Gimme a C, for the CFL, and return of Colts, too

December 17, 1993|By John Steadman

There's reason to feel flattered. The National Football League rejected Baltimore -- not once but twice -- so why not accept the hand of the most attractive new suitor who approaches with a bouquet of roses instead of a handful of rocks? As has been known to happen in love and marriage, the second choice may represent an even more compatible and enjoyable experience.

Let's seriously consider welcoming the Canadian Football League to Baltimore. It's an attractive option. And it'll make for an ideal fit if the Washington Redskins move into the neighborhood, dear old Laurel, Md. They could co-exist in a special way and, eventually, even play an exhibition game.

Canada's version of pro football is more exciting than what we have in America. It might smack of heresy but it can't be denied. As an example, there's no such thing as a fair catch. It's action-plus, the way the NFL used to be before it tied itself up with liberal blocking interpretations, or sloppy holding rules, that suggest you're watching tag-team wrestling.

What we know and have heard about the CFL makes for a positive reaction:

* The team would be known as the Baltimore Colts. The Colts' Band and Colt Corral fan clubs are already in place. "Gimme A C" -- for Colts and Canada.

* A Baltimore franchise in the CFL would be no different than the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos holding membership in the American and National baseball leagues.

* Canada's professional football, now expanding into the United States, is considerably older than the NFL. Its Grey Cup has been played for 81 years; the Super Bowl for only 28 years and what was once known as the NFL championship game didn't start until 1933.

* The Redskins' planned relocation to Laurel would have no influence on a Canadian league team in Baltimore. There would be no conflict. It wouldn't be the first time Baltimore competed against the NFL. Remember the Colts of the All-America Football Conference?

* Imagine the excitement and joy of a football fan excursion headed to western Canada, to see the Colts play the Vancouver Lions, Edmonton Eskimos, Calgary Stampeders.

Advantages are many, the negatives few. Jim Speros wants to bankroll the team and the CFL covets Baltimore. It opens an entire new frontier. Imagine playing teams with such colorful nicknames as Eskimos, Stampeders, Tiger-Cats and Rough Riders.

A new team wouldn't ask for a stadium to be built, but the Maryland Stadium Authority should go ahead and do it anyhow. Memorial Stadium could be used on a temporary basis.

Ernie Accorsi, former Colts general manager, and Tom Matte, a Colts hero from the past, could run the front office. Turn Matte and Mel Kiper Jr. loose scouting players and let Accorsi direct the business and promotional aspects of the organization. It could be an excellent arrangement.

The CFL level of playing talent is below that of the NFL but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Parity works the same so there's little difference in watching a good Canadian game and one in the NFL.

Since the Canadian League kicks off in July, the Colts (don't you just love the name?) could open early at home but play most of the early-season games on Canadian turf and then return to Baltimore for the bulk of their schedule in the normal football months of fall and winter.

Baltimore, if given a chance and the proper promotion, will accept the CFL. Maybe a thrilling adventure awaits rather than taking some poor NFL outfit from someplace else that is eager to grab all the ticket money that's in the bank.

Don't ever forget, the NFL notified Baltimore by the decision of its owners and the action of commissioner Paul Tagliabue it was inferior to Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla. The Canadian League, unlike the NFL, wants to come to Baltimore. It deserves a chance, offering free scoring and a wide-open concept of play.

The NFL turned its back on Baltimore. In 1984, it raped Baltimore in a football way when it allowed Bob Irsay to move out under the cover of darkness. This was followed up, nine years later, by the gang-rape of the same city by the league owners and commissioner. Strong words, indeed, but so true they can't be denied.

Baltimore is too good for the NFL. The NFL doesn't deserve Baltimore. Let those Canadian footballs fly. A momentous new experience may await, similar to what transpired in 1947 when Baltimore breathed life into a team known as the Colts.

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