eight teams and the Atlantic seven, a five-game series must be scheduled between two Atlantic rivals. This season's Heat-Nets series is the league's only five-game series. Winick said with the league expanding to 30 teams and six five-team divisions in 2004-05, there would be no five-game series beyond this season. Winick said certain confer ence rivals would continue to play three-game series under the new alignment. Next season, for example, the Heat will play two games at home and two games on the road against every conference rival but Boston, New Jersey, Cleveland and Detroit. The Nets and Pistons will visit only once to AmericanAir-lines Arena in 2004-05, while the Heat will make only one visit apiece to Boston and Cleveland. WOODS ACTIVATED With center Wang Zhl-Zhl in Los Angeles to be with his wife as they await the birth of a child, the Heat activated center Loren Woods and moved Wang to the injured list with what it listed as a toe ailment. Already without power forward Malik Allen, whose left knee took the brunt of a fall by 300-pound Bulls center Eddy Curry on Tuesday, Van Gundy felt he needed to augment his power rotation.

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