The Los Angeles Whatevers, likened to an expansion franchise by owner Ken Behring, are off to a chaotic, confusing and almost circuslike start.
And for Walt Disney Co. conspiracy theorists, who believe the Mouse will one day run this team, there is this titillating piece of information: The attorney who is representing Behring in his lawsuit to free the Seahawks to leave Seattle is also the attorney for Michael Ovitz, Disney president, and the same attorney charged by the Rose Bowl recently to secure an NFL team.
Strange, strange day. While Anaheim city officials had a key-to-the-city-like greeting planned for Behring on Monday, including a news conference and walk-through of Rams Park, Behring was in Los Angeles meeting with Mayor Richard Riordan and John Ferraro, president of the Los Angeles City Council.
As for that six-month exclusive window of opportunity Anaheim officials said they had to convince Behring to settle permanently there, well, forget it. Apparently, it was all a misunderstanding.
"It's a natural mistake," Behring said. "When we started talking about the Rams' practice facility, Anaheim said it would like us to give them some consideration whenever we started looking for a permanent site, and they said we could have the practice facility for six months without paying.
"That changed, though. We said we were going to pay as we go, so we don't lead anyone on one way or the other."
Fact is, however, Riordan had the first exclusive opportunity to chat with Behring upon his arrival in the Southland.
"I was direct and clear with Mr. Behring," Riordan said in a news release. "We let him know that Los Angeles is serious about having a pro team in Los Angeles--a team that will be here with a total commitment . . . sharing our name is not something we take lightly.
"I liked hearing the Seahawks owners express their long-term goal of developing a facility in the Los Angeles community."
Semantics. Riordan heard Behring talking about Los Angeles, and Behring said he talked about the Los Angeles area, which includes Orange County.
"I haven't had the opportunity to talk to anybody so I can't rule anyone out," Behring said. "We want to look at all the sites, and we'll be looking to see how long it will take to develop them. We sure don't want something that will take five to seven years."
Behring said he expects to sign a one-year lease with attached option years for Rams Park today, although the Magnolia School Board failed to approve such a deal at a Monday night hearing. Another hearing will be conducted tonight.
Behring said he has opened negotiations with the Rose Bowl, and he will tour the facility today. He has no plans to visit Anaheim.
That's bad news for Pete Leroy, 30, who arrived at Rams Park looking for work with the new franchise at 9 a.m., and stood waiting for more than six hours in the hope of getting the attention of a team official. He held a sign that read: "Looking For NFL Dream Job."
"What funner job could there be than working for a pro football team?" Leroy said. "Opportunities like this don't come around too often. It's worth putting a day in here and wearing a suit and everything."
Two fans, meanwhile, still dressed in their best Raider outfits, waited to welcome the "Anaheim Seahawks" with a self-made sign along with a crowd of TV camera crews and reporters.
As each car approached the gate on Polk Avenue, the camera crews went into action--just in case it was Behring or his son, David, in the vehicle. "Is that him?" was the most often-repeated cry of the day. By day's end, however, the media had nothing more than pictures of workers painting over Georgia Frontiere's name on her former parking place.
City officials sneaked two Seahawk officials into Rams Park via the Dad Miller Golf Course to discuss paint and carpet for the new team. The sneaky visitors were later identified as John Loar and Lisa Behring, the wife of the owner's son.
Although the team hasn't done much to embrace area football fans, Behring will make himself available today for selected media interviews as arranged by an outside public relations firm.
"It's been a little overwhelming for us," Behring said. "We're trying to deal with so many things, but we're here because this is where we intend to play."
There were reports in Seattle that negotiations were still being conducted between Behring and King County officials to sell the Seahawks. Behring said one of the officials asked that a line of communication be maintained, but there will be no further talk about him selling the team.
"My son wants to spend the rest of his life in football, and that's why I am in this," he said. "If my intention was to sell, I could have done that while I was there.