State has enough sports to go around, even without NFL

December 02, 1993|By Bill Tanton

Is there life in Baltimore after Paul Taglia-boo-boo?

Of course there is. You just have to get off the couch and discover it.

Quit whining about the NFL's snub of our city. Haven't we just lived a decade without the NFL, and survived it very nicely?

Sure, it's embarrassing that our great city has been beaten out by -- ugh! -- Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., for something we desperately wanted.

Like the old gray mare, the NFL ain't what it used to be. It will never again be the way it was back when Baltimore and its Colts carried on a torrid love affair.

Most people who watch NFL games today say the product is a little shabby. Too many teams. Too many players. Too many games. Too much TV.

Why would the NFL even want to expand when so many of its teams are in trouble? It can barely manage the 28 it has now -- which is why several of them are already flirting with Baltimore.

Even the Washington Redskins, the team with zillions on its season-ticket waiting list, had 10,000 no-shows last Sunday.

So we lost, and lost big. Supposed insider Al Lerner couldn't even deliver the vote of his partner in the Cleveland Browns, Art Modell. But we escaped the NFL's tawdry process with our honor. That can't be said of those within the league who lied to us and misled us.

Don't hold your breath waiting for that existing team to move here either. Those franchises are encumbered with leases. Legal entanglements and court fights loom. The expansion route is preferable.

We don't need somebody else's problems. We don't need an ownership and management that have failed somewhere else.

And so, honorable Baltimoreans and Marylanders, it's time to move on -- and that does not mean to the Canadian Football League.

In this market, it's the NFL or nothing. People here are too sophisticated to go for minor-league football, which is what the CFL is.

Don't people remember the U.S. Football League experiment in the '80s?

The USFL had Doug Flutie and Herschel Walker and Jim Kelly and playing rules we could understand and Baltimore won the championship and still nobody cared.

That's because it wasn't the NFL.

We really don't need to do anything to solve our problem. That vTC is, we don't need to build a stadium or apply for a franchise anywhere.

All we have to do is get off that sofa, abandon that TV mentality and take advantage of what's already sitting in our laps.

Take University of Maryland football, for example.

Hey, I know the Terps were 2-9 this year, but they're going to get better as coach Mark Duffner's program matures.

Maryland should launch a marketing campaign now to bring frustrated, would-be pro football fans to Byrd Stadium. The place is spruced up and spiffy. It's being enlarged, too.

A fan could do a lot worse than spend an afternoon in Annapolis watching Navy. The pre-game march-on by the 4,000-member Brigade of Midshipmen is worth the price of admission.

Navy is getting a little better, too. Let's be honest. The Mids couldn't have gotten much worse.

They've won four games this year -- an increase of three over each of the last two years -- and I think they'll beat Army Saturday in the Meadowlands.

Towson State had one of the most entertaining Division I-AA football teams in the country this year, yet few attended the games at Minnegan Stadium. I guess the people were waiting for that decision from the NFL.

Towson State will be good again next year. Give 'em a shot.

Those who saw Poly beat City at Morgan State this season were thrilled by one of the best high school games ever played here.

After Poly beat Gilman, 7-0, a former City College player named Dave Palmer stood at midfield and said to me:

"I can't understand why more people don't get out and go to high school football games. The pro games are so predictable."

There are other sports to satisfy the fan such as the Spirit, Baltimore's indoor soccer team.

The Spirit is undefeated (7-0). There are loads of local guys on the team. Buffalo comes to the Arena Saturday night. The biggest crowd of the young season, 7,000, is expected.

Sure, life goes on after rejection by the NFL. Sports go on, too.

If we have to go another 10 years without the NFL, we'll survive. Very nicely, thank you.

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