Let's see, the income-tax refund will be in deep double figures, the ancient station wagon should fetch a few hundred and the loose change that keeps clanging about in the dryer ought to do it. Think I'll buy me a United States Football League franchise.

I've got just the location. The league wants to cultivate smaller areas for its expansion teams, where there will be less competition for professional football from the other traditional spring sports. My town, Chestnut Level, Pa., population 47, would be ideal.

Chestnut Level is the only place on earth where God got everything right. Of course, the team would play its home games in the suburbs, very likely on the softball field across from Wenger's farm-equipment dealership in The Buck (as in don't pass it).

The Chestnut Levelers would be the jock juggernaut of them all. They would knock the Stars out of Philly, make fools out of the Gold, declaw the Panthers and . . . Aw, wake up and dream right. Face facts. George Allen would find a way to foil it.

And he'd be right.

Outdoors, Allen and I sometimes agree on whether the sun is shining. But little else, except that the USFL expanding is about the dumb-foolest notion ever to hit the athletic pike.

The little league that has blindsided the mighty NFL in several areas already, but essentially remains minor, will grow by as many as 12 teams for the 1984 season, we're told.

"I would not put any limit on it," said Commissioner Chet Simmons. "This league could grow by eight or 10 teams very quickly."

Snorted Allen even before expansion talks officially began at an April 7 meeting in Chicago: "I don't want my team broken up after one season by an expansion player pool."


Having been quite close to football's mountaintop, victory in the Super Bowl, Allen is more than qualified as a judge of players and teams. And if he brags that a USFL team will be the equal of any in the NFL in five years, he knows few are more than decent just now.

Allen isn't even certain the USFL game is useful. Too long, he frets.

"With 40 or 50 passes per game," he has said, "the clock is stopping too much. It might be we have to implement a rule that would keep the clock going after the incomplete pass."

Too many ordinary passers is the problem. Or receivers. Or blockers.

Fans are enchanted with passes, so long as more than half of them get completed. Nothing is more thrilling than a sophisticated passing game; nothing is more boring than sorry one.

Part of Allen's mind might have been fogged in when he offered that suggestion. It surely was when he commented, in the New York Times the other day, about lagging attendance in the USFL after a spectacular start.

According to the Times, Allen suggested the problem was nothing compared to one he faced at a previous coaching job.

"We had to literally give away tickets to get fans out," he said.

And the team?

The Washington Redskins.

Ah, George, that was draft choices you gave away. Not tickets. Except for exhibitions, the Redskins sold out every game long before you arrived. And, incredibly, they have continued to sell out every regular-season game long after you left.

On another matter, expansion, Philadelphia Stars owner Myles Tanenbaum said of Allen: "George is a very loud voice that never gets listened to."

When he speaks sense, instead of nonsense, he merits attention.

The league just now is puttering along about as expected. Teams that drafted wisely, if not glamorously, are at the top. Herschel Walker's slow start could be viewed as a plus for the league, an indication it really does feature decent defenses.

If the NFL stays relatively cheap, in relation to the other team sports, the USFL should improve. Such as Dan Fouts may jump. Or some glittering draftee who waits to be chosen by the older league and finds it pays much less than the younger one.

"I think we can stock future clubs by such means as the territorial draft, preferential treatment in the regular draft and territorial treatment of NFL free agents," said Allen's boss with the Blitz, Dr. Ted Diethrich. "That way, we don't have to raid existing rosters and nobody gets hurt."

In truth, everybody gets hurt.

The existing 12 teams get hurt because they don't have a chance to improve very much; the new teams--and the league--get hurt, because thoughtful customers realize a product can be diluted only so much before it loses all its appeal.

If the USFL does expand, I just might change dreams. Ownership is risky, after all, even with the tax writeoffs. Hell, at 41, after two knee operations, I could play in that league.