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Two NFL franchises for Chicago? Forget about it

Daley just feeding sports talk as London, others provide more enticing markets

David Haugh

In the Wake of the News

6:27 PM CDT, August 25, 2012

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Now we know what role former Mayor Richard M. Daley can play in the private sector and still galvanize people in the city: sports talk programmer.

Rich from Bridgeport, floated an idea only a radio-show caller could love when he suggested Chicago needs a second NFL team. Daley's grandiose plan contained the ideal mix to kill an hour of morning- or afternoon-drive time — two parts fantasy, one part reality. All that was missing was a sponsor and a Web poll.

It captured the imagination enough locally that, besides "Where's Dusseldorf?'' the question I was asked most last week was, "Do you think Chicago really can get another NFL team?''

With due respect, Mr. Mayor, no, I don't. And if Daley still were being held accountable for balanced budgets and safe streets, he likely would have sounded less enthusiastic about the possibility than he did as a former mayor talking sports.

"I really believe we can get a second football team,'' Daley told CSN's David Kaplan. "Why is it New York has two (teams), Florida has three? San Francisco has two. Chicago loves sports, we could get a second team in here.''

The New York metro area has 22.2 million people according to the latest census — 12.8 million more than the Chicago area and enough to support two NFL teams. Plus, the Giants and Jets share MetLife Stadium. Florida? The state's three NFL teams exist in markets spread throughout the state; Miami, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Jacksonville, which is struggling. Using San Francisco as an example of a market with two NFL teams technically fits Daley's argument, though lacks legitimacy given the Raiders franchise instability status in Oakland.

But Daley's most difficult comments to fathom came in regard to government's role in securing Chicago's second NFL team. I wish I could have heard Mayor Rahm Emanuel's reaction. Laughter is so easy to transcribe.

"You could build a new stadium, you could have huge international soccer teams coming in, you could do the Final Four, and if you wanted with a brand new stadium, it would be privately funded, the government could help a little bit,'' Daley said.

The government could help a little bit. That's what the Cubs thought about Wrigley Field too. They're still waiting.

If the NFL were chocolate, we all would be two pants sizes larger. We cannot get enough. We love it. But in speaking from the heart, Daley stopped following his head.

Truth is, governments seldom "help a little bit,'' financing NFL stadiums. They help a lot. The state of Minnesota and Minneapolis will combine to pay $548 million toward the Vikings' new $975 million stadium. Public funding accounted for $620 million of the $720 million Lucas Oil Stadium. Private money contributed $525 million to $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium but a $325 million bond issue led to sales tax increases.

Chicago struggles enough finding money for teachers and police that it seems hard to envision the city or state justifying the huge financial commitment required for the all-purpose facility Daley describes — the kind he should have demanded Soldier Field become before renovations.

I enjoyed Daley waxing romantic about the days Chicago had two of the NFL's 12 teams before the Cardinals left in 1959. Gas cost 25 cents a gallon in 1959 too. The world's different.

Nowadays, the line for new NFL franchises forms behind Los Angeles and London. Yes, jolly ol' London has a better chance of getting its first NFL franchise before Chicago gets a second. Both cities represent large, untapped markets NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to penetrate. A June memo the commissioner sent to all 32 teams reiterated Goodell's comments at Super Bowl XLVI.

"We would like to be back in Los Angeles if we can do it correctly,'' Goodell said.

As for London, I bloody hate the idea but respect that 2 million NFL fans live in Britain and Reuters reports TV ratings for American football games there have increased 154 percent. Of most significance, Goodell sounds impressed.

"Part of our theory here is that London could someday be a host for an NFL franchise,'' Goodell said last Monday discussing Jacksonville's game abroad with the Jaguars' Website.

The Rams, Chargers and Raiders have been the subject of relocation rumors too. Or what if, as Goodell has hinted, the NFL expands to 34 teams?

None of it affects the discussion of adding a second NFL team here because, well, there wasn't one until a certain former mayor started thinking out loud. If Chicago really wants to debate a transformational sporting idea in need of creative financing, bidding on the 2024 Olympics potentially enhances the city more than pursuing another pro football team. Right?

I'll hang up and listen for my answer.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh