Glazers' NFL plans are fan-friendly

KEN ROSENTHAL

February 06, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

June 1990: Orioles majority owner Eli Jacobs describes his hands-off approach toward club executives: "There is no decision that they would make, or agree upon, that I could conceivably overrule."

February 1993: Joel Glazer describes how his family would operate an NFL expansion franchise: "The way we run all of our organizations, we go out and get the best possible people and let them run with it."

Once bitten, twice shy, right?

Well, maybe.

The Glazers, like Jacobs, are out-of-towners, but Joel -- the son of Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer -- might actually mean what he says about the type of owner his father would be under the new NFL labor agreement.

Asked to name an owner he admires, Joel said, "[The Redskins'] Jack Kent Cooke is a good owner. He stays out of the operation, and opens his wallet when necessary to provide a winning team."

Now we're talking.

Joel, 25, and his brother Bryan, 28, are assisting their father in his quest to bring an expansion franchise to Baltimore. They also would be heavily involved in the choice of a general manager, the one football decision the family would make.

The GM would then assume "99.7 percent" control of the football operation, starting with the hiring of a head coach. Tempting as it might be to play with their new toy, the Glazer boys wouldn't make like Jerry Jones.

"We're fans, not experts," Joel said.

Fans who understood why so many people got angry when the Orioles raised ticket prices -- "I'm a season-ticket holder," Joel said. "I know all about it." Fans who stood in line instead of using their NFL connections to buy tickets for the AFC championship game.

True story:

The Glazers are from Rochester, N.Y., but Joel and Bryan spent much of their youth in South Florida, so they became avid Dolphins fans. The night before tickets for the AFC title game went on sale, they drove to Joe Robbie Stadium at 2 a.m., and took a number.

They returned at 9 a.m., only to find the numbers meant nothing. Undaunted, they got in line, and obtained upper-deck seats on the 5-yard line.

Imagine Jacobs tolerating the inconvenience, much less sitting among the masses.

"I think owners lose perspective on what's going on," Joel said. "They sit up in their boxes. They show up in their limos. They don't see firsthand what's going on."

Now we're really talking.

Wait, there's more.

Free agency?

"For an expansion team, it's a great situation," Joel said. "You get good draft picks, and you get to supplement them with who you sign. There's a helluva lot of quality out there. If you're aggressive and you've got the proper scouts in place from Day One, I think you can build a successful team quickly."

The size of the scouting staff?

"Whatever the biggest one is, I can tell you, if it's not that big, it will be bigger," Joel said. "It's the little side items that will be the difference between us and the other teams."

Baltimore?

"The city's building a stadium, the fans show up in droves, they deserve a winner," Joel said. "If they're going to support the team, the least we can do is give them a successful team."

Joel even spoke of keeping ticket prices affordable, citing a promotion by the Dolphins and a supermarket chain in Florida. The way it works, shoppers receive coupons that can enable them to purchase $28 tickets -- the Dolphins' least expensive -- for $12.

It all sounds wonderful, but way back when, Jacobs seemed just as sincere.

Malcolm Glazer is the same type of shrewd businessman -- in the past six months, he has acquired controlling interests in the Houlihan's restaurant chain and a Houston oil and gas company. The question is, what would happen if he wasn't satisfied with the team's bottom line?

At first, the Glazers refused to contribute $50,000 to help the city and state promote the expansion effort, saying they hadn't budgeted for it. They eventually fixed the mistake, and apparently learned from it.

They purchased $40,000 worth of instruments for the Colts' Band. They provided 60,000 pom-pons for the NFL preseason game. And, at the Maryland Stadium Authority's request, they donated $10,000 to the Miami hurricane relief effort when the Dolphins were in town.

They deserve the benefit of the doubt.

But remember, actions speak louder than words.

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