How much, not what's, in a name

Posted: 8:45 p.m.


Brown: "All things are possible"

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The story goes that in the heat of the NFL owners' Monopoly game a few weeks ago, Jerry Jones of Dallas pointed to Mike Brown of Cincinnati and told him that if Brown sold him the naming rights to Paul Brown Stadium for $5 million, "I can double that in about five minutes, Mike."

Brown denied The Boston Globe tidbit here as the NFL meetings got underway Sunday, but he didn't deny that he is re-visiting the idea of naming rights.

As well as any other revenue stream in the face of the NFL's recent collective bargaining agreement he believes puts the Bengals at a severe economic disadvantage.

But Brown also indicated that it's not the first time the Bengals have tried to find a buyer.

"Some things you have to assume we tried and it doesn't do much good to dwell on them," Brown said. "We're thinking about doing a lot of things. We have to adapt to this deal. We've got to get revenue streams where we can find them."

Brown and Buffalo's Ralph Wilson were the only owners to vote against the CBA extension two weeks ago and Brown said it was because he thought the players were getting too much of the revenues from an expanded pool that now includes all stadium and local streams. He also objected to the owners' internal revenue sharing plan that he feels short changes the smaller revenue teams.

While Brown believes the small-market teams are unfairly footing the bill of big-market spending sprees because the salary cap is based on league-wide averages, the big-market owners don't think owners like Brown are doing enough to keep up with the Joneses and the have-nots shouldn't be taking their hard-earned marketing money from them.

Hence the tension in the room two weeks ago when Jones pointed his Boardwalk hotel at Brown's Baltic Avenue house.

"I don't remember that so-called incident," Brown said. "I don't have any recollection. If I had, I guess I would have rejoined, 'I tell you what. If I pay you $5 million bucks and you let me sell the naming rights to yours, we'll swap.' "

Brown points out that about half the teams don't have a naming rights deal, including Jones's Cowboys.

That's because, Brown argues, those deals are hard to get. What Brown objects to is the big teams' cry that the Bengals don't work had enough in marketing.

"Market size is a very real thing. To pretend that it isn't, is foolish," Brown said. "They measure this stuff and our market size, for example, I've seen measurements where we are maxed out with the streams we have. In New York or Los Angeles, even with all the teams they have, they have a multiple of what we have.

"Strangely, only the people in large-city markets have learned how to work hard. I don't think so."

The stadium lease with Hamilton County appears to give him plenty of incentive to find a name. The Bengals paid $5 million for the rights before the stadium opened and named it after the Bengals founder. That $5 million was earmarked as part of the club's $44 million contribution to construction. The next $11.67 million goes to go to the Bengals. Anything beyond that is split, with the county getting 30 percent and the team receiving 70 percent.

When asked if an arrangement could be made to sell the name of the field and keep the stadium name, Brown said, "I guess all those things are possible."

It hasn't escaped Brown that that the Bengals' merchandising has shot through the roof, nationally and in their own stadium Pro Shop, and has given them a nice revenue boost just in the nick of time.

Brown smiled as he thought about Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson and Co.

"The fact we had a good year by our standards, is not necessarily (good) by NFL standards, but we certainly went off the charts from where we had been," Brown said. "We had an exciting team. I'm proud of what we did. We had some players who caught just not the fancy of Cincinnati, but pro football. So we had lots of sales.

"I have to ask myself, am I really against the touchdown demonstration stuff? The Riverdance? He's (Johnson) just smarter than I am."

Brown joked that he hoped Palmer would create more revenue by switching his No. 9 jersey to his college No. 3 now that Jon Kitna has moved on. But, seriously, Brown, like Palmer, thought it was best to stay put.

"He has a remarkable ability to make the right decisions and I thought that was the right one," Brown said. "He made the right call. Maybe initially he would have made another call. People identify with (a number) once you play."

But the Bengals seem to be thinking that it may now be a game of names rather than numbers.

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