Author Clancy's NFL pitch comes straight from heart

September 20, 1991|By Vito Stellino

Author Tom Clancy was long on emotion, but short on specifics yesterday when he made his pitch to get an NFL expansion franchise for Baltimore.

"I grew up watching John Unitas throwing to Raymond Berry. It was part of my life," he said at a news conference. "I can tell you what the weather was like when we beat the Giants in '58. It was kind of gray, overcast, about 40 [degrees]."

Clancy, 44, also made the case for Baltimore that will play in Baltimore.

"In the simplest possible terms, the NFL owes us," he said. "We made the NFL. . . . The owners that I've talked to recognize the moral commitment that the NFL should have to the city of Baltimore."

Clancy displayed the passion for the Colts that was typical of Baltimoreans of his generation and the devastation they experienced when the Colts left in 1984 for Indianapolis.

"In addition to the hurt that was done to my hometown, something in here [he pointed to his heart] got lost, too," he said.

Clancy, however, declined to comment on any aspects of his financial backing. He wouldn't even say if he had any backers.

By contrast, one of the other five groups, the Malcolm Glazer family, said it has the cash to write a check for the full purchase price of the team -- even if it costs $200 million.

"It's kind of hard to talk about what my prospects are or what the mode of financing is going to be until you know the terms," Clancy said.

He added: "The amount is less important than the terms. If they demand $150 million up front two years before the team starts to operate, they're not going to get anybody. I promise you there's not too many people with $150 million in cash in the banks of America. Trust me, there aren't."

Clancy said he hasn't paid much attention to pro football in recent years.

"If you don't have your own team to follow, it's not that much fun, and I'd rather sell my children to Gypsies than be a Redskin fan," he said. "My friends in Washington don't understand that, but I presume all the people who were brought up in Baltimore will."

He couldn't have stated the sentimental case for Baltimore in any stronger terms, but it's uncertain whether sentiment will get Baltimore many votes. Only one owner, Wellington Mara of the New York Giants, has said recently that the NFL has a moral commitment to Baltimore.

Meanwhile, Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said he's never said Baltimore is owed a team and isn't making a sentimental case for Baltimore.

"My position is that Baltimore has to sell itself on today's merits and today's strengths," Belgrad said. "If any old owners feel there's a wrong to be righted, we welcome their support in addition to the fact that we feel we're the best city on its merits."

Belgrad said he welcomed Clancy's entrance into the expansion derby because it's a plus for Baltimore that five different groups are willing to pay $100,000 -- only $50,000 is refundable -- to file an application.

Clancy said he was encouraged by an NFL owner -- he declined to identify him -- at a social function in New York earlier this year to enter the race. Clancy said he made his final decision on July 4, when he saw the Colts' band at a parade in Towson.

"I turned to [his wife] Wanda and said, 'I've just got to do this. It's not a question of want anymore. It's a question of have to,' " he said. "I owe it to the place where I grew up to try to get a team back for this town to put something back that someone else took."

He said he has met with Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

"He has been extremely helpful. Let's say we're rather pleased ++ with the relationship we're developing with Governor Schaefer," Clancy said.

Clancy, a Baltimore native who attended Loyola High and lives in Calvert County on a 300-acre estate overlooking the Chesapeake Bay that he calls a "hunk of land" ("don't call it an estate, my first name isn't Earl," Clancy said), also said that local ownership was important.

"If we don't get local ownership, we're just kidding ourselves," he said. "We've been down that road before. The people who own this franchise must make a commitment to this area. Otherwise, we're just fooling ourselves."

L Clancy said he is confident he can get a team for Baltimore.

"I'm putting my personal prestige on the line here, and that's probably the most important thing I have," he said. "I wouldn't be getting into this unless I was confident in my ability to do it. I do have to pony up $100,000 by certified check next week, and I wouldn't do that just for ego. I was encouraged to get into this by people who own NFL football teams. I was sort of invited to give it a try."

Clancy said he'd lobby NFL owners and said he already knows several of them, but declined to identify them.

"In a game like this, you don't lay your cards face up," he said.

Clancy also said he has an idea to help improve the NFL's television revenue.

"It's a pretty simple idea. That's why nobody ever thought of it," he said.

He's not going to reveal his until he gets in the lodge.

"I don't give away ideas," he said.

Clancy also prefers that the Baltimore stadium be open air with a grass field.

"It's supposed to be played in the mud and the blood the way real men do it," he said. "I never did it that way, because I was a nerd."

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