Puh-leeze don't gloat over the news that the Redskins football team may be leaving Washington. But one is sorely tempted to kiss the brick archways at Camden Yards after witnessing the dispiriting divisiveness in Greater D.C. over a new home for the burgundy and gold warriors.
In the most stealthy sports heist since Colts owner Bob Irsay loaded up the moving vans in the Baltimore pre-dawn, Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke and Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder shocked Washington by unveiling plans to build a new home for the National Football League champions outside the nation's capital. At the press conference, adorned with the team's silver Super Bowl trophies, a jubilant Mr. Wilder looked as if he'd swallowed a coat hanger upside down. A handful of Alexandrians less thrilled about a new stadium in their backyard picketed outside the site and several politicians vowed opposition, too. Among them is U.S. Rep. Tom McMillen, who must figure if he has to campaign on the Eastern Shore, he might as well tackle Virginia, too.
District Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly, meanwhile, maintained that she is determined to keep the team within the city. She blamed Mr. Cooke and the Interior Department for failing to resolve environmental issues that stalled D.C.'s new stadium talks. Wasn't it just months ago that Mrs. Kelly was criticized for getting too chummy with the team owner by accepting Super Bowl tickets?
In the end, a new stadium in Virginia would enable more people to see Redskins games, which have been sold out since 1966, and might spur development of a forgotten hunk of rail yard. But for now, the team owner looks imperious, D.C. residents feel betrayed, the mayor is shellshocked. Contrast this regional fight with the relatively smooth road to Camden Yards -- even down to the fact that the last thing Gov. William Donald Schaefer and the Orioles did, choose a name, was the first thing Virginia and the 'Skins did. Welcome to "Jack Kent Cooke Stadium at Potomac Yard." And you thought Oriole Park at Camden Yards was a bit much.
Baltimore's new downtown ballyard had its opponents; bugs remain to be worked out. But the place has proven such a smash, its vibrance is even said to be helping the city bid for a football franchise to replace the Colts. To understand the internecine spectacle Governor Schaefer avoided for Maryland, cup your ear to the south. You may hear the strains of "Hail-storm over the Redskins."