Years ago, I got a memorable phone call from my son in Green Bay. He was around 5 at the time, and he was unhappy about missing his favorite class: recess.
“When we lived in Alaska, we always had recess, even when it was 2 degrees out.”
“It’s a good thing the Packers didn’t have to play the Alaska Giraffes in the Ice Bowl,” I said.
The Alaska Giraffes? In Alaska, we used to watch NFL games during breakfast. We’d sometimes go to the Peanut Farm restaurant in Anchorage, which has lots of TVs. My then-wife would get to watch her Packers, my son could watch his Rams (he was born in St. Louis) and I could watch my Buffalo Bills.
My son, the product of a mixed marriage (Bills-Packers), was 4 at the time, and he already could impress some folks by rattling off long lists of franchises, coaches and quarterbacks.
One day, he asked, “How come Alaska doesn’t have an NFL team?”
I began to hem and haw about Alaska’s relative lack of population.
“Aren’t there more people in Alaska than there are in Green Bay or Buffalo?”
“Yes, but …” I replied, and then tried to fall back on the state’s geography, climate and time zone.
“Well, couldn’t they play in a dome as one of the late afternoon games? When they were the away team, it wouldn’t be a problem. We should buy a franchise and move it to Alaska.”
I tried to explain our relative lack of material wealth, but gave up when I heard his hopes drop.
“Maybe you could strike it rich when you grow up, and then you could bring the NFL to Alaska,” I offered. It seemed to cheer him up a little, so I asked: “What would you name the team?”
“The Giraffes,” he replied.
“The Giraffes!” I shouted as I saw my dreams of high SAT scores evaporate. “Why?”
“Well, giraffes are tall. They could see the whole field and catch passes in their mouths over the heads of the other teams. Besides, giraffes are way up high, just like Alaska is on the map.”
I countered, “But there are no giraffes in Alaska!”
“Are there any lions in Detroit?” he asked.
He had me there.
“Where would you build Uncle Ted Stevens Stadium?” I asked.
“Anchorage,” he said.
I then thought we’d better leave location for another day. I didn’t tell him I suspected many of the state’s politicians would insist on building it in Fairbanks or maybe Juneau. Then again, maybe they’d build it on the other side of the Bridge to Nowhere and call the town, “Somewhere,” and the stadium, “Somewhere Stadium.”
Although the Bills recently suspended their practice of playing one game each year in Toronto, a lot of my fellow Buffalonians believe that the Bills will eventually move there or somewhere else, especially now that Ralph Wilson has passed away.
I’d hate to see the team move away from my hometown, and I don’t want to offend my Torontonian friends and relatives – it’s such a nice city – but if the Bills ever moved to Toronto, it would kill the Canadian Football League. Besides, Toronto already has major league baseball, basketball and hockey. (OK, maybe not hockey.)
Although my son might lose his franchise and the naming rights, I think we’d both rather see the buffaloes roam, if they have to roam, up to the 49th state, where they could change their name to “the Giraffes.”