The world's coming to an end. And it's going to be Cincinnati's fault. If the city doesn't turn over those 10 acres on the riverfront to the county for the Bengals' new stadium - and do it pronto - we can say adios to the planet.
Sounds crazy, but what with all that I keep hearing is riding on the transaction of this small chunk of Ohio riverbank, this is clearly a pivotal parcel of the universe.
After two years of negotiations that can and often do go from fruitful to fruitless in the span of six seconds, the whole deal comes down to these 10 acres. Without it, many people have been saying the past few weeks, Cincinnati dies, the region shrivels up, North America slips south, and, well, just let your imagination run wild. There haven't been so many variations on the domino effect since Robert McNamara gave Pentagon briefings.
So let's play dominoes:
I've even heard those 10 acres are critical for shoppers panting for a Nordstrom store on Fourth Street. Without a new Bengals stadium, new parking lots on the riverfront won't be built. Without lots of nearby parking spaces, the much-sought-after department store won't set up shop downtown.
- If the city doesn't transfer the land to the county by Jan. 31, Mike Brown swears the stadium deal's off. He'll be free to move his Bengals to a city where the team that's tied for having the National Football League's worst record since 1991 will receive the respect it deserves.
- Without a stadium deal, the governor has said that Fort Washington Way will be reconfigured when pigs fly.
- If the Bengals aren't in Cincinnati, you can kiss reborn Boomer Esiason goodbye. Boomer says he won't play for a Bengals team that isn't based in Cincinnati.
It's a simple equation. No land = No stadium, no Bengals, no Boomer, no new highway and no Nordstrom.
For want of 10 acres, all of this is lost.
More dominoes fall
And it might not stop there. As I said, let your paranoid imagination run wild. Close your eyes and complete this sentence:
If the city doesn't turn over those 10 acres . . .
Ashamed of the deserted riverfront, the Olympics refuse to come to Cincinnati in the year 2012.
Downtown's retail renaissance peters out. Tiffany turns into Target. Marv Albert opens a lingerie shop on Sixth Street next to Larry Flynt's X-rated movie multiplex. The Maisonette's five stars fall to earth, replaced by a White Castle.
Newport's Millennium Monument tower, home to 22,085 bells, becomes a one-story Taco Bell.
Marge Schott opens an auto dealership on the site of old Cinergy Field.
Newport's aquarium springs a leak.
The 10 acres are planted in St. John's wort. We need all of the anti-depressant herb we can get while we watch the Cleveland Bengals and the Gallatin County Reds on TV.
A year from now, I hope we're all laughing about this 10-acre impasse. But, to get to that point, we need to stick together and work side-by-side, not shout across tables, hold finger-pointing press conferences and draw lines in the sand.
I can understand city officials holding up the county over that 10-acre plot of land. They want the county to contribute to redoing Fort Washington Way. They intend for the concept of a covered-over freeway plaza to become a real-life boulevard connecting downtown to an exciting new riverfront.
I can also understand Mike Brown digging in his heels and wanting to get this deal done. But he's forgetting his audience. The people he's offending are the same ones whose taxes will ultimately pay for his $400 million football palace.
But this is no time for another us-against-them debate. It's time to work as a team, play to our strengths and common goals rather than to our weaknesses and differences.
We are all together on this.
Or, we should be.
Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.