Sure, it was great time for the town, but NFL shouldn't stage such exhibitions

The Inside Stuff

August 31, 1992|By Bill Tanton

Now that the spectacular success of Baltimore's National Football League preseason game is behind us, let's be honest:

The NFL shouldn't even have exhibition games. They really don't make much sense.

Certainly, a team shouldn't have to play five of them, as the Washington Redskins did -- winning only once.

How many "exhibition" games does the University of Maryland play? None, of course. The Terps will open at 7 o'clock Saturday evening at Virginia, the first test for both teams, which puts them on a level playing field.

Meaningless NFL exhibitions result in far too many injuries to players. Watch any game on TV and, you can depend on it, every 15 minutes a team's medical staff will be on the field working on a fallen warrior.

Exhibitions also strain the patience and the pocketbooks of the fans, who don't like the idea of paying regular-season ticket prices in the first place. The fans tire of games week after week that prove nothing.

Even the football love-in held at Memorial Stadium last Thursday night featured an exhibition game that many spectators found boring.

"It was a great night," said former Colts season-ticket holder Tom Mooney, "but the game was nothing."

Did any of the 55,585 at RFK Stadium in Washington Saturday night honestly believe they were seeing the real Redskins in that 30-0 loss to Minnesota?

Does anyone think the Skins will play that poorly in their opener next Monday night at Dallas? No way.

Last year, Washington was 1-3 in the preseason and won the Super Bowl. In 1982, the Redskins were 0-4 in exhibitions; they won the Super Bowl that year, too.

NFL people will tell you the exhibitions are needed so that talent, especially rookies, can be evaluated. The answer to that is simple: Don't take so many players to training camp. If it's gate receipts the owners are really worried about, let them add a couple more games to the league schedule.

* Tony Ambridge, who represents my district in the Baltimore City Council, says he hopes Boogie Weinglass becomes the

owner if Baltimore gets an NFL franchise. Ambridge has good reason for this.

"I coach a kids' basketball team," Tony was telling me over the weekend, "and last year we lost our sponsor just before the season opened. It happened to make the papers that unless we could come up with $5,000 we couldn't have the team.

"The next day a check for $5,000 was delivered to my office. It was from Boogie Weinglass. I understand he's done many kind, charitable things like that."

* If you think there's a new look for Maryland football, where Mark Duffner's entire coaching staff is in its first year, you ought to see what's going on at Morgan State.

Saturday afternoon, I watched Morgan scrimmage for an hour, a spirited workout that nearly made me forget that the Bears were 1-10 last season (they beat only Howard, 38-28, in their finale). After practice, I talked with second-year coach Ricky Diggs.

"We have 45 freshmen on this squad," said Diggs, who came to Morgan from Fisher DeBerry's staff at the Air Force Academy. "That includes scholarship kids and walk-ons. We're going to be all right, but it's going to take a little time.

"Our quarterback will be either Michael Moore, who's a sophomore, or Orlando Persell, a junior. When some of our youngsters gain a little experience and maturity, we should have a nice football team."

Diggs, a go-getter, knows what it takes to win, which he got used to doing at Air Force. Morgan's huge freshmen crop this year proves Diggs can recruit.

Morgan opens its season in two weeks and will play its first two games on the road at Liberty University and at North Carolina A.&T. The Bears' home opener will be played Sept. 26 against Johnson C. Smith.

* Morgan State footnote: One of the Bears' all-time greats, linebacker Willie Lanier, had his Kansas City Chiefs number retired last week in an Arrowhead Stadium ceremony at the Kansas City-Buffalo exhibition game.

Lanier, an NFL Hall of Famer, is a vice president of Wheat First Securities in Virginia and lives in the affluent Richmond suburb of Salisbury. Extremely popular and civic-minded, he runs a foundation to enable youngsters to attend college. Lanier's friends tell him he ought to slow down, but Willie's response says a lot about the man.

"Every time I talk about slowing down," he says, "I hear about some kid who went to college because of me and I just keep on going."

* Mike Boddicker tells his former Oriole teammates that he's not happy pitching in Kansas City. I don't imagine Kansas City is too happy with him, either, with his 0-4 record and 4.61 earned run average.

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