Give Cooke his site, and our kids a team

December 08, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Give Jack Kent Cooke his roads. Give him his utilities. Give him whatever else he needs. Just make sure he reserves 20,000 tickets for Baltimore, and then welcome the Redskins to Laurel.

Yes, the Redskins. The hated Redskins.The rather-sell-your-children-to-the-Gypsies Redskins. Enough dreaming. Enough romanticism. This is Baltimore's best chance of getting a team.

No one should believe Cooke is actually moving to Laurel until the opening kickoff at his new stadium, but the odds of it happening are better than Baltimore's chances of luring an existing NFL franchise.

Someone relay the message to Governor Schaefer. His bleeding-heart, Baltimore boosterism struck the right chord in the expansion derby, but it's time to be pragmatic -- like the wily Cooke, and the stinking NFL.

Schaefer wants to bring the NFL back to Baltimore as the final triumph of his political career. But if he tries to block Cooke, it will be in his own interests, and no one else's.

Forget your conflicting emotions, forget your disdain for Washington, forget your bitterness over the Colts. Think of the future generations, because the Redskins will be their team.

Much as we hate to admit it, little by little, it's already happening. Put the Redskins in Laurel, and they'll be Baltimore's team by the early 21st century -- young Baltimore's, anyway.

What's the goal?

To settle a grudge?

Or to see your children enjoy Sundays?

If this is the first step toward Laurel becoming "Meadowlands South," if the Bullets and Capitals eventually follow the Redskins' lead, we're talking about a turning point in Baltimore sports history.

Laurel, Md.

And you thought Jacksonville was hot.

No question, dealing with Cooke is dealing with the devil, but make him cough up the additional 20,000 seats he'll get by moving from RFK Stadium to Laurel, then start paving the yellow brick road.

The Redskins have 40,000 fans waiting for season tickets, but Cooke is trying to lock up two markets, and it shouldn't come without a price. A promise of luxury boxes would not be enough.

Cooke torpedoed Baltimore's expansion chances. He needs the state to build him a costly infrastructure in Laurel. And he'd back out in a minute if D.C. gave him permission to build his stadium.

Tickets, please.

Actually, tickets won't be a problem if the Redskins keep losing. Their fans are the biggest front-runners in sports. You'd never know the Redskins won the Super Bowl two years ago, the way the no-shows are mounting.

Want to know the difference between the sports cultures in the two cities? In 1988, the Orioles staged "Fantastic Fans Night" after opening the season 1-21 and packed Memorial Stadium.

Yes, it's two different worlds. Many in Baltimore will want no part of this. But in the words of Bob Dylan, "Your old road is rapidly aging/Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand/The times, they are a-changin'."

The old road is I-95. Once, it was merely a link between the two cities. Now, it's becoming Main Street. Indeed, the mere thought a single, multi-sports complex between Baltimore and Washington is the most compelling evidence yet that the two cities are merging into one market.

This, of course, was the NFL's argument against Baltimore, but it's not valid if the Redskins remain solely a Washington monument. The equation only changes if Cooke embraces Baltimore the way the Orioles embraced Washington.

If he won't, the hell with him.

And back to stealing a team.

For once, we've got leverage, and that might be why Schaefer spent yesterday pounding the war drums. In an era where seemingly every sports franchise wants a new facility, Cooke actually is willing to build one himself. Yet, after almost five years, the deed still isn't done.

D.C. is a red-tape nightmare, northern Virginia apparently is a lesser option. Truth be told, the old man couldn't care less about Baltimore. He just wants to build his bloody stadium, and at the age of 81, his time is running out.

This is a marriage of convenience, nothing more. But if the children of Washington Senators fans can grow up rooting for the Orioles, then the children of Baltimore Colts fans can grow up rooting for the Redskins.

Shed one last tear for what might have been, then close your eyes and think of all that can be. Fifty years from now, your children won't remember the deal with the devil. They'll be too busy rooting for the old home team.

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