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Pity poor Cleveland, for Jimbo’s on his way

Root for the Cleveland Indians. Hope they win the World Series. Search within to discover your deepest feeling of sympathy for a mass of historically frustrated sports fans who now must deal with a character so incompetent and smug, he will make “The Drive” and “The Fumble” and “The Shot” seem like mere blips on a screen of countless disappointments.

The Indians might during these baseball playoffs finally erase the Curse of Rocky Colavito.

Cleveland might never expunge what is sure to be the Curse of Jimbo.

The Gladiators leaving Las Vegas is a good thing. A great thing. It is an exceptionally rare case when losing a professional sports franchise should be perceived as such a positive outcome for any city, but uncommon also is the extreme level of ineptitude by which Jim Ferraro operates his Arena Football League team.

He is Cleveland’s problem now, sure to make those March mornings seem even colder and darker and drearier than usual.

Sports Business Journal a few months ago ranked the nation’s top 242 minor league towns, using things such as attendance and facilities and franchise retention to establish its list.

Fort Wayne, Ind., was first, followed by Hershey-Harrisburg, Pa., Oklahoma City, and Rochester, NY. Boise, Idaho, was seventh. Bakersfield, Calif., was 11th. Fresno, Calif., was 33rd. Las Vegas was 78th.

Ferraro’s idiocy alone probably cost us a good 50 or so spots. I’m guessing those who compiled the rankings didn’t look favorably upon an absentee owner who publicly stated he didn’t attend some home games because of the team’s losing ways and who went around accumulating debt he is just now being forced to repay as a condition for relocating.

“Jim Ferraro clearly loves the Arena Football League,” AFL commissioner David Baker said when trying to best spin his league’s approval for Jimbo to prove he can eventually become the biggest Mistake by the Lake. “He has invested a lot of money to be there in Las Vegas five years. He will be the first one to tell you that he has made a lot of mistakes that he doesn’t want to repeat.

“But I do regret not having (local) ownership in Las Vegas that lives or works and is deeply committed to that community, and we will not let that happen again.”

Who is to say the league should be eventually welcomed back?

It’s not the most notable of portrayals, being characterized as minor league anything. But until ground is broken on the Harrah’s-AEG arena and the NHL or NBA concludes Las Vegas is prepared to support major league sports (or decide to come, anyway), it’s how the city is and should be viewed by outsiders.

The Wranglers unquestionably best represent our minor league standing. No franchise runs daily operations and consistently offers a competitive product better than the town’s ECHL team. The 51s have a profound history and for some time have been a new ballpark away from significantly raising the Triple-A team’s stature.

But more often than not, minor league teams have been greeted here with open arms, only to lack the stability and expertise to survive those initial and certain difficult early times.

It could happen again soon.

The United Football League (set to debut outdoors in August 2008) seems to be intent on housing a team here and last week invited interested local fans to reserve seats and season tickets via the Internet.

Las Vegas is one of 12 markets being considered for eight teams in the inaugural season. Yippee.

“The UFL’s mission is to deliver high quality and accessible pro football to fans in underserved markets around the country, and we felt it was important to give these fans a voice,” UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue said.

Suggestion: Beware the temptation.

There is also something called the United States Football Association promoting a new league for the fall of 2009. A Web site for the league lists Las Vegas as one of 24 proposed cities to feature a team. Of course it does.

UFL. USFA. XFL. USFL. WFL. It’s all the same hopes and dreams eventually ending with the same burial of inferior talent and substandard product. It’s all part of that minor league society Las Vegas continues to exist in until further notice.

Let’s just hope the majority proceeds with caution the next time such a franchise approaches city limits, because if Jimbo taught us anything, it’s this: Look out for buffoons.

They’ll only give you a horrible product, then move to the next unsuspecting town.

Root for the Indians. Those poor people can’t possibly fathom the nonsense that looms.

Ed Graney’s column is published Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. He can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-4618.

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