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THE INSIDE TRACK | Morning Briefing

NFL Attempts to Catch Buyers in Its Web

November 20, 2000|MAL FLORENCE

Linda Casey lives in Albany, N.Y., with three football fanatics she refers to as her husband, Patrick, a New York Giant fan, and sons, Matthew and Sean, who cheer for the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.

Casey says she hates shopping to begin with, and was left tired and frustrated by the lack of NFL merchandise available for out-of-town teams at local stores.

The NFL has taken notice of such potential customers, and is selling them licensed merchandise for out-of-town teams through the Internet and catalogs. So far, the league has increased sales three-fold to $35 million from about $10 million last year, and said much of that has come from the Internet.

"There was a time when these displaced fans didn't count; if you couldn't get it at the local Wal-Mart, you were out of luck," said David Cope, co-owner of Gilco Sports & Entertainment in Bethesda, Md. "Now, the league is running an all-out blitz to find these customers and drive their sales."

The NFL has mailed out eight million catalogs with more than 15,000 items this year, and has redesigned its Web site, hoping to make it easier for customers to shop on-line.

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Trivia time: When did USC last beat UCLA and Notre Dame in the same season?

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Keyshawn the key: Gary Myers in the New York Daily News, on New York Jet quarterback Vinny Testaverde:

"Everybody is searching for an answer why Testaverde is reverting to an interception machine from his days with the Bucs and Browns-Ravens. Is it Bill Parcells leaving? Is it the year off following the Achilles injury? Has he hit the wall as a quarterback at 37?

"The answer: Vinny misses Keyshawn [Johnson].

" 'He was a big-time player,' Testaverde said. 'If guys were covered, there was a chance to throw the ball up to him, throw it high and it would be caught or incomplete because he'd fight and he wouldn't let anybody catch the ball but himself.' "

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Worn welcome mat: Receiver/returner Tony Gaiter has been released and re-signed by one team more than any player in NFL history.

Gaiter was re-signed to the New England Patriots' practice squad for the eighth time Thursday. He has been cut seven times by New England since the club drafted him in the sixth round in 1997 from Miami.

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Whatever you say: Charles Oakley of the Toronto Raptors: "I can't really respect a lot of these young players because, you know, I'm 36 years old and they're 22 and I'm still locking them up on a regular basis.

"That just shows you it's all about hype."

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Trivia answer: 1981, when the Trojans defeated the Irish, 14-7, and UCLA, 22-21.

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And finally: Woody Paige of the Denver Post, explaining the cost required to be a college football zealot:

"I spent $23.90 for two pay-per-view college football doubleheaders, $16 for Cheetos, and a box of hot dogs and buns, a box of Oreos, a six-pack of Dr Pepper and $49.95 for a blender.

"All in order to watch 19--yes, 19--college games on TV and listen to Notre Dame-Rutgers on radio."

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