In city's bid, Glazers a Horse of another color

MIKE LITTWIN

December 15, 1991|By MIKE LITTWIN

The NFL conducted a little dog-and-pony show in New York Tuesday and Wednesday, and Baltimore, in keeping with the theme, brought along scratchy video of Alan "The Horse" Ameche scoring historic touchdowns.

That's how you play the expansion game. You go with your strengths. Anyone can sell demographics and TV ratings and ticket guarantees. But of the 10 cities in line for two promised expansion teams, Baltimore, which can demograph with anyone, the only one with Alan Ameche. It's also the only city with more than one ownership group.

The Ameche part is fine. The multiple ownership part gets trickier, especially as it is beginning to be played out.

For example, what Baltimore wasn't selling in New York the other day was unity.

If we can take anything from this early expansion presentation -- and we shouldn't take much -- it is that there seem to be at least two distinct forces driving the Baltimore effort.

There are the Glazers, and then there is everyone else.

Here's what we know: At the New York meeting, the Baltimore committee made its pitch, and then the three ownership groups made theirs. The Tom Clancy group, which, to this point, includes only Tom Clancy, asked the Baltimore delegation to accompany him. So did the Boogie Weinglass group, which included a lot of Baltimore people and Boogie's ponytail. The Glazers, however, chose to go alone.

Before the trip, the Baltimore expansion committee asked the three groups for $50,000 apiece to help finance the group's promotional effort, which is being made without public money. Two owners stepped up immediately. The Glazers declined.

"We feel very fortunate that two of the groups almost spontaneously said they'd be happy to put up their share," said Herb Belgrad, who heads the Baltimore effort. "The other group [the Glazers] said they were unable to because the expense hadn't been budgeted."

Hadn't been budgeted? Wouldn't the-write-a-check-for- $150-million Glazers have 50 grand lying around the house? I figured these guys could get that much with an ATM card. I know a lot of people who can scrounge up 50,000 bucks. I myself am only a single lottery ticket away.

What may be going on here is that the Glazers have a problem with the Baltimore committee, with whom they have not yet shared their financial statement. Are the Glazers, from Rochester, N.Y., uncomfortable dealing with the local people?

"Not at all," said Joel Glazer, son of Malcolm Glazer, who heads the Glazer clan. "We didn't invite [the delegation] in with us because we're a private company, and we want our net worth kept private."

And as for the promotion money?

"They did come to us for $50,000, which was money we had not allocated. We have allocated other funds for things we're going to be doing in the future. We're going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in getting Baltimore a football team. This process is just beginning. If this is a football game, don't judge us by what we do in the first quarter. It's the final score that counts."

There's no questioning the Glazers' commitment. The questions are whether everyone is on the same page and whether that even matters.

Belgrad held a private meeting with commissioner Paul Tagliabue in an attempt to assess whether three ownership groups presented a problem. Tagliabue told him not to worry.

"He said that rather than being a disadvantage, having three groups provided a degree of flexibility the other cities didn't have," Belgrad said. "He said there was no reason to change at this point."

At some point, of course, there can be only one group. Clancy, who is still raising the money, is a long shot. The Glazers are pressing the fact that they can pay for the team with cash, a fairly compelling argument. And then there's the Boogie factor. Weinglass has the money, he has his heart in Baltimore (even though his address labels say Aspen), and he has a strong group with strong, local ties. But, seriously, would the not-exactly-progressive subset of humankind that runs the NFL accept someone who looks like Boogie?

Those owners who compose the NFL expansion committee will eventually have their say. They'll meet with Boogie, and if they like him, the Baltimore committee will like him. If they don't, Baltimore won't.

"We will look for guidance from the NFL owners," Belgrad said.

And if the NFL owners make their choice clear?

"That's the kind of guidance we're looking for," he says.

This is apparently the premise upon which the Glazers are working -- that, if Baltimore gets a team, the NFL will pick the owner. That's pretty much a sure thing. Now, if only Baltimore were.

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