Difference Between Men and Boys Is Price of Toys

I'm hearing all kinds of crazy things.

I hear this rich man, Lou Gonda, who has a rich father and a rich partner in the aircraft leasing business--add them all up and they may be richer than anyone in L.A.--has offered Fox $400 million to buy the Dodgers.

I'm thinking faster than you can say, "get me away from Darren Dreifort," Rupert Murdoch is drawing the papers up as we speak, but then I discover none of these people like to speak.

"Mr. Gonda doesn't do interviews," said a spokesperson for International Lease Finance Corp. when I called, which makes him no different than Darren Dreifort.

The Dodgers, of course, aren't for sale, because that's what Fox has been telling us for the longest time, so based on my experiences with Fox, I suspect they are for sale.

In fact, the way I hear it, the sale will allow Fox to maintain control of the Dodgers' broadcast rights, the only thing Murdoch has ever been interested in. When it comes to the sport of baseball, you say bunt, and neither Murdoch nor Tom Goodwin are going to know what you're talking about.

Now there's a ton of Internet background on this Gonda guy, especially when you consider he doesn't do interviews, but from what I read between the lines--if he's buying the Dodgers--he's looking for a toy to occupy his time.

I've been around the Dodgers--I don't find them to be very playful unless your idea of a good time is grabbing Chad Kreuter's baseball cap and running for your life. Maybe he and Kevin Brown can make faces at each other.

You wouldn't think this would be a good time for anyone to buy the Dodgers, but given my limited experience in writing checks for $400 million without dipping into my savings account, maybe it doesn't matter that baseball is headed for a potential work stoppage. Maybe it doesn't matter that the team will eventually need a new stadium. And maybe it doesn't matter the Dodgers have a payroll overloaded with underachievers.

Maybe Gonda has no interest in the Dodgers, but after I told his assistant what I intended to write, he never called to say it was hogwash.

Bob Daly, the Dodgers' managing partner, passed word through a spokesman that he was unaware of any Fox dealings with Gonda. Daly also told Plaschke he still has great confidence in Dreifort, so it wouldn't be the first time he appeared clueless.

In the next month, however, maybe we will know. If Gary Sheffield, Chan Ho Park and a few more big salaries are traded before the July 31 deadline, it certainly will make the team's payroll look more attractive to a buyer.

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I'M HEARING another crazy thing that has to do with someone buying the New Orleans Saints, and then making a deal later to move the team to L.A.

For some time now there has been an expectation here that the Saints will use L.A. as leverage in trying to force Louisiana officials into providing them with a new stadium. That process began to pick up steam Tuesday with the announcement negotiations between the state and the Saints had ended in anger and cross words.

State officials said they expect the Saints to move to Mississippi or seek a deal somewhere else, while the team indicated it's first step will be to look at Mississippi.

The second step, owner Thomas Benson said Tuesday, "would be for me to sell the club. I'm not going to sit here and let the club go down the tube. That's the reason to sell it. It's going to go right down the tube."

The expectation by some NFL observers is it might go right across country to L.A.

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The NFL has a league-wide policy to do everything within its power to keep existing teams in place. The league will only approve a move if all efforts to keep that team in the same marketplace have completely failed.

It would appear that process has begun, and I detect cheering in NFL boardrooms. There is a widely held opinion that New Orleans lacks the corporate wherewithal--there is only one Fortune 500 company in the area--to support the construction of a new stadium and then the purchase of personal seat licenses and luxury boxes.

The Saints' lease at the Superdome runs through 2018, but there is a way out after 2005 in exchange for $25 million. The team also believes it can win its release earlier if it can prove the Superdome has breached its lease.

The Rose Bowl has already made it known to the NFL that it would be willing to house a team on a short-term basis--if not longer.

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AFTER NOTING the Angels and Dodgers are something like a collective 25 games out of first place, I'm willing to put up with a wacky Ricky Williams & Co. if they can pitch training camp before baseball's All-Star break.

The process, however, is going to be much more tedious and will certainly extend beyond the next Super Bowl, which is in New Orleans.

Benson's background as a used car salesman and greedy NFL owner, who watched someone from Houston pay $700 million for an expansion team, will result in the waste of a lot of time because of unreasonable expectations. An asking price of $700 million from someone in L.A., who would also have to help fund a new $400 million stadium, is probably a starting point for Benson and a conversation stopper for most businessmen in L.A.

But Benson may be forced to sell. He has health and tax concerns, and is already facing criticism from fans in New Orleans, who think state officials have already been more than generous with him.

A local columnist is calling for someone in the community to step forward and buy the team, which is usually the last thing to happen in a community before a team departs.

Casey Wasserman, L.A.'s favorite son in some quarters to eventually own an NFL team, presently owns the L.A. Avengers, an Arena Football League team. Wasserman spent all day Tuesday in New York's NFL headquarters.

Wait until the folks in New Orleans hear that.

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TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in conversation with Wasserman:

"I was at the NFL headquarters strictly on Arena Football League business."

I've heard crazier things said.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com

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