'Boogie' implores Baltimore to root for home team

MICHAEL OLESKER

October 01, 1991|By MICHAEL OLESKER

This is to announce, with all disrespect for the occasion, that someone on my newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, apparently was not fully awake during the time of Robert Irsay and Edward Bennett Williams.

Nothing else could explain last Saturday's editorial, headlined, "NFL Expansion: Cash Counts," in which this newspaper declared one Malcolm Glazer as the man around whom all Baltimore professional football fans should rally.

Glazer is a resident of Florida and a holder of much expensive real estate. He has no connection to Baltimore other than uncontrollable salivating over the possibility of owning a profitable football franchise here.

"Mr. Glazer," The Sun's editorial writer explains, "has the financial wherewithal and the willingness to buy a team for Baltimore even if it costs $200 million in cash. . . . This is the kind of financial clout that would put Baltimore back in contention for a professional football team."

When these words were read over the telephone Saturday to a XTC listener in Aspen, Colorado, the man on the other end, Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, resisted the impulse to throw a punch, but only because the writer of the editorial was 2,000 miles away.

"How about this?" Weinglass said yesterday. "My group has at least as much money as Glazer, and probably more. He can write a check for the whole amount, and so can we. But money isn't even the point here."

Weinglass' main point, and mine, we'll get to in a moment.

His group, known as Baltimore Football Associates, includes not only Weinglass, co-founder and chairman of the board of Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc., but also the following persons:

* Mike Sullivan, president of Merry-Go-Round, whose 800 stores are headquartered in Baltimore.

* Douglas Carton, whose C-Mart Discount Warehouse operates here.

* Barry Levinson, the movie world's poet-laureate of Baltimore.

* Richard Pearlstone, a real estate developer here.

* David Bernstein, chairman of the board of Duty Free International here.

"I keep hearing how wealthy this Glazer is," Weinglass said. "Does anybody know that, between me and Bernstein, the market capitalization of our businesses is one-billion, five hundred million dollars? And it's Baltimore-based money."

"One-point-five billion?" Weinglass is asked.

"Yeah, but don't write it that way," he says. "Write it so it sounds like something: one-billion, five hundred million."

He's right, money sounds like something when you put it that way -- and the money is also slightly beside the point.

In New York today, at least three different groups will go to National Football League headquarters and fork over $100,000 for the right to be considered as owners of a team here -- if Baltimore should, in fact, get a team.

Besides the Weinglass group and the Glazers, there's also a group put together by novelist Tom Clancy, who is a native Baltimorean. Being a veteran of spy intrigue, Clancy has kept his finances less public than the others, but he did strike the right emotional note recently.

Asked if he rooted for the Washington Redskins since the heist of the Colts to Indianapolis, Clancy said he would sooner cast off his children.

"Listen," Weinglass said yesterday, "Clancy's my competitor, but what he said about the Redskins, it was the nicest thing I've heard said. Imean, I wouldn't sell my kids, but it's the right sentiment."

Did somebody say sentiment? That's the thing so breathtaking about last Saturday's Sun editorial: It's all about money and forgets that money gives no assurance without a heart behind it.

Robert Irsay had no heart for Baltimore, and so he took his money and the team he'd purchased and fled west. In the aftermath, Edward Bennett Williams sensed the emotional vulnerability of the town and took advantage of it.

We're saying goodbye to Memorial Stadium next weekend not because we needed to spend millions on a new ballpark while school kids go without books and cops are underpaid and government workers face layoffs.

MA It's because Williams let it be known he could always move to

Washington if he didn't get his way.

And now we're supposed to rally behind this Malcolm Glazer of Florida, about whom nobody here except perhaps accountants knows anything at all?

"To me," Weinglass said, "that's the whole key. Everybody in my group's a true Baltimorean. It's not just business, either, because you can look up the amount of money we've all given to Baltimorean charities right from the beginning, and you can look at our roots here. This is where our hearts are.

"Look, I could have bought franchises in other cities. I've had the offers, but I wouldn't even consider it. If it's not Baltimore, it's not gonna happen for me. My people, my family, my friends are in Baltimore. And I'm there four months a year, and I'm in Ocean City all the time."

For those who were there for the first incarnation, pro football has an inexorable pull. Boogie Weinglass still talks of ancient afternoons watching Buddy Young and Bert Rechichar and Gino Marchetti, still thinks of Lenny Moore as Sputnik, still remembers a corner of the end zone known as Orrsville.

"Every time I hear the word Colts on the TV now, I can't even watch it," he says. "Every time I see that horseshoe on the helmet, I get sick. And it could happen again. Look, I can understand another Baltimore group beating me out, if they're able. But for any outside group, Malcolm Glazer or anybody, that would be a tragedy for Baltimore."

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