Baltimore delegation faces another month of uncertainty Sidelines edgy as wait goes on BALTIMORE GETS THE STALL

October 27, 1993|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- It was like the old days, before men were allowed in the delivery room. A group of men sat in one room yesterday, nervously waiting for an announcement about the possible birth of a professional football team in Baltimore.

"There is no pressure about speaking to 28 NFL owners," said Bruce Hoffman, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority. "The pressure comes from knowing that you speak for an entire city."

Hoffman was in the suite along with Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Maryland Stadium Authority chairman Herbert J. Belgrad and several other members of the delegation waiting to see if Baltimore was one of two cities from five candidates to be awarded an NFL expansion franchise.

And the wait goes on for Baltimore and three other cities after last night's announcement that Charlotte, N.C., was in and the second city would be named Nov. 30.

Emotions ran the gamut -- nervousness, confidence, even silliness and nervousness again. Ten years of preparation were bottled up in a 14-by-24-foot room.

"I've been through many big games in my life," said Ernie Accorsi, a member of the delegation and the for- mer general manager of the Baltimore Colts and Cleveland Browns. "But you knew if those games began at 1 p.m., they ended around 4:30. With this, you don't know how it's going to end."

Schaefer seemed uncomfortable with the waiting game, even though he tried to downplay it. Dressed in a dark blue suit, he sat in an overstuffed chair with his feet propped on a coffee table.

He talked about the rest of the contingent, how Belgrad kept talking about football all morning and how Accorsi was going to collapse from pacing.

"See those guys over there? They have put a lot of time and effort into this," said Schaefer. "If I talk to Herb about the weather, he talks about football. If I talk to Herb about Chicago, he talks about football. If I talk to Herb about the world collapsing, he says not before we get a football team.

"For the most part, they have remained calm, but I guess they have had their anxious moments," Schaefer said.

And Schaefer?

He said he was calm. He had an omelet, fried potatoes, a bagel and two cups of coffee for breakfast. He chatted with Dave Thomas, who owns Wendy's restaurants. He took a walk along the waterfront and a ride through the Chicago business community.

He ate a cheese sandwich, complete with tomato, for lunch.

No sweat, right?

Then why was Schaefer repeatedly seen pacing through the hotel and rehearsing his presentation? Why did his fingers constantly tap on the chair? Why did he occasionally stare out the window, his face showing the strain of a man not quite at peace with himself -- not yet, anyway?

"I don't think he is used to sitting around like this," said Belgrad. "He's tried to walk it off by going outside or in the corridor."

Belgrad was surprisingly calm. He was awakened by a Baltimore radio talk show host 5:30 yesterday morning. He stayed in the hotel suite from 8 a.m until 1 p.m. to answer any questions from the NFL about the city's package.

None came.

"I'm really satisfied with what we have done, and there is nothing else we can do," said Belgrad. "People in this room have invested a lot of time personally, and we have isolated ourselves from the rumor mills.

"We've gotten a lot of phone calls in support of what we have done. I have argued a lot of appellate cases, so maybe the nervous feeling hasn't hit me yet," said Belgrad. "But today in this room we have talked about everything except Somalia."

There were discussions about Wall Street, the media (always using the negative angle), friends and family. At one point, Hoffman started swinging an imaginary golf club while Mathias J. DeVito, Rouse Co. chairman and a member of the delegation, started shadowboxing.

Film director Barry Levinson, one of the partners in the Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass ownership group, occasionally entered the room to break the sometimes intense mood. He talked about an old acting career and Dustin Hoffman. He talked about winning Academy Awards.

But the conversation always got back to Baltimore's expansion bid.

"So what's it like to be sitting around with two other people who

are candidates for the Academy Award?" said Lainy LeBow-Sachs, Schaefer's aide.

"Look around you," said Levinson. "It's just like this, waiting to see if you're going to get a football team."

That topic of conversation was inevitable. Television camera operators filmed shuttle buses when they arrived at the hotel. Any man in a suit coming off an elevator was subject to having reporters and bright lights crammed into his face.

The phone rings. Everybody jumps. It's only Weinglass.

"If I had my way," said Accorsi, "I'd like to be in the woods by myself, and just have the mailman drive up with an envelope."

CHARLOTTE'S OWNERSHIP GROUP

Fifteen men make up the ownership group of the Carolina Panthers, who were awarded an NFL franchise last night:

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.