Money-hungry NFL Properties needs to be put back in its inane Rhino cage

John Steadman

August 12, 1993|By John Steadman

Arrogance on the part of National Football League Properties (the licensing/merchandising arm of the NFL) and a serious lack of knowledge within the two potential ownership groups

interested in obtaining a team for Baltimore brought about the ill-conceived suggestion that an expansion team be called the Rhinos.

The entire scenario, sticking Rhinos on Baltimore, is moronic and an insult to the intelligence.

Just don't solicit the governor's input. He named the baseball park after the Earl of Camden, a Britisher, who never set foot in America and had died long before baseball was invented.

Why has this totally embarrassing and uncalled for Rhino situation been thrust upon us? It's premature to establish a nickname before the city even gets a team. The answer to the question doesn't want for an explanation. Simply put, NFL Properties is interested in a dollar grab.

If things are so desperate, Baltimore can take up a collection and, instead of giving to United Way, a deserving NFL beneficiary, turn the money over directly to NFL Properties, the Rhino tail that wags the NFL dog.

Why would NFL Properties be in such a hurry to affix nicknames? It's monetary. NFL Properties wants to have caps, T-shirts, sweaters, etc., in place and ready for printing and quick distribution the minute the expansion cities have been established.

It wants to cash in on the initial wave of enthusiasm, but a two- or three-week wait would in no way diminish sales. When NFL Properties starts dictating policy to the league it paints a bad public perception of the order of command at 410 Park Ave., New York.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue should put the money-changers in their place, stocking and working concession stands but removed from making such decisions.

It's arbitrary and heavy-handed that NFL Properties would be trying to name the baby, in this case the franchise, before it even arrives.

The men putting up the $140 million also should have the opportunity to name the team, if they have the necessary intelligence, or solicit the public for help. It makes for a fun game and everyone gets to participate.

The Colts, an exciting name that reflected Maryland's love of the horse, came into being in 1947 when owner Bob Rodenberg staged a contest and named a committee of sports writer N.P. "Swami" Clark of the News-Post, sports announcers Nelson Baker, Eddie Fenton, Nick Campofreda and Baltimore business leaders Sam Hammerman, Joe Finnerty and Bob Swindell to make the selection, one submitted by Charles Evans of Middle River.

Tagliabue reportedly would like the Colt name returned to Baltimore if the city is selected for a team. He's right and, if it happens, Tagliabue would be given a civic parade through the streets of Baltimore -- but not with a rhinoceros leading the way.

The Rhino debacle is put in a different perspective by Greg Aiello, an assistant to Tagliabue in the league office. He says the name is merely a suggestion, not a certainty.

He asked if we had a suggestion. The Baltimore Bees, he was told. "Not bad," he answered. It has alliteration, counts only four units for headline writers and, as Aiello agreed, lends itself to an action-type logo.

It's not shop-worn, although it was used previously by the University of Baltimore before it pulled out of varsity sports.

Other nominations, such as Cobras, Ravens and Bombers, have deficiencies. A cobra is a deadly snake, a raven is a superstitious omen of death and bombers is a play off the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft plant in Middle River, which produced planes during a relatively short period of time for World War II assaults on the Germans and Japanese. The manufacture of bombers otherwise had no singular identity to Baltimore.

The Rhinos is so bad you can only surmise the intent was to present something that would have shock value. If that was the premise, it succeeded.

For a name to have appeal, it should be short, recognizable and preferably have a link to Baltimore's history or tradition.

If nothing swings then something like Bees is workable. The fans could have a good time with "O's" for Orioles and "B's" for Bees.

Rhinos is dull, dense and dumb -- except for some rock-head working for NFL Properties.

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