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saintz08 10-24-2005 11:17 PM

Just incase you have forgotten
Behring straits - Seattle Seahawks owner Ken Behring
Sporting News, The, March 25, 1996 by Paul Attner

I am attending the annual NFL meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. I see football men everywhere -- coaches, general managers, scouts -- but footballs is not my concern. Instead, I am listening to a gentleman in a fancy suit discussing earthquake wallpaper.

He is talking about wrapping columns of Seattle's Kingdome in fiberglass, then wrapping the fiberglass in a high-tech wallpaper. Someone asks what style, floral? There is laughter.

I want to talk to a football man. But the NFL is not about football anymore. (One idea before the league is to hold a football-only meeting annually, just to remind everyone why the NFL exists.) It is about Art Modell kidnapping the Browns to Baltimore and Tennessee romancing the Oilers and Al Davis filing yet another lawsuit. It is about all this and it is about earthquakes and the Sea-hawks moving to Los Angeles and about an owner, Ken Behring, using seismic studies to attempt to squirm out of the final 10 year of his lease so he can move to the promised land of southern California and romp with Mickey Mouse in a sports-fantasy world planned near Disneyland.

That is why I am listening to earthquake experts instead of football men. I hear these experts tell me all kinds of information about fault lines and complex studies. I hear them interpret their reports one way and Behring and his side interpret those reports another way. I think: Say what?

Earthquakes are serious business. But it is hard not to chuckle at some of this. The experts representing the Kingdome met with a group of owners last Wednesday and put up a map of the United States showing all the fault lines running through the country. Guess what? The map illustrated the obvious: The Los Angeles area has four times the earthquake problems compared to Seattle. And here is Behring claiming he wants to move his franchise because he is worried that the Kingdome may not withstand a huge earthquake. Of course, we all would pick L.A. as an alternative site to relieve our concern about having a stadium full of people when the Big One hits.

Behring's lawyers presented their case to the same owners 24 hours earlier and to say his peers didn't buy his argument brings new meaning to the word understatement. There were reports of snickering in the room and edgy exchanges between Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the Behring people, particularly when Tagliabue wondered why the Mariners hadn't voiced similar concerns, considering they are inside the Kingdome a lot more than the Seahawks every year.

"It's like me saying that my east stands (at Mile High Stadium) are falling down so I want to leave," Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen says. 49ers President Carmen Policy, whose team is scheduled to play an August exhibition game in the Kingdome, says, "If we play the game, I'll be there. And I will bring my family." As he talks, Policy is doing his best to hide a smirk.

"They are treating (Behring) pretty rough," says Davis, no stranger to an NFL cold shoulder. But Davis is a barrel of chuckles, too. He has filed a suit in which he still claims he has possession of the Los Angeles territory, even though he abandoned it before last season to return to Oakland. So he wants compensation if Behring takes up residence in southern California. That Al, what a card.

Still, it's apparent Behring's act flopped big-time at the meetings. Bills Owner Ralph Wilson had heard enough. "We need to take a stand sometime (about franchise free agency) and this should be that time," he says. What about court? "Let's fight it out."

I am still thinking about the owners' laughter when I am told Behring, for the first time, is seriously considering selling the Seahawks, something he had vowed he would never do. But being treated the fool is not a pleasant experience. If your peers aren't looking at you seriously, what's the sense of staying in the club?

The prospective new owner is the incredibly rich Paul Allen, a Seattle resident and Microsoft co-founder who owns the Portland Trail Blazers. Allen's representatives say their boss wants to make a decision by the end of this month, before the start of Behring's court battles over his departure. Everyone agrees on one thing: Allen's bid is the only one being considered at this juncture.

This was the state of pro football in Seattle until recently: If you picked up the phone and dialed the Seahawks' main number, you got a recording: Thank you for calling but to contact anyone, write us a letter. It had been that way since early February, when Behring announced his departure. On videotape. But a real person began answering the phone Friday; the Seahawks decided tempers had calmed enough in the Seattle area so that an operator no longer would be inundated with calls from irate fans.

The first floor of the two-story training complex remains empty. Behring had everything on that floor, particularly weight-training equipment, boxed up and shipped in February to Anaheim, where it was stored in the training site (an old elementary school), formerly used by the Rams. Even though the team hasn't formally signed a lease to use the facility, players began offseason conditioning there this week. The Seahawks are paying for their housing and transportation. About 40 players participated last season in the voluntary program; no one is sure how many will show up this time around. But no Seahawk has expressed joy about the change.

"I'm disappointed," guard Kevin Mawae says. "I thought I was playing for the Seattle Seahawks. I bought a house here six months ago. There are a lot of downfalls of moving to California. It's ridiculous."

For a while, Behring wanted to move his entire football operation immediately to Anaheim. He closed down his Seattle complex in early February, and employees worked for a few days from their homes. When Coach Dennis Erickson returned from a Hawaii vacation, he had no office to visit.

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