I’m going to admit up front this is a “BIG IDEA.” Even for Mobile — already an electric swirl of maritime museums, cruise ship terminals and soccer/aquatic complexes — this idea has moxie. It’s the kind of thing that would make former mayor Mike Dow’s mustache twitch.
Frankly I’ve been swept up in the glut of all these other big ideas and wanted to put forth one of my own. And I’m not talking about one of the faux big ideas like moving the airport downtown, building a racetrack in Prichard or having high speed ferries carry drunk drivers across the bay at nearly 20 knots. Those fake big ideas had their days in the sun, but it’s time for a new BIG IDEA for Mobile to get behind — and it’s a doozy if I do say so myself.
You may wonder why if I’ve got such a great dadburned idea why I’ve held it back until now. Or you may be wondering where “Peanuts” is in this newspaper. If it’s the latter of the two, you’re reading the wrong newspaper.
The reason for waiting until now is simple — the NFL is in town and they have to get behind this idea. That’s right, I’m proposing the National Football League award an expansion team to Mobile.
I know your minds are totally blown aren’t they? You probably thought I was going to suggest making the cruise terminal the world’s largest Cracker Barrel — which isn’t a bad idea if you like carved items and super dry country fried steak — but you have to admit this came at you like a linebacker off the blind side.
Think about it, Mobile has everything an NFL franchise needs for success, other than an insane local billionaire to own it, a state-of-the-art stadium and a huge population base. But we do have enough people to fill a stadium if 50 percent of the population bought season tickets, we have roads, we love football and we have plenty of dance clubs where NFL players could get in trouble. When you line up all the things we do have, they clearly outnumber the things we don’t have, at least in sheer number, if not in importance.
I got this great idea after hitting my head on the sink yesterday, then reading where the NFL has been talking about putting a team in Los Angeles once again, ignoring the fact those people have already lost at least two franchises and are too high to care. They clearly aren’t interested in professional football. We are. We’re even interested in pee wee football. If any people deserve a pro football team, it’s us.
I’m sure naysayers of the kind I usually admire are going to quickly say, “Nay!” and ridicule this idea as being more “DUMB” than “BIG.” They would probably be quick to ask where the money for such a project would come from. I know I would. Here’s the genius part of this whole plan. We pay for this BIG IDEA by taking money from the other not-so-big BIG IDEAS.
For instance, scoop up the $40 million or so for this soccer/aquatic thing and throw that into getting the stadium going.
Build the stadium on top of the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum and make it so people have to go through the museum to get to the game. BAM! Attendance at the museum is immediately through the roof and the stadium suddenly has one of the coolest locations in the NFL, right along our working port. Plus it’ll mean the museum actually has to open.
Now let’s generate some real money. Incorporate one of the on ramps to the I-10 bridge over the Mobile River in the stadium design and — BINGO! — suddenly we’re tapping into those hundreds of millions in federal highway funds and you know those guys don’t keep track of that stuff at all. Skim a little from other areas of the bridge — make it a little shorter, or get rid of the bike paths and bungee platforms — and move that money into the stadium. Cut back on a couple of support pilings, there’s no need for all that load bearing. It’s overkill.
Almost there. To close the rest of the funding gap all we have to do is transfer the money saved by ignoring the ridiculous idea of moving the Mobile airport down to Brookley. Just ballparking it, that would save $500 million.
Yes I’m aware no one in authority is actually championing that idea and no money has actually been set aside for it, but that’s just a technicality. We’re calling it a savings anyway and moving that money over to the stadium. (I’m a proud graduate of the Fred Richardson School of Accounting.)
So now we have our stadium. We’ll bypass the crazy billionaire too. Just have the city own the team like Green Bay does. If we need an insane figurehead to serve as a focal point for our anger when the team does poorly, I say we hire either a Harbaugh Brother or Ryan Brother to run the show. Coach/GM sounds about right. The Ryan with the crazy hair seems like a really good fit, is funny to watch and will probably drink a lot in the local bars, but the Harbaugh boys actually win games. Tough choice.
Now we need to build enthusiasm, and what better way than with a catchy team name? For alliteration, Mobile MoonPies is nice, but no one is scared of a snack cake and the MoonPies are from Chattanooga, so no dice there. Something that pays homage to our port might be nice. The Portlies? The Portsmen? The Cargo Haulers (uniforms with cargo pants might be cool)?
OK, those all stink on ice. Moving on.
There are some other obvious ones — Hurricanes (asking for trouble), Pelicans (goofy), Rednecks (asking for trouble), Jubilee (too much explaining), Tarpon (none left) and Yellow Fever (tough mascot) jump to mind. In the end I say we go with Oystermen. Who’s tougher than an oysterman? Nobody. And it would lend itself to some interesting cheerleading outfit designs using the shells. Move over Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.
So with the NFL honchos in town this week I figured this was my chance to either make an impassioned plea for them to give Mobile a franchise, or to write 1,000 words explaining why Dez Bryant’s catch was good, three steps and a lunge IS a football move and the Cowboys should be going to the Super Bowl. You lucked out.
Face it Roger Goodell, the only L.A. you should be considering is Lower Alabama. Let the flakes out in Southern California watch soccer matches and make the next BIG IDEA an NFL team in Mobile, or at least pitch in on this giant Cracker Barrel thing.
The Gadfly by Laura Rasmussen
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