Angelos: Why play political football?

February 11, 1994|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Opening Day, 1997: Gov. Peter Angelos announces a 100-year lease for the Orioles at Camden Yards. The first governor to own a sports team, he celebrates by shaking his own hand, then throwing out -- and catching -- the first pitch.

Super Bowl, 1999: Baltimore Buccaneers 38, JacksonvillJaguars 17. Angelos rips the Vince Lombardi Trophy out of NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue's hands.

"Party at the State House!" the owner/governor cries.

Apparently, it's not enough for Angelos to be the Oriolesowner/club president/general manager. He fixed the team in four months. Time to move on to something else.

Angelos for governor. Angelos for mayor. Angelos for policcommissioner.

Angelos signs Lee Smith. Angelos signs Emmitt Smith. Angelomakes history, firing manager and coach the same day.

Of course, this isn't all his idea.

One minute, Gov. Schaefer is urging Angelos to enter thgubernatorial race. The next minute, he's talking to him about buying the Los Angeles Rams or Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Who knows what to make of all this? The NFL/CFL/NBA/NHsoap opera is always good for a breathtaking plot twist, but Angelos' quest for an NFL franchise is curious, to say the least.

Heck, running for governor would make more sense. Angeloclaims he's "not inclined" to enter the race. And the state ethics code might pose a problem in his attempt to be owner/governor, seeing as how he'd be his own landlord at the state-owned Camden Yards.

Still, if you're Johnny Oates, you're checking your partaffiliation, just in case.

Angelos' more serious pursuit -- at least at this moment -- ifootball. His motivation might be as sincere as it was with the Orioles. He certainly doesn't mind being a hometown hero. Landing an NFL team would bring him even greater glory.

Imagine a Sunday in late October. The Orioles are in the WorlSeries. The football team is 8-0. Angelos watches them play simultaneously from the ultimate sky box -- the Goodyear blimp over Camden Yards.

It's fun to think about.

But Angelos probably has other ideas.

The Orioles are a monopoly in this town, a cash-generatingprofit-making machine. Presumably, the NFL also would be a lucrative venture. But the Orioles' financial interests are best served if the parking lot at Camden Yards remains empty -- no stadium, no arena, no nothing.

The bottom line might not be Angelos' first concern, but how facan he extend himself? He invested $40 million of his own money in the Orioles. Why should he get involved in a second huge purchase when it might hurt his first?

It makes no sense.

The guess here is that Angelos is simply doing Schaefer a favorknowing the odds of securing an NFL franchise are slim. The payback would come later, when the Orioles request some of the remaining stadium money to add as many 10,000 seats to Camden Yards.

Everyone else is cutting a deal; why not Angelos? Other locainvestors are interested in buying all or part of the Rams or Buccaneers. He doesn't need to be Wayne Huizenga, challenging the NFL's rule on dual-sport ownership.

Angelos can do his part simply by helping Schaefer get thdeadline for luring an NFL franchise extended beyond Monday. Schaefer believes there is enough activity -- "real strong activity" -- to warrant an extension.

The legislature not only should grant Schaefer's wish, it shoulpass new legislation to divert the stadium money for the %J construction of an arena in the event Baltimore fails to land an NFL team.

Schaefer is flirting with keeping the Bullets and Capitals in PrincGeorge's County, but why rule out Baltimore? In the best-case scenario, he'll endorse the Redskins and CFL -- the Redskins to satisfy legislators from the D.C. suburbs, the CFL to satisfy Mayor Schmoke. In return, he'd get the deadline extended.

That way, the city could remain active on two fronts -- the NFLand the Bullets/Capitals. The presence of the Redskins in Laurel might discourage a carpet-bagger like Al Davis from moving the Los Angeles Raiders. Local investors, however, could keep trying for the Rams and Buccaneers.

If Jack Kent Cooke doesn't like it, tough. He killed Baltimore'expansion chances -- he shouldn't get off easy.

As for Angelos, well, a serious NFL bid seems too much to askBaltimore was lucky he bought the Orioles. Even in his interest in football is genuine, can the city seriously expect lightning to strike twice?

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