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Nfl’s Knocking But Nobody’s Home Picks

Norman Chad Syndicated Columnist

Where are all the fans at NFL games this season? Still upset at the baseball strike? Still upset at the ‘87 football strike? Still upset at the ‘46 coal miners’ strike? Or maybe they’re just upset that, to see an NFL game, it costs the average family of four $9,748.60, plus parking.

This is the greatest game in the greatest nation, and everyone’s sitting at home drinking cafe au lait.

The crowds this year are so small, the guy holding the JOHN 3:16 sign is going to jai alai instead.

I’ve seen fewer empty seats at an Arlen Specter-for-President rally.

This isn’t the NBA, the NHL or major-league baseball, where they play a game just about every night. In the NFL, they only play eight home games the entire year. What’s everybody waiting for, doubleheaders?

In virtually half of NFL cities, they could’ve taken attendance by roll call at many games this season.

Houston (capacity 59,969) has attracted crowds of 44,122, 36,077 and 36,346; Atlanta (capacity 71,280) has attracted 58,808, 40,778 and 47,114; Seattle (capacity 66,400) 47,564, 39,492 and 56,483); Cincinnati (capacity 60,389) 48,318, 46,332 and 52,671.

Carolina (capacity 76,055) - for its first two home games ever - drew 54,060 and 50,076. Here are some numbing numbers for home openers: Indianapolis 42,445 (capacity 60,272); Arizona 45,004 (capacity 73,400); Detroit 58,727 (capacity 80,368); Cleveland 61,083 (capacity 78,512); Minnesota 52,234 (capacity 64,035). New Orleans, Tampa Bay and the New York Jets* all have played one home game in front of at least 25,000 empty seats.

(* As a rule, Jets fans increasingly prefer watching their team on TV at friends’ homes, partly because the bathroom lines are somewhat shorter and partly because stadium security can’t throw them out as easily.)

Even Buffalo - responsible for five of the biggest 10 single-season home attendance totals in NFL history - drew just 62,499 for its most recent home game at 80,091-seat Rich Stadium. Sure, the Bills were just playing the Colts, but it’s not like Sinatra was cross-town at the Lackawanna Ramada Inn lounge drawing customers away.

If this stay-away situation gets any worse, the NFL will have to change its name to EuroDisney.

(League Bulletin: Referee Gordon McCarter and line judge Ben Montgomery to be replaced at Jets-Bills game by Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack.)

(TV Tidbit: When you’re watching a game on NBC, do you ever wonder what the score is? Of course, you do - BECAUSE THEY NEVER TELL YOU.)

As always, the following point-spread picks are for recreational purposes only:

Packers at Cowboys (-7)

Why does Green Bay always play at Dallas? It’s like the Washington Generals are always on the road against the Harlem Globetrotters. And I’m a big Brett Favre fan, but just the sight of Deion on the sideline is worth two interceptions. Pick: Cowboys.

Redskins at Eagles (-3)

In the past five meetings, Philadelphia has beaten Washington by 17-13, 34-31, 17-14, 21-17 and 31-29. Again, this appears to be “a mountain of physical evidence” that can lead to only one verdict. But The Man knows better this week. Pick: Redskins.

Seahawks at Raiders (-9-1/2)

Since falling behind Philadelphia, 17-0, two weeks ago, Raiders outscored Eagles and Jets by 95-10. But history tells us that the Visigoths plundered much of Italy and Spain, too, before the Moors easily overran them. Pick: Seahawks.

Jets at Bills (-9)

Over his last 12 games as head coach (with Eagles and Jets), the always engaging Rich Kotite is 1-11, with his teams outscored by 309-177. These are generally known in the business as “Sam Wyche numbers.” Pick: Bills.

Cardinals at Giants (-4)

When Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass at Giants Stadium Thursday, there were no beer sales allowed in stands after Communion. Incidentally, Arizona strongman Buddy Ryan was denied an audience with the popular pontiff. Pick: Cardinals.

Panthers at Bears (-13)

Actual Fact: Bears RB Rashaan Salaam - NFL’s youngest player turns 21 on Sunday. This means he now can vote twice in Chicago citywide elections. Pick: Bears.

Oilers at Vikings (-10-1/2)

Jeff Fisher, NFL head coach? I don’t think so. He looks as if he should be supervising stock clerks at Office Depot. Pick: Vikings.

Bengals at Buccaneers (-3)

Always innovative Tampa Bay coach Sam Wyche to borrow strategy from Garry Kasparov and open with e4 leading to Nf3. Pick: Bengals.

Steelers (-11) at Jaguars

To reward team for first victory, Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin allowed food on training table. Pick: Steelers.

Broncos at Patriots (-2)

A watched pot never boils, but any time you watch a Patriots game Bill Parcells boils over. Pick: Broncos.

Chargers at Chiefs (-3-1/2)

Chiefs K Lin Elliott can be reached on the Internet at http:/ / Pick: Chargers.

Colts at Dolphins (-10)

Think Miami’s O.J. McDuffie might want to change his name? Pick: Dolphins.

Browns (-1) at Lions

Rush the football. Rush the passer. Rush to judgment. Pick: Lions.

Last week: 5-8. Season record: 33-32-5.

Wordcount: 841
Tags: football

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