Baltimore's expansion presentation suits NFL fine Demographics, stadium and tradition are stressed

December 12, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

NEW YORK -- Baltimore put its best foot -- and "Diner" tie -- forward yesterday, when it made its expansion presentation to a group of NFL executives.

A nine-man delegation stressed Baltimore's demographics, new stadium complex and grand football tradition in its presentation before commissioner Paul Tagliabue and several league officials.

After the presentation -- the last among 10 potential cities -- Herbert J. Belgrad,chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said: "It's been a very positive day for Baltimore. It was just the right setting and the right atmosphere. We had a very positive exchange with the commissioner and the committee. Overall, I think we did what we set out to do. I think we made an impression."

"I love our chances," said Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, who represents one of the three Baltimore ownership groups. "I'm real excited."

The presentation included a video narrated by Larry Lewman, an actor and professional narrator, that started with footage of the 1958 NFL championship game and featured aerial shots of downtown Baltimore, including Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

In an attempt to make a good impression,Weinglass, the one-time "Diner" guy, even wore a suit and a "Diner" tie -- depicting Boogie's Diner, a chain of restaurants owned by Weinglass -- to go with his ponytail and Western boots.

Weinglass, who usually wears jeans, denied he was wearing a suit. "It's a sports coat and pants," he said.

Baltimore's bid for a team was knocked indirectly by Walter Payton, part of the St. Louis group.

The former Chicago Bears Hall of Famer didn't mention the city, but he said: "Just to be realistic, it's be hard to put another team in an area where within 100 miles, you already have two teams. That would be over-saturation."

Weinglass replied: "Walter was a great football player, but I don't know how good he is at analyzing markets. . . . I think he's dead wrong."

When novelist Tom Clancy -- another of the potential Baltimore owners -- was asked about Payton's comment and why the NFL would put a team between Philadelphia and Washington, he said, "Because there's a city there."

Matt DeVito, chairman of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said he addressed the issue of why the Colts left Baltimore in 1984.

"I just addressed it because I thought it was an issue that I thought we should talk about," he said. "I asked whether this was an impediment to our application, as I put it, a can that was permanently tied to our tail, and they asked why I thought the Colts lost the support of the fans.

"I said the problem was the fans loved the Colts too much, and when we began to have the reverses, they reacted very badly to it with the underlying feeling it was impossible we'd lose the team."

DeVito said he was told Baltimore's loss of the Colts was not a negative in the city's bid for an expansion team. "They said we were all on an even playing field," DeVito said.

Belgrad also said league officials told him it was not a negative that Baltimore has three ownership groups vying for the team. No other city has more than one.

Besides Weinglass and Clancy, the other potential owner is Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer, who came with two of his sons, Bryan and Joel. Weinglass came to the meeting with Mike Sullivan, president of Merry-Go-Round, Weinglass' nationwide chain of clothing stores. Clancy came by himself.

"I've been representing myself for 44 years," Clancy said.

The Glazers were the only group to make their presentation without any other members of the Baltimore group present.

"We wanted to discuss our financial information," said Bryan Glazer. "We're a private company, and we like to be low-key. We're ready to step into the limelight if we're awarded the team."

Malcolm Glazer said the NFL didn't question his assertion that he can buy the team for cash.

The Glazers also addressed the question of local ownership and said several members of the family will move to Baltimore if they get the team.

Joel Glazer said that once they have children and grandchildren, "Baltimore will have more Glazers than they'll know what to do with."

It's still uncertain whether the NFL will go ahead with its timetable to name the two expansion teams by October to play by 1994.

William Dunavant, one of the potential Memphis, Tenn., owners, said that Tagliabue told them expansion could be delayed by labor problems, although Tagliabue added that he was in "intensive discussions" with the players' attorneys and hopes to get a collective bargaining agreement by March.

All indications from the players' side, though, are that the talks are going nowhere and that the two sides will meet in an antitrust trial in Minneapolis next year.

When Tagliabue was asked if he had to have a signed labor agreement to go ahead with expansion, he said, "No."

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