Enough! Leave ball with Boogie, Glazer

KEN ROSENTHAL

November 06, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Pick an owner, any owner.

Robert McNair? Sounds good.

Alfred Lerner? Worth a look.

Jeffrey Lurie? Why not?

And so we enter the latest -- but surely not final -- stage of that jump-on-command, show-no-shame, sell-your-soul enterprise known as the race to bring Baltimore an NFL franchise.

Boogie Weinglass? Malcolm Glazer? Never heard of 'em. From every indication, the city's only hope of landing a team is to find a third potential owner, a filthy rich white knight to deliver us to the league of bye weeks, injured quarterbacks and empty promises.

Presumably, Gov. Schaefer spent yesterday calling the 400 Richest People in America, as listed by Forbes magazine.

We're that desperate, that pathetic.

When do we recover our dignity?

The NFL announced yesterday that the decision date for the second franchise remains Nov. 30, but all ownership changes must be completed by Nov. 15. That gives Baltimore nine days to come up with Plan B -- unless the league needs to blow another deadline for its beloved St. Louis.

In one sense, you can't blame Schaefer for considering other owners -- he's the quarterback now, trying to pull out every stop in the two-minute drill. But no matter how inadequate Weinglass and Glazer appear, it would be a severe act of disloyalty to dump either in the 11th hour.

When does it all end?

When do we say, enough?

Probably not now, with the expansion fight continuing and a change in ownership the only way to revise the battle plan.

Maybe not for a long time, if the city and state redirect a failed expansion effort toward luring an existing franchise to Baltimore.

It was one thing when the extent of this madness was selling out an NFL preseason game in record time. It's another thing when Schaefer might abandon Weinglass and Glazer, the two men who got us to this point.

McNair? Lerner? Lurie? They're all out-of-towners, total unknowns in Baltimore. Nine years after losing the Colts, how could Schaefer look himself in the mirror if he brought in one of these NFL-approved suits to run the franchise?

Whatever their flaws, both Weinglass and Glazer invested two years and thousands of dollars. Weinglass, in particular, deserves better. He didn't bail out like Tom Clancy when the NFL set its franchise fee. And he was trying to return the Orioles to local ownership when no one had heard of Peter Angelos.

Glazer isn't as pivotal a figure in the city's recent sports history, but he stuck with Baltimore, didn't he? He could have bought the New England Patriots. He could have become the St. Louis owner. But now we might do to this outsider what we always feared he'd do to us -- jump ship.

Maybe it's necessary -- it seems unlikely New York Giants co-owner Robert Tisch would encourage his friend Lurie to enter the picture if Baltimore was out of the running. Still, even if Schaefer attracted a new investor, there's no guarantee it would make a difference.

Geography is still the biggest obstacle facing Baltimore. Weinglass might be too much the maverick, Glazer too much the misfit. Yet, either would probably fit just right in the NFL's chosen cities, Charlotte and St. Louis.

Besides, if the goal now is to lure a marquee businessman of national stature, then why wasn't that the goal in the first place? The NFL misled the Maryland Stadium Authority with assurances that multiple ownership groups weren't a problem.

The two-headed monster left MSA chairman Herb Belgrad as the most visible person in the expansion effort. Belgrad is a low-key attorney, not a high-powered corporate kingpin. And, when the MSA refused to endorse either group, it only muddled the equation further.

No doubt the NFL owners are wondering why a local investor like Weinglass can't gain the support of his own governor. It's certainly a valid question, and one Schaefer ought to consider as he plots his next step.

Why not commit to Boogie? If the NFL is so terrified by an owner with a ponytail, then prop him up. Two prominent local businessmen -- Crown Central Petroleum chief Henry Rosenberg and H&S Bakery head John Paterakis -- are part of Weinglass' group. Expand their interests. Bring them to Chicago.

If Boogie's personality is such a problem, the MSA should have discouraged him from the start. Now it's the bottom of the ninth, and Boogie is Mitch Williams to Schaefer's Jim Fregosi. It would be wrong to dump Glazer, unconscionable to dump Boogie. When do we recover our dignity? When do we say, enough?

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