Go, Redskins! Someplace other than near us!

December 08, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

There goes the neighborhood.

The Washington Redskins have announced they are moving to Laurel, which is practically in Howard County, which is practically in Baltimore, which wants a football team so badly that . . . No. We do not want a football team that badly.

We now face one of two equally disturbing scenarios:

* By threatening to move to Baltimore's doorstep, the Washington Redskins effectively chase away any likely competitors, such as the Baltimore Rams/Raiders/Bucs/Patriots.

* They could actually move there.

This thing gets worse and worse. First, we get passed over for a couple of tank towns in the expansion wars (I just learned Jacksonville has light rail; it goes two blocks) and now this.

Now, THIS.

By THIS, I mean, of course, that we would essentially be annexed by Washington. It's not quite an even trade. They get our football market. We get to watch Bob Dole on C-Span2. I'm just afraid we're going to lose the vote.

Why not rename the city Fairfax County and get it over with?

I'm going to give you a little quiz here. It's fill in the blank:

I ______ the Washington Redskins.

You didn't say "love," did you? Or "like." Or even "can barely stand."

The right answer is, "I would rather play the Dustin Hoffman role in 'Marathon Man' than watch the Washington Redskins."

OK, that's an emotional, anti-intellectual and probably even dumb response. But I'm sticking with it because it seems just and right. And I'm certainly willing to do the dumb thing when it counts.

I hate the Washington Redskins the same way I hate the sound of the Washington-Baltimore metro area and the existence of Washington lawyers. I don't even like Washington Irving.

But if you happen to be that rare thing, a Baltimore person and a Washington Redskins fan, it may be a little early to break out the Chardonnay.

Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke has previously announced deals to build stadiums in Northern Virginia and in Washington. Next, he may announce a deal in Bangladesh. His favorite book is Hammond's World Atlas.

For an extortionist (read: NFL owner), it's a brilliantly conceived notion. Every day, Cooke adds new jurisdictions who might want to compete in a bidding war. I hear Jackie McLean is trying to get him into a certain building in Baltimore.

You've seen the guv say he would never condone any move to Maryland because it would finish Baltimore's chances of getting a team. Take no heart from that statement, although it is as honest as any words the guv has ever uttered. The truth is, if Cooke actually wants the deal, he'll get it.

For the near future, though, you can expect a great clash between Cooke -- an arrogant, overweening billionaire with a funny hat who marries 20-year-olds with unfortunate habits -- and the guv, who is neither rich nor married.

But Cooke will win. Although 81 years old, he'll outlast the opposition.

In 13 months, the guv will be out of office. You never thought you'd regret hearing that, did you? Cooke, meantime, is on the record as saying that, unlike the late, great Sam Cooke, he expects to live forever.

The guv speaks from the gut. The next governor, faced with the prospect of no football team in Maryland or a Washington Redskins football team in Maryland, will use his head, particularly since Cooke intends to build his own stadium.

Yes, there are infrastructure costs, which might be quite high. But more important are the psychic costs.

It's bad for Baltimore fans and it's bad for Washington fans. So, why then would Cooke do it?

Two reasons. The first is that he hasn't been able to swing a deal with D.C. that he can accept. The second is that someday NFL games will go pay-per-view, and the Washington-Baltimore metro area is the fourth largest in the country. Meaning there is money to be made.

Cooke would call the team simply the Redskins and make a bunch of season tickets available to Baltimore fans.

Will it happen? I doubt it. The likely prospect is that Cooke scares away a team from moving here and then he stays in D.C.

Might it happen?

You bet. And, for future generations, it won't much matter where they came from. But as a former Washington Redskins coach once said, the future is now.

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