The rationale for Baltimore receiving an NFL expansion franchise often boils down to a question of decency, even morality. Funny how quickly the high road is being abandoned in the rush to embrace the Glazers as potential owners of the team.
Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass is genuinely baffled by all the commotion, and can you blame him? The Glazers might prove fine owners, but they're out-of-towners with no stake in the community. Weinglass and his five partners, meanwhile, are Baltimore natives who already have given something back.
In Boogie's mind, this is a no-brainer. Problem is, 117 NFL Sundays have passed since the Colts left town. People are tired of watching TV games from other cities, tired of being force-fed the Redskins week after week. In a desperate situation, Glazer rhymes with savior. The price is right. Come on down!
The sentiment is understandable, but unseemly in its own way. The Glazers possess one virtue, and one virtue only: Cold, hard cash. Admittedly, that's the virtue that could guarantee the city re-entry into the NFL. But the Weinglass group, unlike the two other local applicants, appears just as loaded.
Just last night, Bruce Hoffman of the Maryland Stadium Authority said, "There's heavy, heavy money there. You add up all their net worth, that's a pretty solid bunch. They're certainly very confident they can pay the tab, no matter how it's placed in front of them. Whether it's a lot at once, or over a couple of years, they don't seem very concerned."
Now, Hoffman isn't privy to the exact nature of the group's finances. But Weinglass, chairman of Merry-Go-Round Enterprises, has said much the same thing, and he's the guy who'd own 60-65 percent of the team. Assuming he's telling the truth -- and we'll know eventually if he's not -- his group is far preferable to the Glazers.
Over and over we hear it's not our choice, it's the NFL's, as if our fate rested with the stars. No doubt, the 28 league owners will make the decision they deem best. But let's say the NFL is set on Baltimore, and all things are equal between two ownership groups. You think Gov. Schaefer and the stadium authority couldn't do a little lobbying?
They could, and they should. Weinglass and his partners don't just own homes here, they're active members of the community. Just last week, Weinglass donated $25,000 to the United Way of Central Maryland, even though he lives about half the year in Aspen, Colo. Attention NFL: Thanks to Boogie, it's working.
Weinglass is proud to point out that one of his partners, Duty Free International CEO David Bernstein, serves on the board of trustees at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Another, real-estate in
vestor Richard Pearlstone, is the son of a Meyerhoff. There's more, much more. And now Boogie and Co. want to give their city the ultimate gift: An NFL team.
The Glazers? No one in Baltimore heard of them until now. Malcolm, the owner of First Allied Corp., lives in Palm Beach, Fla. His sons, Bryan, 26, and Joel, 24, live in Chicago and Washington, respectively. They're First Allied vice presidents, but they want daddy to buy them a new toy. Oh yes, they promise to move to Baltimore if awarded a team.
Sounds reasonable enough; certainly, the Glazers should not be viewed as evil simply because they are from out of town. This might come as a shock to many Baltimoreans, but there are actually decent folks living outside the state of Maryland. They just never own the local sports teams, that's all.
That said, it's fair to wonder if the Glazers are the next DeBartolos, the next Irsays, or, most likely, somewhere in between. Before anointing Baltimore for their NFL push, they had the brilliant idea of pursuing a baseball expansion fran
chise to share four cities. The ultimate carpetbag image. The ultimate carpetbag existence.
The Glazers know better than to try the same stunt again; besides, they wouldn't want to. If the city is awarded another NFL franchise, the new owners will receive a spanking new downtown stadium, not to mention guaranteed fan support and the inevitable sweetheart lease. What more could they want?
The answer is nothing. Now what do we want? The unknown Glazers or our very own Boogie? Weinglass' critics say the NFL will never buy his maverick image, his ponytail, his past gambling, tight blue jeans. Yes, this is a league that can't decide how to celebrate a touchdown. But this also is a league that supposedly bows to the almighty dollar.
Boogie and his partners aren't Hell's Angels, they're wealthy businessmen, maybe just as wealthy as the Glazers. It boils down to that original question of decency, of morality. Boogie is your longtime companion. The Glazers are your attractive new suitor. Which way do you turn? Which way?