By Will McDonough, Globe Staff, 12/26/98
No one has been tougher on Tom Finneran than this reporter for the House
Speaker's part in the Patriots' move to Hartford. For that reason I listened
the other day when one of the most informed businessmen on the Boston sports
scene told me: ``There's another side to this Finneran-Kraft thing. You should
check it out. Finneran is taking the fall here, and it's not the way it
I did check it out and this is the confirmed story. On two occasions last
spring, Finneran went to Patriots owner Robert Kraft and said he wanted to get
a stadium deal done. The men agreed and selected representatives who would
meet to iron out the details. Jonathan Kraft and Andy Wasynczuk, representing
the Patriots, met on several occasions with Finneran's top aide, Bill Kennedy.
Several times the Finneran side thought a deal was close only to have the
Patriots ask for more. At one point, Finneran aides asked if the Patriots were
talking with anyone else about a stadium. The answer was no.
Recent reports out of Connecticut show that answer to be a lie. The
Patriots apparently were negotiating with Connecticut as far back as last
spring. The Finneran side finally got frustrated when all of its alternatives
to settle the differences were pushed aside.
A state representative, who's a high school and college classmate of mine,
told me: ``You've been to hard on Finneran. It wasn't all him. If you could
have sat in on the [Democratic Party] caucus when we discussed [the stadium]
there were a lot of people against it. None of us, including Tom, wanted to
see the Patriots leave, and if we have another chance, we'd still like to work
it out.'' Like most stories, there are two sides to this one and the truth is
stuck somewhere in the middle.
Ricky Williams still doesn't know if he will go to the NFL scouting
combine workouts in Indianapolis three weeks after the Super Bowl, but not for
the usual reasons. ``If I go, I know I will want to run to show them I can do
4.4s,'' said the likable winner of Heisman Trophy, who was in town this week
as the guest of Greg Clifton and Larry Moulter of Woolf Associates. In recent
years many top college players, feeling they have nothing to gain by working
out, have either skipped the combine or just showed up to take a physical
exam. Williams, the ``can't-miss'' running back from Texas who is built in the
mold of Earl Campbell and Bo Jackson, doesn't have anything to prove, but he
feels his competitive nature might get the best of him if he is on the scene.
The multi-talented Williams is committed to pro football but he's also going
to spring training with the Texas Rangers. ``I wouldn't go if it wasn't the
Rangers, and I thought it was going to be fun,'' said Williams, who played
minor league baseball last year for Batavia (N.Y.). ``How many times does
someone get a chance to go to the big camp. I still want to be a football
player. I don't care who drafts me. I would love it to be Cleveland so I could
be the first pick. But I'll go anywhere they pick me.''
People in the Big Ten say it is a done deal that Notre Dame will be the
12th member of the conference and that a league championship game will be
added. The NCAA won't allow a championship game (with megabucks for the
competing teams) unless a conference has 12 teams. When this happens, there
could be a domino effect that may change the landscape of the Big East or even
put it out of business. The word is that the Atlantic Coast Conference will go
from nine to 12 schools and the three teams they want to add are Boston
College, Miami, and Syracuse. Take those three out of the Big East and it's
all over for that conference. The feeling is that the ACC would want Boston
College because it is in the sixth biggest market in America; Miami because
its stadiums would be the site for a conference championship game; and
Syracuse because of its domed stadium.
Yo, Connecticut. What is going to happen to the University of Connecticut's
Division-1A, big-time football hopes if the Big East falls apart? Do you think
Temple and Rutgers are going to pack them in at the new Hartford Stadium?
Which leads me to the best quotes on this Patriots-to-Hartford situation:
Was it Bob Kraft saying his team was last in gross revenue when it is in
the top 10?
Was it Bob Kraft saying the commissioner had assured him that there would
be no team in the Boston area, and the league following with a statement that
no such assurance was ever given?
Or was it this beauty (my favorite) from Connecticut governor John Rowland
on the early negotiations with the Krafts: ``They asked [the state] to
underwrite a complete sellout on all 68,000 seats. They wanted a full
guarantee on all seats.''
The governor told the New York Times he had to tell the legislators that
the deal ``was middle of the road, but not the best. It's not gold sealed.
It's a Chevy. Not a Volkswagen and it's not a Cadillac.'' I bet if the
governor asked any of the other 29 NFL owners to describe the deal he gave the
Patriots, they would probably best describe it as a Lamborghini.
Baseball insurers reportedly are balking at many of these new high-salary
contracts that are longer than five years. This leaves clubs who have given
out long contracts to players such as Mo Vaughn (Angels), Bernie Williams
(Yankees), and Kevin Brown (Dodgers) at risk beyond the fifth year. If
anything happens to the players and they're unable to play after five years,
the team will have to take the hit. Here is what Mo Money got from the
1999: $5 million bonus, $5 million salary
2000: $9 million salary
2001: $10 million salary
2002: $11 million salary
2003: $8 million bonus, $15 million salary
2004: $15 million salary
2005: Team option for $14 million salary.
Imagine paying $23 million in one year to Mo Money when he will be 36.
For two years I have been puzzled by just one aspect of the Texas Con Man's
departure from the Red Sox. His refusal to meet with CEO John Harrington to
get a final offer from the Red Sox. But this week it became clear why Roger
Clemens is the Texas Con Man. He revealed this week that he had a written
letter of agreement with Toronto that would let him out of his contract (via
trade) if he demanded it. Clemens knew the Red Sox would never agree to this.
Remember all that bull at the time about how he wanted a long-term deal with
one team so he could finish out his career with a contender. And how he
wouldn't go to any team for just two years. He wanted security, he said. Well,
he also wanted an out in case he did well and could demand a big contract from
another team. This is exactly what he tried to do with Houston, which is why
the Astros told him to take a hike. So much for playing near his family and
for a contender.
The people at the FleetCenter were alerted last week to start looking for
dates for the Celtics when the NBA lockout was settled. But a few days later,
FleetCenter operatives were told to forget about it.
Maybe I shouldn't write this because the Patriots will probably turn him in
to the league for tampering. Don't tell the Krafts that Jets coach Bill
Parcells gave Bills quarterback Doug Flutie a check for $5,000 in Buffalo last
week. If the Krafts find out, they'll try to get the league office to say that
he was paying off Flutie, not donating money in the name of Doug's son to
The best record in football above the high school level has to belong to
the Marlboro Shamrocks of the Eastern Football League. Since 1994, with Bob
Brennan coaching and Dave Palazzi at quarterback, the Shamrocks have gone
84-4. They beat the Portland (Ore.) Thunderbolts, 35-13, this year for the
national semi-professional title. Brennan says the best team his club has
played over the years is Racine, Wis., with Marlborou holding a 2-1 edge in
The best the Patriots can hope for with the Jets' first draft pick next
year (completing the deal for Parcells) seems to be 24th overall, and it could
go as low as 28th. Minnesota, Denver, and Atlanta will have the bottom three
picks unless someone from outside this group wins the Super Bowl.
With the European and International teams beating the United States so
easily in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup the past two years, why don't those
two squads play each other for world supremacy? How about this: The
International team challenges the winner of the Ryder Cup in Brookline in
September and plays for the world title the following week at The Country
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