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At a memorial service for Falcons Owner Rankin Smith yesterday, the "unwavering love of his birthplace and football team and, most important, his family, both nuclear and extended, were common themes," according to Len Pasquarelli of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. The service was "so well-attended that the crowd filled every pew and spilled over into a nearby chapel." Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and "at least" 10 NFL owners attended, and "virtually" every franchise was represented at the service. Before the service, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell said that part of the city's Super Bowl XXXIV festivities will include "honoring Smiths's role" in bringing two Super Bowl games to the city (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 10/29). Tagliabue, on Smith's legacy: "It is hard to balance. The most visible thing was the won-lost record. What was less visible was his laying the groundwork for the future. The bringing of the NFL to Atlanta. The Georgia Dome. The Super Bowls. I'm sure it was his great wish that [son] Taylor and the rest of the family turn around that record. That would make him smile most of all" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 10/29).
Former Labatt exec Don McDougall, a "key player" in landing the Blue Jays in '76, is part of Lawrence Dale's new group trying to buy the team (TORONTO STAR, 10/29)....The Hawks will play the Bulls on November 7 in front of "the biggest home crowd in franchise history." Hawks Exec VP Lee Douglas said the lower decks at the Georgia Dome are sold out of more than 21,000 tickets and that the team is now selling $10 tickets for Dome's upper deck (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 10/29)....In Sacramento, R.E. Graswich wrote that Kings Owner Jim Thomas "is a proud man, tough and tested ... but the nonsense with the Kings is getting to him." Graswich added that people close to Thomas "indicate he's nearing the end of his rope" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/28)....The Padres have increased ticket prices for the '98 season. The "biggest increase" is $2 for skyboxes and infield field-level seats that will cost $18. Ticket prices for "nearly half of the seats" at Qualcomm Stadium "will not go up" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/25).
The Vikings "are for sale and secretly have been on the market for at least two months," according to two team sources cited by Don Banks of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Vikings Vice Chair and part Owner Philip Maas and a "second team source" said that the team's Board members have "already entertained four out-of-state prospective buyers" and have "received and rejected" a $150M bid for the team. The interested suitors represent L.A., Toronto, Birmingham, AL, and one other "unidentified area." But Banks writes that no group representing Cleveland "is involved." The Vikings' Maas said the four potential buyers "have already visited the Twin Cities," and the second source "confirmed" that the initial bid came from the "unidentified area." It is "believed" that the bidder "intends to keep" the team in MN. The asking price for the team is "estimated between" $150-210M, "depending on how an offer is structured to include the team's debt." Team President Roger Headrick "declined to comment" on the report (STAR TRIBUNE, 10/29). BOOK REPORT: Maas and two other Vikings' owners said that Coach Dennis Green "could help diffuse" the controversy surrounding his new book by "giving his explanation, although they are not demanding an apology," according to Jeff Seidel of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. Green is scheduled to meet with reporters this afternoon (PIONEER PRESS, 10/29. Controversy surrounding the book "has helped spark an explosion of interest" as Barnes & Noble "decided this week" to distribute the book nationally and has "ordered additional copies." The book had a first printing of 10,000-15,000, and David Kasel, Dir of Marketing of Sagamore Publishing, the book's publisher, said that "[a]bout" 25% of the print run has gone out this week, and "that's very good" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/29).