Until Wednesday, Sipe quarterbacked the New Jersey Generals, in the Donald Trump Football League, where the motto is: In for a dime, in for a zillion.
Then Doug Flutie showed up in training camp, and sometime between "Hut-One" and "Hut-Two" Sipe became just another carryout bag in the food chain of life; he was traded to the elegantly understated Jacksonville Bulls. Vaya con Dios. Don't forget to write.
That's how it goes in the DTFL. Here today, gone today.
Flutie couldn't have taken more than five snaps before the Generals decided he'd won the starting job. If he's that impressive just ducking under center, I shudder to think what might happen when he actually hands the ball off.
Funny thing is, when Flutie was introduced at a press conference on Tuesday in New York, Walt Michaels -- who is allegedly the Generals' head coach -- huffed and puffed about how "the idea is not to put him in there until he's ready." Trump, the boy builder, promised that "it's up to Walt" when -- and if -- Flutie takes over. Even Flutie was given a line to say: "I'm going to be on the bench as long as I deserve to be."
Then, 24 hours later, after being informed that there was no longer any Mr. B. Sipe on the roster, Michaels saluted the commandant and told the press, "We have a quarterback we feel is ready to go."
It had to be Flutie; Sipe was already gone.
Who's kidding whom? If the Generals' first nationally televised game was set for noon today, Flutie would have been ready by breakfast.
This "up to Walt" stuff was a tap dance.
Walt could either hand Flutie the job. Or Walt could sell shoes.
I base that on the number of zeros on the check Trump is signing.
Flutie is being paid $1.4 million a year -- more than any rookie in any sport ever -- to salvage a league and force a merger. Signing Flutie isn't about winning a few football games. They're battles. Signing Flutie is about winning a war. If the boy builder thought it could get done by sitting on a bench, he'd have signed Warren Burger.
Maybe Flutie shouldn't play right away. Maybe he should be brought along slowly. Those like the boy builder, who publicly compare Flutie to Joe Namath, who say Flutie's star quality is equivalent to Namath's and, therefore, all things are possible, ought to remember that Namath did not start his first season with the Jets, but backed up someone named Mike Taliaferro. I guarantee you that right now Sipe is a better pro quarterback than Flutie; Sipe was in the Pro Bowl a few years ago, and the boy builder paid him $600,000 a year.
But ready or not, here comes Flutie.
Because Trump is in the Now or Never mode.
The Donald Trump Football League has this spring left on its ABC contract. In 1986, when the DTFL switches to fall -- after a full year hibernation -- it faces the alarming possibility of not being on commercial television.
No TV, no league.
More carryout. Would you like it in a box, or in a bag?
So, the boy builder does what he has to do to keep his league -- and his dream of absorption into the NFL -- afloat: he signs the most electric, most captivating college football player there is, firmly plants him in the country's largest TV market, puts him on ABC as much as the law allows and crosses his fingers.
How many times have you seen Flutie throw The Pass against Miami?
Surreal, isn't it?
Wouldn't you like to see Flutie do it again?
That's what Trump is betting on.
Sonny Werblin, who called the tune we all dance to by signing Namath to the AFL Jets, says, "We live in the star system. Whoever has the stars has the best league." (College Park has the Stars, but I doubt that's what Sonny meant.) The DTFL has some big-name young talent: Herschel Walker, Steve Young, Mike Rozier, Jim Kelly, Kelvin Bryant, Marcus Dupree. But so far the public hasn't responded at the gate with the kind of numbers necessary to make the NFL wince. If Flutie can create a groundswell of interest in the Generals, and therefore the DTFL, the boy builder can go to the networks, and therefore Pete Rozelle, with more than just blue smoke and mirrors. Fannies in the seats are the Trump cards.
The boy builder probably doesn't care how many DTFL teams get in -- as long as DT himself does. You don't have to be Martin Feldstein to figure this out: even if the baby mogul loses $30 million in the DTFL, if his team gets absorbed into the NFL, where franchises are easily worth $70 million, he would have bought in at white sale prices. That's the best case scenario.
The worst case scenarios go like this: either Flutie isn't a particularly good pro quarterback, and his hype exceeds his help, or, even if he is, the Generals wind up just like the Cosmos, the dominant team in a shadowy league, which nobody cares about. Box, or bag?.
They're ready to roll, sports fans.
The Generals wear red, and Flutie wears 22; that's the boy builder's play on the wheel.
It's not up to Walt.