Can't hail the Redskins That team and that city remain poison to some

January 24, 1992|By Sandra Crockett

DIDN'T SOMEBODY tell these Baltimoreans that they are supposed to love the Redskins? How about like the Redskins? Tolerate even? To some locals, Baltimore will never -- ever -- become Redskins territory.

There's no football team to root for here and Washington is just down the road a spell -- 40 miles south as the crow flies. So what's the problem, people?

"They are 40 miles from us and that's the reason we are supposed to like them?" said an unconvinced Mark Jackson. The 23-year-old who works at Harborside Seafood in Harborplace doesn't buy it.

"I hate the Redskins. I have always hated the Redskins and I will continue to hate the Redskins," he said.

C'mon, Baltimore. What about giving the team a little credit for making it to the Super Bowl?

Nope.

No way.

No how.

"They just got lucky this year," Mr. Jackson said. Come Sunday, the East Baltimore resident will be planted in front of a television watching the game -- and rooting for the Buffalo Bills. "I'll be glad when we get a team of our own," he added grudgingly.

All is not lost. People in the business of selling sports paraphernalia in Baltimore are reporting a brisk business in unloading Redskins articles. Redskins shirts and hats are going quickly at Champs Sport Shops in Golden Ring Mall, said Joe Heinicke, the assistant manager.

Is he a Redskins fan? "Definitely," he said. "I'm a season ticket holder."

Ahh-ha! There are some around. "I'm from Washington," he said seconds later. "That might explain it."

Figures.

Baltimoreans have very long memories. They remember when they had a professional football team of their own by the name of the Baltimore Colts. Those who have been around for a while remember when the Colts and Redskins competed against one another.

The Colts packed up and left Baltimore on March 28, 1984, and it hasn't been the same since.

"We found out that people in Baltimore have a problem rooting for the Redskins," said Mike Thomas, a producer for WQSR-FM radio. Mr. Thomas is a Washington, D.C., native and a self-described Redskin fanatic.

Earlier in the week, he and two of the radio personalities engaged in a little on-air banter about the Redskins. So, they thought, what about opening the telephone line for audience reaction on the topic?

In less than 45 minutes, they received about 50 calls.

"Some people said they used to be Colts fans, but since there is no team here now, they would support the Redskins," Mr. Thomas said. "But a lot of people called and said they would sell their kids before becoming a Redskins fan."

The Washington native doesn't quite get it.

"After all," he said. "Washington lost the Senators and people drive up here and root for the Orioles."

Tom Davis gets it. But then this sportscaster at the station is a Baltimore native and a former Colts fan. True or not, some Baltimore natives perceive that Washingtonians think poorly of their hometown, he said.

"Baltimore has been, or used to be, considered just a train stop for Washingtonians going from D.C. to Philly," said Mr. Davis, who has been a sportscaster here for about 20 years.

So on top of their wounded feelings over the loss of the Colts, that's one more reason some Baltimoreans have difficulty -- some have extreme difficulty -- embracing a football team from that city.

"I know where they are coming from," Mr. Davis said. "I know how they feel."

Just ask Lou Catalino, a manager of Anna's Fried Dough in Harborplace. "As a team, they are playing real good," he said. "But I don't like them because they are from Washington."

The question of loyalty has to be considered. Can a true Baltimorean embrace the Redskins without being considered a low-life, yellow-bellied turncoat who is damaging the town's chances for getting its own team?

William Brooks thinks so.

"I like the Redskins," he said, calm as can be as he walked around wearing a Redskins shirt for all of Baltimore to see. Yet, he was also a Colts fan who would love to have a football team back in town.

The Reisterstown man is among the brave Baltimore souls who proudly display their support for the Redskins. Others are not as enthusiastic, but are fans nevertheless.

"I'm not a die-hard Redskins fan but I like them," said Michael Karaskavicz, the bartender at the Baltimore's Original Sports Bar.

Tom Endrusick, 51, is another fan. But what can you expect from somebody who hails from New York City?

Enjoying a cool one at the sports bar early this week, he discussed a difference of opinion that he has with his significant other, Ruth Steinberg, 46, a Baltimore native.

"As an import," Mr. Endrusick said, "I want to affiliate with a local team."

A condescending smirk rolled across Ms. Steinberg's lips.

"I'm an orphan. I do not have a football team because I live in Baltimore," she said.

A couple of bar stools away sat Paul Ledbetter, a sports fan and Indiana native who now lives in Baltimore.

"I moved here five years ago from Indiana," he said, while nursing a brewski at the bar. "When the Colts went there, I was happy at the time," the 27-year-old engineer said. "Then I moved here and now the whole thing sucks!"

Bobby Mitchell, an assistant manager of the Washington Redskins, takes all the Baltimore put-downs in stride. "We used to tease them that the only thing the Colts was good for is to ride them" he joked. "But they would always get us back. They had a pretty good record against us."

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