Kiam welcome to visit, but he can't stay

John Steadman

March 22, 1991|By John Steadman

Now Victor Kiam has made the disturbing disclosure he is coming to Baltimore, at the behest of a friend, on an inspection tour to look us over as a possible location for the New England Patriots. Moving the team would happen only if the great commonwealth of Massachusetts or the city of Boston failed to produce a new stadium for a franchise Kiam personally trashed.

Baltimore is, oh, so eager for a return to the National Football League, but being asked to accept Kiam would cancel out any conceivable advantages. Besides, Baltimore doesn't want to raid another location, certainly not New England, for a team that was founded there and deserves to remain in its place of origin.

If Kiam came to Baltimore, where a new $200 million-plus stadium has been approved, it would be a depressing turn of events. A shattering of public morale could be anticipated. Kiam's presence would have a dismal reaction along the banks of the Chesapeake Bay, where some go to bed offering nightly prayers for the return of a pro football club.

When Baltimore gets a team, via expansion, there will be dancing in the streets and the Baltimore Colts Band, which has remained intact, plans to parade along Pratt Street. It'll be a momentous moment, similar to the rejoicing that endured when defenders of the city turned back the British invaders during the War of 1812 and Francis Scott Key became the first country songwriter.

Should Kiam wind up hunkered down on the white marble stoops of historic old Baltimore, cradling the Patriots in his arms, it could result in an exciting city suddenly becoming somber and terribly subdued. Yes, Kiam, and the way he runs a football team, would be responsible for changing the mood.

If Kiam wants to visit the city and eat some crabs at Obrycki's, which he says is his favorite seafood restaurant, there will be no objection. That's his right as an American citizen and everybody loves Baltimore.

What's hoped won't happen is for him to impose his football will on a city that has a 35-year tradition of being ecstatic over the game and where a visiting sportswriter, one Cooper Rollow of the Chicago Tribune, referred to Memorial Stadium as the "world's largest outdoor insane asylum."

It's difficult to imagine Kiam getting much of an acceptance in a city that has an innate skill in recognizing a stiff, even if the stiff does have a ton of money and also happens to own a football team. Before mentioning he was going to make a trip to Baltimore, where he has previously cut a series of television commercials for his safety-razor company, Kiam engaged in the tired old caper of putting a gun to the heads of state.

He let it be known, via brazen suggestion, that if Boston, the city, or Massachusetts, the state, didn't come across with the financing for a stadium to replace what is now in Foxboro, then the team is possibly "heading south." What he ought to be doing is begging New England for eternal forgiveness and the chance to restore the Patriots to at least a semipro level.

The way Kiam operates, along with his painful remarks about reporter Lisa Olson, he ought to be made to play at the Norfolk County dump. The Patriots, as a team, deserve to stay where they are because New England truly merits a place in the NFL. And, hopefully, Kiam with them, for better or worse.

Kiam ought to stay where he is and take inventory of a team he has damaged beyond recognition. Friends have told us that chants are heard from Pittsfield to Nantucket of, "Bring Back Sullivan . . . Bring Back Sullivan," meaning the family that formerly owned the club.

Baltimore desperately wants to return to the NFL. Under ordinary circumstances, a city would be expected to be flattered that an NFL owner suggested relocating here.

But accepting Kiam would be far too difficult a price to pay.

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