'Diner' guys should get city NFL team, not the Orioles


June 23, 1991|By VITO STELLINO

If Barry Levinson were filming the Baltimore sports scene last week, he would have been yelling, "Cut."

All the talk about the "Diner" guys buying the Orioles wouldn't have made his script.

His "Diner" guys would buy a football team. Remember the movie? Remember the scene in which the guy makes his fiancee pass a Colts quiz?

That movie is now part of pro football lore. In "The Pro Football Chronicle," the authors, Dan Daly and Bob O'Donnell, took the trouble of noting that Levinson played a bit loose with the facts in his quiz.

One question was: "Name the Heisman Trophy winner who went to Canada and 'now' plays for the Colts?" The answer was Billy Vessels, but he played for the Colts only in 1956. The movie was set in 1959.

OK, it's nit-picking, but the movie chronicled how important football was to the "Diner" guys.

When Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass was asked Thursday whether might have interest in football, he was reluctant to be interviewed.

"I've already gotten in a lot of trouble," he said.

Presumably, he was referring to the controversy about whether baseball would frown on his alleged gambling activities in the past. Baseball wouldn't let the Edward DeBartolo family into the lodge because they own racetracks.

That's another reason Weinglass would be better off in football. The only criterion in football is whether the check clears. After all, Bob Irsay is a member.

Weinglass would only say he might be "interested" in football, but added, "Right now, I'm going to pursue the Orioles."


The NFL's official position on expansion is that it picks the city first and then selects the owner.

But if the baseball expansion is any indication, the owner may be more important in the equation this time.

Baseball's message to St. Petersburg was: "Build It and We Won't Come."

Even though St. Petersburg built a domed stadium, which seems necessary in Florida's summer heat, it was bypassed for Miami and its open-air stadium that was built for football. Baseball ignored the rainy, muggy Miami summer weather.

It didn't matter that -- in contrast to St. Petersburg -- the city of Miami refused several times to build a stadium. The late Joe Robbie finally had to do it on his own.

Baseball didn't care about all that. It only cared about the big bucks of Wayne Huizenga, the Miami expansion team's owner (( who says he'll put a dome on Joe Robbie Stadium if the weather's a problem, although Tim Robbie, the Dolphins' owner, isn't keen on that idea.

Before Bob Tisch bought half of the New York Giants, Baltimore didn't have to worry about having a well-heeled owner.

The city still has three groups -- headed by Nathan Landow, Ed Hale and Bart Starr -- vying for a football franchise, but they don't appear to have the clout or the cash that Tisch brought to the table.

If Baltimore winds up in a battle with St. Louis for the "old" city franchise, St. Louis could have an edge because of the Busch brewery money.


It was noteworthy that as soon as Miami and Denver were tapped as the expansion cities, there was talk that the losers might entice a team to move.

That happened even though baseball has an antitrust exemption and can simply vote down a move if it wants to.

Football doesn't have such an exemption, which is why Victor Kiam, owner of the beleaguered New England Patriots, figures to be knocking on the door of one of the football expansion losers once the two teams are named in 1992.

The NFL owners will meet in Dallas on July 11 to discuss their recent setbacks in court on the labor front and the free agency trial set for Feb. 17 in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, the owners and players continue to squabble on other fronts. Even though they agreed on a three- to five-man development squad for 1990, they haven't yet been able to agree on one for 1991. One of the problems is that the players don't feel the owners lived up to the 1990 agreement to spend $15,000 a week per club on development squad players. They feel they're still owed about $550,000 for last year's players.

Despite all that, Harold Henderson, the NFL's new vice president for labor relations, still is trying to find a way to get an agreement and avoid next year's trial.

He's been talking to individual veteran players about such concepts as free agency tied to a salary cap and a guaranteed percentage of the gross. He also expects to visit six to eight training camps to talk to players and will ask Gene Upshaw, the NFLPA executive director, if he wants to get together.

The NFLPA is so committed to its legal strategy that Henderson's efforts are likely to be futile.


Bill Parcells, former New York Giants coach, is this year's Pat Riley.

Expect him to spend a year as an NBC-TV commentator before returning to the coaching ranks next year. The only question is which team will hire him.

Don't invite former Tampa Bay coach Ray Perkins and quarterback Vinny Testaverde to the same party.

Testaverde has been taking public potshots at Perkins, saying he had a conservative offense and was an "iron-fisted" coach who wouldn't let the quarterback change things.

Perkins replied, "I just wish No. 14 had a little more class than he does. That would really help in the long run. He has a big problem accepting the blame. If he can go the other way, he'll have a better chance of becoming a great quarterback, and I have my doubts he will."

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