For my 14th birthday, my father surprised me with tickets to see a winner-take-all-match at Madison Square Garden between two of the greatest tennis players of a past generation -- Rod Laver and Richard "Pancho" Gonzales.

"Rocket Rod," as Laver was nicknamed, had won tennis' Grand Slam that year, while the fiery and flamboyant Gonzales, though slightly past his prime, still retained his vast legions of fans.

Somehow Gonzales eked out a five-set thriller and the $10,000 prize money, which, for that era, was considered top shelf. While driving home, my father asked me how I enjoyed it.

In contrast to today, where I play and watch tennis as often as I can, I answered him honestly and said that it was okay, but tennis wasn't very high on my list of spectator sports.

Needless to say it was an awkward ride home. The next year I received a very inexpensive portable record player -- an unmistakable message that the prior year was still ingrained in his short-term memory.

The folks at 1211 Avenue of the Americas are probably feeling a lot like I did that day, after someone spoke out of turn saying that a $400,000 incentive package was not a major factor in the AICPA's decision to transplant more than 300 jobs to Durham, N.C.

Apparently the manager of Durham County tabled the incentives deal, at least for a while, after being stung by the comment that the incentives package played little or no role in the institute's relocation to the city that is home to Duke University.

County manager Mike Ruffin was quoted in one of the local papers as saying, "You shouldn't give people $400,000 if they're coming anyway."

Immediately, the institute went about "clarifying" its previous statements and admitting that the promised incentives by Durham were a big factor in its choice, and that it reflected the "support of the community."

For its relocation effort -- which the institute announced last fall -- the AICPA reported that it would receive something on the order of $7 million in state subsidies. However, that won't kick in until the institute invests $5 million on the local tax books.

Relocation of some AICPA executives and business units began in earnest this year with the remainder to be completed sometime in 2007.

When the relocation plan was unveiled, the AICPA threw out more figures than Randy Johnson change-ups at batting practice, and said the move would come with a first-year loss of about $49 million, but should provide the institute with a net present-value savings of approximately $100 million over the next 15 years.

Now, after last week's initial round of public grousing and veiled threats, I seriously doubt officials in Durham will do anything to endanger the AICPA's move.

The institute, on the other hand, had better practice its official line of, "We're delighted to be welcomed and become part of the Durham community."

Otherwise, their official welcoming package to Durham may be an inexpensive record -- err, I mean MP3 player.

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