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Bo Sells Tickets in K.C. : 'Welcome Home' Is Nearly Sold Out

December 08, 1987|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

Nobody has ever played a big league game in both halves of Kansas City's sports complex, and nobody was expected to, but that was before Bo Jackson.

Next Sunday, Jackson will become the first. The left fielder from Royals Stadium will become a tailback at Arrowhead, but of course, not for the home team this time.

Arrowhead is almost sold out, which will mean a crowd twice the size of what the 2-10 Chiefs have been getting.

Why are Kansas City fans coming, to praise Bo or to bury him?

Is this to be a reenactment of his debut as a Royal-Raider, when they showered him with toy footballs?

If they give him a hard time, might it not chase him to Los Angeles on a permanent basis?

"We're kind of at loggerheads," said Ed Bieler, a talk-show host on KCMO Monday. Bieler was known as Superfan when he was working in Los Angeles.

"Half of the people, maybe 60% will be booing him. Forty percent are going to be cheering like crazy for him.

"Of course, the old-line baseball fans, the Royals' fans, they feel like he's walked out on the Royals. That when he announced (he'd sign a football contract, too), he destroyed the Royals' season.

"But at the same time, for a 2-10 team, there's going to be 70,000 people there. That's got to tell you something about Jackson."

George Brett, the Royal who winters in El Segundo, has visited Jackson at practice and was in the locker room after Sunday's game. Brett has called the Kansas City fans unfair and asked for a more hospitable greeting.

Are there other similar pleas being heard in Kansas City?

Don't the fans worry that they might hound Jackson out of town?

In two words, apparently, no and no.

"People kind of feel he's his own guy," Bieler said. "He had that sign on his locker, 'I don't want to talk about football.' Then all of a sudden, he goes to the Raiders. What he says has no relation to the fact.

"Do people here think he's as good as gone? Yeah. I get calls now saying, 'If he does come back to spring training with the Royals, they ought to assign him to Omaha.'

"What are the chances of a sellout? If we had Dino Hackett and some other linebackers who could hit available, I think you'd see a sellout. I think people kind of want to see him knocked around a little bit."

KCMO happens to be the Chiefs' radio outlet, and Bieler has never exactly ducked a controversy.

Nevertheless, his isn't a minority viewpoint.

"I would say the general feeling in Kansas City is anti-Bo," said Gib Twyman, a columnist for the Kansas City Star. "It didn't just start when he started scoring touchdowns and ran for 200 yards. It all started when he signed with Oakland--I mean L.A. (Laughing,) We can't get away from that here.

"If he had signed with any team but the Raiders (the Raider-Chief rivalry goes back to the beginning of the American Football League), I don't think you'd be hearing this.

"Kansas City is not what you'd term a reactive place. This isn't a place like Philadelphia. Whatever we do, we're kind of mild-mannered Midwesterners. For Kansas City, the reaction after he signed was strong. And it continued apace for the rest of the year.

"But I think there are a lot of people here with a grudging admiration for him. A lot of people said it couldn't be done and he's done it.

"But the other side (playing baseball) still has to be done. Of course, now he's going to have a lot of people coming up to him saying, 'You have to play football.' That's the No. 1 tipoff with Bo. He'll come right back to baseball."

Jackson's own stated position is that he eventually will give up one sport and that it will be football. The Raiders are hoping--silently--for a change of heart.

After Sunday's 494-yard Raider explosion, following the 507-yard game in Seattle, Coach Tom Flores was asked if he wasn't concerned about the possible unavailability of the hub of it all.

"I don't think about it," Flores said.

Jackson said he's looking forward to going back.

"I'm just going to go there and have fun," he said. "And duck baseballs."

The comeback that started a week late:

Are the Raiders to become this year's Seahawks, the AFC team that rolled over everyone late last season but put it together too late to make the playoffs?

"You think about it," Flores said Monday. "We're playing very well. We played well Monday night (at Seattle). We played well against a team (Buffalo) that had just shut out the Dolphins. For the Raiders, it's a case of the rally that started a week late."

At this point, it seems almost impossible for the Raiders to make the playoffs, even if they win their last three games to finish at 8-7.

Denver can finish no worse than 8-6-1.

San Diego can finish no worse than 8-7, and swept the Raiders, which is the first tie-breaker.

The Seahawks need only one victory to finish 8-7. The teams split the season series, but Seattle has better division and conference records than the Raiders.

There are now three 7-5 teams in the AFC East. The Raiders would have to overhaul both the teams that miss the division title to get a wild-card berth.

Raider Notes

First hint that the Raiders may be planning to re-sign Marc Wilson: Tom Flores says, "Marc is doing very well and I want to continue that (this season). . . . I think Marc is playing with a lot of confidence now. He shows it and you can tell." But isn't his contract about to expire? "Well, a lot of contracts expire," Flores said. "You just have to go out and renegotiate them and sign them."

Flores said that cornerbacks Sam Seale and Ron Fellows, who started in place of the injured Mike Haynes and Lionel Washington, did well. He didn't seem to be right up on Lester Hayes' projected comeback. "I don't know," Flores said. "I haven't talked to the medical people." And on Jim Plunkett: "At this point, I can't see that we'll activate him."

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