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Out in the lobby, Jay Mariotti was blabbing on the One-on-One sports-radio network, which on its display board, behind the mikes, advertised its claim of 425 affiliates and 13 million listeners. The caller's comments could not be heard, only Mariotti's reactions. He was not big on this Super Bowl: "Of my 16 years covering Super Bowls, this year's has the least buzz of any of them. The Chicago Tribune sent seven people here. I wonder what the hell they're writing about. When you get here, it's all been written about already." Of course, Jay didn't add that it's all been talked about already, too. To someone who must have been a caller from Houston, he responded, "So you're still following the team ... but Bud Adams ... these owners try to blackmail cities.... You should have seen Bud today -- he looked like a Claymation figure."
A change of venueTennessee Titans/Houston Oilers owner Adams looks like a bad caricature of an NFL owner. When he speaks, he confirms that perception. Adams played meet-the-press with the assembled horde of media types on Thursday, keeping his overcoat and scarf on during the 45-minute session, apparently in case he wanted to make a hasty exit. Adams' press availability was unlike that of Rams owner Frontiere, who kept a low profile, allowing much more limited access. In the Friday edition of USA Today, a "cover story" penned by Jill Lieber revealed that the only meat that Frontiere eats is fish (and that therefore she's a piscatarian), that both of Frontiere's children by former Rams owner Rosenbloom were born before he divorced his first wife and that Frontiere says the marriage between her and Dominic Frontiere was "never consummated." Imagine the possible follow-up questions on those topics if she had held a press conference. Maybe it makes sense Frontiere allowed limited access.
Bud -- aging, chubby Houston oilman that he is -- did not fail to amuse or enlighten, however inadvertently. He had bad memories of Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane but only referred to him as "the baseball guy." He slammed the attorney who handled the suit filed to keep the Oilers from moving, recalling that his big legal success came from a suit against the makers of silicone breast implants. "The city of Houston tried to keep me down there," said Adams. "They hired a lawyer, John O'Quinn. You know what his fame was -- he was the boob-job expert. He got about $100 million out of that. So I did something I didn't want to do. I sued the mayor; I sued the city of Houston; I sued the county, who really owned the Astrodome. I sued the Astrodome USA, who was the landlord. That made me a real hero in Houston."
Adams, using a term normally reserved for criminal matters, said, "It was a change of venue to get in a new stadium.... We got a new practice facility, state-of-the-art. The press room at the stadium holds 550 people. Tagliabue said a lot of people came down and saw our stadium and said it was the best one that's been built. I said, "It better be, Tag -- it's the last one to be built.' I'm sure there'll be better ones built. Philadelphia's is going to get a new stadium, and they're building one in Pittsburgh."
Adams, who still lives in Houston, was asked whether the Houston public treated him like a pariah.
"The press treats me like that. But the fans, I don't have problem. I'm not afraid to walk around anywhere in town. They say, "Hi, Bud.' Some of the young people there don't know that much about me or the Oiler days," said Adams. "When you've been in this thing as long as I have, you recognize the power of the press. You're not going to defeat them. I busted one in the jaw, back in '62. I'd had all the crap out him that I wanted. But it's no good that way. I'm too old now to be doing that. Hey, it's the First Amendment -- everybody can say what they want to say."
A mention of the good old days, when he and Lamar Hunt out of Dallas formed the American Football League, triggered fond, if politically incorrect, memories: "We set new guidelines on how you signed players. Whatever they wanted, I'd listen to it -- whether it was cattle, or girls, or money, or cars. That was the way you could do things back then. You can't do that now. You have to get everything in the contract; back then you didn't have to have it in the contract."
Adams, who once almost moved the Oilers to Jacksonville, Fla., said he believes the NFL has learned its lesson and that the league will help the major markets build new stadiums or renovate old ones. He doesn't think any moves are in the offing. He did say his move happened because he played in a small stadium and that he wasn't getting enough of the revenue streams from signage, concessions and parking. And, he said, after he left, "the baseball guy" got what he wanted and the new NFL-franchise owner in Houston will get his wish fulfilled:
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