Glazers are rich in all the wrong places

Ken Rosenthal

September 20, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

With apologies to a certain best-selling novelist, it's debatable which more accurately reflects "The Sum of All Fears:"

An NFL team with out-of-town owners?

Or no team at all?

For many in this jilted city, the prospect of the Malcolm Glazer family swooping in to Baltimore with a Mayflower van full of money isn't as enticing as it seems.

This is Tom Clancy's notion. It is Boogie Weinglass' notion, and probably Bethesda real-estate developer Nathan Landow's notion, too.

All are prospective local owners. But not one has said he caplunk down $125 million to $200 million in cash to cover the estimated cost of the team.

The Glazers, on the other hand, boast they can write a check tpurchase a small principality. Regular white knights, these guys. Except they're wearing road uniforms.

Pick your poison:

Out-of-town owners?

Or, no team at all?

It might come down to that. The outcome of baseball'expansion derby demonstrated the value of cash on demand. The NFL is no less a capitalist venture.

There's no high road, only a toll road.

And forget about an alternate route.

The belief here is that Pee Wee Herman would make a suitablowner if he could bring a franchise to Baltimore. But here was Clancy yesterday, sitting in a lavish boardroom on the 20th floor of the Legg Mason building, speaking passionately about the clear and present danger of Soviet -- oops, out-of-town -- interests.

"For the city of Baltimore to get a team owned by someone whdoesn't live here is lunacy," the novelist said. "We are fooling ourselves if we do that. The people who own this team must have a stake in this community. Otherwise we're kidding ourselves."

Who's to argue in a sports town that exists in a perpetual statof anxiety? Robert Irsay created the paranoia by shopping the Colts and taking them to Indianapolis. The two most recent Orioles owners, Edward Bennett Williams and Eli Jacobs, fostered it to record profits.

It's little wonder that Weinglass -- the Diner Guy riding thworld's most profitable Merry-Go-Round -- created such excitement when he spoke of buying the Orioles. Clancy stirs the same, intensely personal emotions. He struck all the right chords yesterday, and it was no act.

He grew up in a rowhouse on Loch Raven Boulevard, "grew uwatching Johnny Unitas throw to Ray Berry." He attended Loyola High with the son of the Colts' team photographer, and now lives on a 300-acre Calvert County property overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.

At one point he said, "I'd rather sell my children to gypsies thabe a Redskins fan." At another point he ridiculed the idea of former Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr owning part of Baltimore's expansion franchise as "somewhat blasphemous."

Starr is aligned with local people, but Clancy was on a roll. Listeto the way he described the moment he decided to pursue a franchise. It came when he saw the Colts' marching band perform while serving as grand marshal of the Towson July 4th parade.

"They halted right in front of us and ran up the old fight song,Clancy said. "I turned to [my wife] Wanda and said, 'I've just got to do this. It's not a question of want-to anymore. It's a question of have-to.' "

Pretty emotional stuff for a guy who writes about missile systemand atomic submarines. Clancy obviously would like to play some real-life "Patriot Games." Oh, he wouldn't speculate on a team name, but this one's pathetically easy:

Indianapolis Colts. Baltimore Hoosiers.

Money, you ask? Clancy joked, "I've got my American Exprescard" then announced, "This is no publicity stunt. This is the real thing." He'll file his $100,000 application Oct. 1. But beyond that he gave no indication of how much he could spend.

Finding partners might help, but Clancy wouldn't say he haany. Merging with other potential owners might help, but Clancy said he didn't know any personally. At least he remains "completely open-minded" on that idea. Imagine Clancy and Boogie joining forces. Mr. High Tech and Mr. Blue Jeans.

"If they [the NFL owners] demand $150 million up front two years before the team starts to operate, the fact of the matter is, they're not going to get anybody," Clancy said. "I promise you there's not too many people with $150 million in cash in the bank in America. Trust me, there aren't."

Tell that to the Glazers.

The family holding the sum of all fears.


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