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Saturday, February 3, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Steve Kelley

Seahawks: The Next Move -- Anyone Believe In Behring? -- All Parties Know Deal Is Irony-Clad

Something was missing from yesterday's picture.

At the King County Courthouse, the requisite stern-faced politicians prepared for battle.

At the Seahawks' headquarters, blank-faced players and officials walked their predictable tight ropes.

There were lights and cameras and plenty of action in the Northwest.

But, to the South, there was no celebration.

Nobody claimed victory after swinish Seahawk owner Ken Behring told King County Executive Gary Locke and councilman Pete von Reichbauer he was moving to Southern California.

You didn't see champagne corks popping in Pasadena; or confetti flying in Anaheim's City Hall.

There was none of the joy that accompanied the Raiders' move back to Oakland, or the Rams' switch to St. Louis, or even the Browns' proposal to go to Baltimore.

Nobody declared victory. It was as if nobody from Seattle to Disneyland believed in Ken Behring.

The lies coming from bully Behring have been insulting. The cockeyed ironies are impossible to ignore.

The owner who feigned concern about the Kingdome's earthquake readiness was moving to America's Faultland. The owner who questioned Seattle's commitment to pro football was leaving for an area that lost two teams in one year.

Oh yeah, Los Angeles is crazy about the Seattle Seahawks. You betcha. The Raiders "shoehorned" a whopping 38,161 into the Coliseum for their 1993 game with the Hawks.

Football fever? Los Angeles practically invented the TV term "blackout." The Rams drew 32,969 for their 1994 home opener against Arizona. They drew 25,705 for their final home game against Washington.

But the Round Rogue of Footballbelieves Los Angeles is the promised land. Where the promises are kept, however, remains a mystery.

Bring on the King County attorneys, he is saying. Bring on NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Behring swears he is heading South and he double-dares anybody to stop him.

Several months ago, Tagliabue, concerned about the future of football in Seattle, convinced a reluctant John Nordstrom, former Seahawk owner, to help in negotiations designed to keep the Hawks in town.

Nordstrom believed the talks were going well. He believed Behring wanted to stay.

He was betrayed.

Nordstrom is one of the heroes in this fight. So are Gary Locke and Pete von Reichbauer.

They've worked overtime, talking with Behring, negotiating, compromising. They've dealt with the Seahawks' threats, while State House Speaker Clyde Ballard and the rest of the Washington Legislature fiddled like so many Neros.

"We have a unified front," von Reichbauer said.

Maybe Behring thinks he's fighting Peter McNeeley. He may discover he's been matched against Mike Tyson.

Seattle's knows how to beat the big leagues.

It won a lawsuit that brought the Mariners to town after the Pilots left for Milwaukee. And, in the 11th hour, when owner Jeff Smulyan was preparing to slink to Tampa, a group of local owners blindsided him and kept the Mariners here.

Locke spoke for every red-blooded fan in America when he said, "This madness in football of abandoning loyal fans simply must stop."

The Rams moved to St. Louis. The Raiders to Oakland. The Browns look longingly at Baltimore. And the Oilers prepare to leave for Nashville.

The Bucs are on the bubble in Tampa and even Denver owner Pat Bowlen has mused about a move to Toronto.

The madness has to stop. Maybe it stops with Behring. He is one of football's least respected owners.

He's the guy who introduced Seattle to Mike Blatt. The owner who hired Tom Flores as both team president and coach, two jobs Flores couldn't handle.

He is the owner who never has won in a league that prides itself on parity. He is the meddlesome owner who drafted Dan McGwire, strung losses together like epithets and tore apart a franchise that was richly successful until he arrived.

Behring gave Seattle and the NFL bad news, bad citizenship, bad deals, bad teams. Today, there aren't more than three or four owners who are willing to approve his move to California and their approval is necessary.

"They (Hawks) will have the fight of their lives," King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng said.

This fight will continue for months on several fronts.

Maybe von Reichbauer can convince Portland Trail Blazer owner Paul Allen to make Behring an offer that can't be refused.

Maybe the NFL will accept an NBA owner into its midst.

Seattle is an NFL gold mine. All it takes is an owner with the moxie and the honesty to work with the local politicians.

The Seattle Seahawks aren't dead.

"Ken Behring does not deserve Seattle," U.S. Senator Slade Gorton said.

Let's get ready to ruuumble!

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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