Big Sydney - Now you Conn. see football in Hartford

November 20, 1998

Finally, nearly 30 years to the day after the last meaningful football game (Yale 29, Harvard 29) involving a team from Connecticut was played, serious gridiron is about to return to the Constitution State.

The New England Patriots, we learned on Wednesday, have signed a tentative deal to move from Foxboro, Mass., to Hartford, Conn. in the year 2001.

(Yeah, I haven't forgotten that the New York Giants played some home games in the Yale Bowl in the mid-70s, while Yankee Stadium was being renovated into a baseball-only park and before the Meadowlands opened. But we're talking about meaningful football, which the Giants of that era didn't play.)

Conn. Gov. John G. (If I'm Related to Tim, I Don't Want to Admit It) Rowland called the deal the centerpiece of Hartford's recovery from recession and the 1997 loss of its only major league sports franchise, the NHL's Whalers.


''We want to be more than a milemarker between Boston and New York,'' said Rowland, whose predecessors as governor of Conn. included such household names as Phineas C. Lounsbury, Morgan G. Bulkeley and O. Vincent Coffin.

Mention "Connecticut" to most people and what comes to mind are a.) the superfluous second "c" in the middle of its name, b.) "insurance companies" and c.) "Martha Stewart." Nothing else.

Half the people in the state have the letters "C.L.U." in their titles (I, for one, haven't a C.L.U.), and the other half spend their waking hours canning rhubarb and crafting origami dioramas of the hanging of Nathan Hale as party favors for next week's Naugatuck Quilting Society social.

Bill Parcells ought to feel right at home, huh?

Hartford's proposed 68,000-seat stadium would be a focal point of a downtown development complex called Adriaen's Landing, named for the explorer who claimed Connecticut for the Dutch in 1614.

Getting to Patriot games should be easy. Just hail a cab and growl, "Yo, Adriaen's."

The stadium would also be used by the University of Connecticut, giving the Huskies an excuse to move up to Division I-A football - assuming the Big East is still a I-A conference three years from now. Order your UConn-Temple tickets, while they last. And if Don Nehlen is still coaching at WVU by then, he'll have a chance to lose to a second generation of the Holtz family.

Is Greater Boston (is that an oxymoron?) upset about the possible loss of their NFL franchise? I'm not sure that the fans who used to frequent Schaefer Stadium (was it named for the beer or Maryland's comptroller-elect?), later Sullivan Stadium, will even notice.

For many years, the stadium at Foxboro was litle more than an open-air tavern, with football as the between-rounds entertainment. After the Pats leave, they could put in a karaoke machine and a couple of pool tables and probably still draw 70,000 patrons a week, football or no.

This will be the NFL's fifth franchise shift in four years and perhaps the first such move in history that will make sense from a nomenclatural standpoint.

In other words, the name "New England Patriots" works just as well in Kennycutt as it did in Bahston. Hartford, like Foxboro, is in New England, and Connecticut matches up well with Massachusetts in the Revolutionary War hero department.

That's good, because you don't want New England to make the same mistake Tennessee did.

Granted, you couldn't call Nashville's NFL team the "Oilers" anymore, but Titans? What were they thinking? Not only is the name lame, it's been used by a pro team in our lifetimes (well, some of our lifetimes).

New York's original, pre-Namath, AFL team was called the Titans. The present-day N.Y. Jets didn't have any trouble with Tennessee taking over the "Titans" nickname, for the same reason that Chevrolet wouldn't object if Hyundai, for instance, wanted to name its new model "Corvair" or "Luv."

Shoot, there were so many better nicknames out there for Tennessee; i.e., Tennessee Waltz. Tennessee Studs. Tennessee Tuxedo and His Friends. Tennessee Ernie.

Or, if the college team is the Tennessee Volunteers, why not call the pro team the Tennessee Draftees, Free Agents and Franchise Players?

We bid you goodbye with the Latin phrase, "Qui Transtulit Sustinet (He Who Transplanted Still Sustains)," which is the motto for either the state of Connecticut or the Hair Club For Men, I forget which.

On with the predictions (last week: 14-2, .875; season: 206-59, .777):


Saturday's games

Musselman 21, Capital 13 (W.Va. Class AAA quarterfinals) - Musselman advances to state semis with a capital W.

Urbana 14, Middletown 7 (Md. Class 2A semifinals) - Whoever wins the Frederick County championship will be tough to beat in the state finals.


West Virginia 35, Boston College 30 - B.C. won't cast a Cloud on what is probably Amos' last game in Morgantown.

North Carolina State 21, Maryland 17 - Terps can't quite get a Holt on Wolfpack's star receiver.

Wisconsin 21, Penn State 20 - See you in Pasadena on New Year's, Dayne.

Indiana, Pa. 27, Shepherd 16 (NCAA Division II first round) - Rams run up against a Big Red roadblock.

Navy 26, SMU 22 - No, SMU's mascot isn't a SMUrf.


Redskins 24, Cardinals 20 - The NFC East is the Division I-AA of pro football.

Giants 16, Eagles 9 - Isn't "G.I. Ants" one of those new feature-length insect cartoons?

Steelers 27, Jaguars 23 - Pour me another brew, Nell.

Ravens 19, Bengals 17 - After the game, you should be home Justin time for supper.

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