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Times NFL writer T.J. Simers poses--and answers--the burning questions on . . . GAME DAY

1. Question: Any clues on who wins between Los Angeles and Houston in the expansion derby?

Answer: Yes. Bud Adams, who moved his Oilers from Houston to Nashville, isn’t all that excited about expansion, but said, “Of course, I’d support Houston over Los Angeles.”

That leaves Houston looking for 23 more votes, or to put it another way, it will take seven more votes to block L.A. Make that six. You can probably figure out how Raider owner Al Davis is going to vote.

2. Q: How confident is Houston?

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A: Not very. In the last few days, prospective Houston owner Robert McNair has talked about buying the Denver franchise if the Broncos’ bid for a stadium loses in Tuesday’s election, and buying the Redskins if no one else steps forward.

3. Q: How crafty is Michael Ovitz?

A: Very. Who do you think put Tom Cruise up to writing a letter to Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay seeking his support for Carson?

Irsay had a bit part in “Jerry Maguire,” which starred Cruise, who is on Ovitz’s ownership team. He sent a letter to Irsay recently.

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“He told me what a great job I did in ‘Jerry Maguire,’ trying to butter me up,” Irsay said.

4. Q: If L.A. gets the expansion team, when will the NFL place a Super Bowl here?

A: You have plenty of time to save your money to buy a ticket. This season the Super Bowl is in Miami, next season Atlanta, then Tampa Bay, followed by New Orleans and San Francisco. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue already has called San Diego a front-runner for the next one--in 2004.

You’re going to hear a lot about Super Bowls in the next three months leading to the expansion decision, because that’s one of L.A.'s selling points, as well as the NFL’s. The owners want to come to L.A. every three or four years for a Super Bowl--no one has mentioned going to Houston for fun. And the New Coliseum Partners and Ovitz want Super Bowls for their projects because they hope to use them as incentive in selling luxury suites and club seats.

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5. Q: Make a prediction: Who joins the New Coliseum Partners in the next few weeks in an attempt to swing attention away from Ovitz and impress the NFL?

A: Fox. It just makes too much sense. It already has its hooks into the Dodgers and the Staples Center, and Fox is going to need political support to redo Dodger Stadium. Hopping aboard the Mark Ridley-Thomas project, which already has wide political appeal in L.A., also keeps Fox in the programming game, something vital to its existence.


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