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ATLANTA -- GEORGIA FRONTIERE WAS FEELING FLUSH. Her team had just won the Super Bowl. She walked up to one of the postgame-interview podiums in the bowels of the Georgia Dome -- named for the state, not her -- and hugged her coach, Dick Vermeil. As Vermeil returned to the locker room, Frontiere stepped down from the podium but dallied before leaving, answering questions from a few reporters huddled near her holding out tape recorders.
Asked to name the one thing that most made this moment possible, Georgia said she couldn't name any one thing. Pressed on the issue, she replied:
"The most important thing is that man upstairs."
"Call him "God'... whatever."
Whoever is responsible, somewhere along the line Frontiere figures she did the right thing. After all, she won. Big-time. Earlier, at the presentation of the Lombardi Trophy, Frontiere wanted to make that clear to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, telling him the win proved she did the right thing by moving the team to St. Louis. She obviously wanted to bury the hatchet, right in Tagliabue's head, over the league's opposing her move and sticking her with a $29 million relocation fee they didn't put on NFL public enemy No. 1, Raiders owner Al Davis.
Frontiere reiterated to the six or so reporters around her that the Rams could not have won it all this year if they hadn't moved to St. Louis. But she denied, then retracted the denial, that it had to do with money.
"It has nothing to do with the revenue," Frontiere said, then quickly righted herself. "Well, of course it does, because you can afford to pay players more. But it's the ability of fans to come to the stadium on a Sunday or a Monday or whenever the game is. It's the ability for them to leave home, leave their television when they could easily stay and watch it. They come personally and root for us. That's the 12th man on the team. Years ago, when we had the Colts, it was the same thing -- the Colts fans were the best thing in the world, in Baltimore, I mean; they were incredible," Georgia enthused, harking back to the days when Rosenbloom owned the Colts before he swapped them for the LA Rams. "Never had that in Los Angeles."
What Frontiere also didn't have in Los Angeles was a goodly share of parking revenues, advertising-signage revenues, a top-of-the-line training facility and a bargain-basement fee for the use of a new domed stadium. The sale of permanent seat licenses (PSLs) to fans brought in $74 million, which was divvied up with $26 million to pay the Rams' debt to the city of Anaheim, $13 million to pay for relocation costs, $10 million to pay part of the relocation fee to the NFL and the rest going to settle ancillary costs and cover legal fees. That $74 million was given up by pigskin-crazed fans and doesn't include the $720 million taxpayers will pay over the next 30 years to pay off the Dome's mortgage. Bringing up all these nagging details, though, seems a bit much in the midst of the Rams-induced euphoria. But beneath the surface of the frenzied stupor that is the Super Bowl, some harsh realities brew.
Al Davis, role model
After the game Sunday night, back at the media bunker at the downtown headquarters hotel, the Hyatt Regency, Frank Cooney of the Pro Sports Xchange was sticking up for Georgia -- the woman, not the state. Owners should be allowed to do what they want, he said, including moving their teams when they want to.
Cooney, whose business provides information to sports Web sites, was about to go to an invitation-only postgame party when he defended Frontiere's happy feet when it came to finding a home. Cooney pointed to someone else, other than "that man upstairs," as someone who helped pave the way for both Frontiere and Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams, two owners who moved their teams to new markets and then ended up in the Super Bowl. For these two, Cooney's role model is Al "Just Win, Baby" Davis, owner of the Oakland-then-Los Angeles-then-Oakland-again Raiders.
"Al Davis actually created free agency for owners so they can take advantage of this ability to move, which is a constitutional right, which can't be dictated by the NFL and shouldn't be," said Cooney, whose business is based in San Francisco. "The irony is that all these people who were negative against Davis and continue to be, including other owners, have benefited financially and competitively. These two teams are an example of that."
Although NFL commissioner Tagliabue spent much of Super Bowl week downplaying the importance of the peripatetic histories of Bud and Georgia and claiming the league had taken corrective measures to ensure that other teams won't move or blackmail cities for new stadiums, Cooney wasn't buying it: "More teams will either move or get new stadiums based on this, going all the way back to Al Davis winning his case."