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Don't pay 'bribe' to all-pro money-grubbers

You had to know it would take someone born and bred in Western New York to identify the NFL as the "Keep a Close Watch on Your Billfold" operation that it's become.

The hometowner is Neil Abercrombie, governor of Hawaii, a native of Williamsville and a graduate of Williamsville High School before the town built Williamsville East and North. What riled him was the decision of Honolulu pols to agree to pay the NFL $4 million for the rights to play the Pro Bowl in one of the world's most glamorous cities.

Abercrombie correctly identified the Pro Bowl as a "scrimmage." He's right. It is to actual pro football what chips and popcorn are to a six-course gourmet dinner. Players and coaches love it since for them it is a paid vacation in paradise.

The governor suggests that the $4 million would be far better spent on the island schools rather than to fete pro bowl football players, the best and most highly-rewarded in the league. He also suggests that the bounty being paid to the NFL is, in effect, a "bribe," which it is.

The Pro Bowl is played in late January or early February. Why should anyone be paid a bribe to escape a portion of the winter in one of the most pleasant locations on this earth? Abercrombie pointed out that now that gay marriage has been legalized by the Hawaiian legislature, the number of football fans lost as visitors would be equaled if not surpassed by same-sex couples arriving to be married as well as their families and friends happily showing up to fete them.

The Pro Bowl in Hawaii is just the latest in the NFL's lust-for-money era.

Enraged fans who purchased tickets for the last Super Bowl, expecting to be seated in comfort or maybe even luxury, arrived in Dallas, site of the game, to discover that their seats, just installed in order to squeeze a few more bucks for Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones, had been declared too risky to occupy. Those fans ended up watching the game outdoors on giant TV screens in unpleasant weather.

Lawsuits were filed but Jones and the NFL are trying to mollify the disgruntled by offering all-expense paid trips to a future Super Bowl. The catch is that most of the displaced fans were from the areas of the two contending teams, Green Bay and Pittsburgh. There is no guarantee that a future Super Bowl will be attractive enough to entice fans from Western Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Meanwhile the Greed Bowl, being hammered out by the NFL owners and their players, may be decided, or maybe not, in time for a 2011 season. If not maybe the pushover pols in Hawaii can arrange for a Pro Bowl pretend game, with all expenses paid, of course.

Larry Felser, former News columnist, appears in Sunday's editions.

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