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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO

To NFL, La-La Land Looks Like Never-Never Land

January 15, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

There are 17.6 billion reasons the NFL is in no hurry to return to Los Angeles.

That's the number of dollars four networks committed to pay the NFL for television rights through the 2005 season.

Whatever happened to the notion that the networks would insist on a team in the L.A. area, the nation's No. 2 market, before negotiating new contracts?

"Those critics who said the NFL needs L.A. or that L.A. needs the NFL should take note of the extraordinary contracts just completed without a team in L.A.," Peter O'Malley said Wednesday.

The L.A. Factor wasn't one, even for the two networks that do extensive business here, Fox and Disney.

When it comes to acquiring an NFL franchise, it's clearer than ever that it's a seller's market. If Los Angeles is interested in buying, it must do a better job of selling itself to the NFL.

It can do that only by presenting a unified front at the NFL owners' meetings in March.

"The sooner the city resolves the stadium site issue, everyone will benefit," O'Malley said."

I suggested a couple of months ago that L.A. Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who wants to be mayor, should take the lead by exploring other options besides the one in his district, the Coliseum.

I forgot Los Angeles already has a mayor. That was easy to do during the arena controversy because Richard Riordan, appropriately, excused himself to avoid a conflict of interest. He has a restaurant near the new arena site.

In this case, there is no reason for him to be on the sideline. The L.A. Business Journal reported recently that Riordan still favors the Coliseum but would consider alternatives, such as Dodger Stadium or South Park, if he found they have a better chance to attract an NFL team.

Such leadership from the mayor is long overdue, although it might be too late to impress NFL owners. Paraphrasing Lily Tomlin's old joke about the phone company, they're too rich to care.

*

Assist-gate? . . .

A member of the Clipper stat crew, who didn't want to be identified, called to defend himself and his colleagues. . . .

He was angered by Laker spokesman John Black's charges that Nick Van Exel was shortchanged on assists Friday night at the Sports Arena. . . .

He said the Clipper stat crew goes by the book. . . .

That, according to Deep Throat, is in contrast to the Lakers. . . .

He said they are one of three NBA teams, along with Vancouver and Cleveland, notorious for encouraging their stat crews to parcel out cheap assists to their players. . . .

"Absolutely not true," Black said. . . .

Black acknowledged he has called to correct mistakes by the statisticians, pointing out that his vantage point at courtside is better than their "bird's-eye view" with Chick Hearn in the hockey press box. . . .

"That's a crazy issue," Black said. "Of course, I have changed stats when they've gotten them wrong." . . .

Looking for a Kentucky Derby longshot? . . .

Trainer Wally Dollase likes his Prosperous Bid, scheduled for a maiden race Sunday at Santa Anita. . . .

Wayne Lukas says he's still seeking an owner who will name one of his top horses for late Times sport columnist Allan Malamud. . . .

"Mud Route" is a good name, especially in an El Nino winter. . . .

But it's already taken by a horse running Saturday at Santa Anita against Silver Charm and Lord Grillo. . . .

Gordon Del Faro, a former longtime California boxing commissioner, died last weekend. His funeral will be Saturday at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills. . . .

The Martin Luther King Challenge on Monday at Pauley Pavilion features the state championship basketball game you won't see. . . .

Division I Westchester meets Division II Compton Dominguez at 6:30 p.m. . . .

The NFL Experience opens Friday in San Diego. . . .

Test your skills in punting, passing, kicking, play calling and negotiating TV contracts. . . .

Stat of the Day: Channel 7 sportscaster Todd Donoho, figuring that each NFL team is worth about $200 million, says the networks could have paid about $6 billion and bought the whole league. . . .

Keyshawn Johnson is among NFL players appearing next week on "Wheel of Fortune." . . .

Vanna, just give him a damn vowel.

*

While wondering if anyone besides Barry Switzer believes George Seifert isn't a candidate for the Cowboy job, I was thinking: Switzer would still have the job if he knew anything, UCLA won't lose by 48 at Stanford, Chinese athletes should have stuck with turtle blood and caterpillar fungus.

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