Sophisticated fans may know what the Buffalo All-Americans, Akron Pros, Dayton Triangles, Chicago Staleys, Rock Island Independents, Rochester Jeffersons and Columbus Panhandles have in common: they were more than half the National Football League in its first season.
Other trivial pursuers may be able to snap off the fact that the Pittsburgh Ironmen, St. Louis Bombers and Toronto Huskies were charter franchises in the National Basketball Association -- and that Providence won the pennant and Troy finished last in the National League in 1879.
Possibly, the Supreme Court justices know that there once were Falcons in Detroit, Celts in Cincinnati, Marines in Minnesota, Redskins in Sheboygan and that the first Caps in Washington played basketball. Without being quite hooked on sport, the justices certainly realized that teams have been hopping from city to city for scores of years.
Maybe that is why the Supreme Court this week refused to consider the 27 other NFL owners' arguments against Al Davis being allowed to up and move his Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles two years ago, on his whim and without their consent. Clear as clipping, the justices may have reasoned. Even newspaper stiffs rarely admitted to bars, let alone the bar, know it's against the law for a man not to be able to choose his place of business.
But nearly every other important way the NFL operates also has been declared illegal by some court sometime within the last decade or so. Then the draft and the way teams had to be compensated for a player simply deciding he wanted to work elsewhere were okayed in collective bargaining. Because you cannot legislate brains, half the teams would be bankrupt if incompetence were not rewarded.
What the Supreme Court did not do may very well be correct; it's also unfair, encouraging owners in every pro sport to strong-arm towns even harder than they already do. It looks here as though the justices have lateraled the ball of justice to Congress. Let's hope a law gets passed -- and soon -- that says the only way a franchise can skip town, without proof of nonsupport, is for the league to replace it.
The state of pro sport now defies logical thought. A player cannot move freely from one team to another; an entire team can move from one town to another without so much as a legal thumbtack being tossed in front of the van. Teams get compensated for losing players; towns don't get compensated for losing teams.
Only in 1984.
Congress can all but glimpse out the window to see why teams must be tethered to towns: the enormous white elephant called RFK Stadium. It was built at public expense about a quarter-century ago to house public pleasures, major league baseball and football. When the Senators skipped away the first time, baseball did right by Washington and created an expansion franchise; the second time, it left us holding the mortgage. Even mostly empty stadiums must be paid for.
Now, batting helmet in hand, we must beg baseball to return a franchise it never should have allowed to relocate in the first place. The brazen buzzards who pick cities clean and then move on should be grabbed by their greedy throats and choked into saying: "We'll stop."
The Dodgers dash to Los Angeles; the Braves slink to Atlanta; the Senators slip off to Minnesota and Texas; the Rams bolt to Anaheim; the Raiders run to L.A., followed quickly by the Clippers. And so on. And so on. The ultimate in athletic arrogance is a franchise in New Jersey calling itself "The New York Football Giants." As though it had anything to do with New York -- and the baseball Giants hadn't moved cross-country 27 years ago.
On Dec. 2, the New York Giants will play the New York Jets on the field both use in Jersey. The Giants will be the visitors.
With the exception of Abe Pollin and a few others, owners of pro teams get their playpens financed at public expense. Many pay either a nominal fee or rent based on attendance. Cities with dreadful teams but without long-term leases surely are quivering more than ever.
Most leases are drawn in good faith. The idea is that they will be rewritten based on the economy rather than used as both a carrot and a pistol. A couple of Roberts, Short and Irsay, dangled expiring leases in front of cities panting for a franchise; at the same time, they tried to hold up Baltimore and Washington for sweetheart extensions.
Al Davis is the smartest man in the NFL, not necessarily the greediest. Whatever the rules, he and his team still would beat the brains out of most of other NFL bozos. On the field and off. Many of his colleagues may be angered that only Davis had the nerve and wisdom to tackle a whole league and its considerable allies in important places. And win, baby.
Still, Davis seems the sort you wouldn't walk off the first tee with unless that $2 nassau were notarized. The Raiders hardly left women and children starving in Oakland, but the precedent of a team being permitted to walk out on a town that had supported it more than generously is an intolerable one. Give some of these guys 40 acres and a mule and they'll soon demand the county.