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12/12/00- Updated 02:21 AM ET
 


Sports on the Web


Fans hope targets get tangled by the Web

By Chris Jenkins, USA TODAY

Poor Dave Young. Even in NFL-indifferent Los Angeles, he can't escape the stigma that comes with being a Cincinnati Bengals fan.

Young, who grew up outside Cincinnati but went West to work as an e-commerce consultant, says he often is taunted by fellow motorists because of the Bengals license-plate frame on his car.

The team is 3-11 and out of the playoffs again. Ickey Shuffle memories won't keep you warm when you're getting the cold shoulder from fellow fans. "Nobody goes into a sports bar and says, 'Hey, I'm a Bengal fan,'" he says.

Like many, Young blames team President Mike Brown for his misery as if you couldn't tell by his Web site, mikebrownsucks.com. Then there's the like-minded but unaffiliated savethebengals.com, cyber-spawn of Cincinnati-area sales engineer David Frey.

Fans are angry in Cincinnati. They're angry in Chicago, where Bears quarterback Cade McNown hasn't fulfilled expectations. They're angry with Swarthmore (Pa.) College, where the school is cutting sports teams. And they're all turning to the Web to vent.

"Somehow, there's going to be a formula for fans to use the Internet to come together in a way that sports franchises aren't going to like," Frey says.

He is urging fans to exert economic power by not renewing season tickets and by boycotting the team's corporate sponsors until Brown hires a football-savvy general manager. Frey has commitments from the owners of about 1,200 tickets, plus others who buy single-game tickets every year.

If they all follow through and don't buy tickets next year, Frey estimates there will be an $800,000 hit to the team's bottom line. That's good, he says, but it isn't enough. Frey needs commitments from more fellow season ticketholders or to somehow get a major corporate sponsor to stop supporting the team. "We've got to have an impact that's in the millions," he says.

Brown, an occasional Internet user who hired a former newspaper writer to file reports for bengals.com this year, won't comment on the sites.

Swarthmore, an elite liberal arts school outside Philadelphia, recently decided to get rid of its Division III football, wrestling and badminton teams. Upset students and alumni have set up saveswatsports.com and supportswarthmoreathletics.com .

In Chicago, fans are visiting tradecade.com to sign a petition urging the Bears to rid themselves of the second-year quarterback. As indicated by the site's main page, which features an image of McNown being yanked offstage by a giant cane, the tone isn't very serious. Visitors have signed as "George Halas," "Mike Ditka" and more than a few unprintable fake names.

The site is maintained by Dave Skwarczek and Mike McDonnell, two Chicago-area tech industry workers. They say the Bears should use McNown's 2001 salary to hire extra beer vendors, install more bathrooms in Soldier Field or clone rookie linebacker Brian Urlacher. Skwarczek says if this works (it won't), their next project might be a Web campaign to oust running back Curtis Enis. But unlike the catchy "Trade Cade," inspired by Bears fans' chant during the Nov. 5 game against Indianapolis, the two apparently are struggling to name the new site. Says Skwarczek: "We really haven't found anything to rhyme with 'Enis.'"

Cookies: Seven companies have had preliminary discussions with the NFL about the rights to produce nfl.com, including espn.com, America Online, cbs.sportsline.com and yahoo.com. The current espn.com deal, said to pay the NFL about $3 million a year, runs out after the 2001 draft. The NFL will be looking to blow the doors off NASCAR's recent Web rights deal. ... No. 13 Southern California will be featured when yahoo.com Webcasts live video and audio from the Yahoo! Sports Invitational men's basketball tournament in Hawaii on Dec. 21-23.

E-mail Chris Jenkins at chrisj@usatoday.com.





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