Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It's Hard to Swallow Realignment Reasons from Spin Doctors

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It's Hard to Swallow Realignment Reasons from Spin Doctors

Article excerpt

Byline: John Oehser, Times-Union sports writer

Before we get to today's topic, which is how naive NFL owners believe the rest of us to be, let's clarify one thing.

As far as the NFL goes, there is no more smoothly run operation going in sports.

The NFL owners gathered this week outside Chicago, and did something in less than a morning's work that three decades ago took three days and nights of red-eye meetings and millions in payoffs. They realigned into eight divisions so easily that they turned a potentially divisive issue -- forcing teams to change divisions -- into a feel-good, one-for-all, all-for-one happening in which no owner so much as cast a dissenting vote.

This from the same league that boasts labor peace, a functioning salary cap, parity and the ability for small-market teams to compete in a big-market game.

Al Davis aside, who wouldn't want to be an NFL owner these days?

But one thing was disturbing from the meetings: the spin owners put on the realignment thing, and the so-called concessions made to the owners -- and to a lesser degree, the fans -- of teams that had to change divisions.

The spin was a team such as the Jaguars may have had to move divisions, may have had to lose rivals such as Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and may not have gotten a new coveted rival such as Miami, but there was good news: There is a real good chance the displaced teams will play their old division rivals in Year One of the new alignment, 2002, and more than that, there is also a real good chance of maintaining rivalries such as Jaguars-Dolphins, Cardinals-Cowboys, Seahawks and just about everyone from the AFC West in the preseason.

The preseason.

Honestly, when the owners disassembled from the Tuesday morning meeting and faced the notebooks and cameras, they talked of this as a valid compromise, talked with straight faces. …

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