Speros' audibles losing yardage

February 28, 1994|By JOHN STEADMAN

Maybe they can, if you're filled with compassion, be charged off as rookie mistakes, errors made by a man who has never headed a football franchise and still is feeling his way. Fortunately, the playing dimensions in the Canadian Football League are longer and wider because Jim Speros has certainly needed the extra space to ramble about while explaining what is quickly evolving into a convoluted plan of operation.

He has, to complete the analogy, been all over the field. Enthusiasm, unfortunately, could change to disenchantment. Cheers to boos. Too much is at stake for this to happen.

Speros says one thing, vacillates, reverses himself and, bottom line, shows a serious need for sound advice -- for his sake and the comfort of Baltimore. First he said his CFL team wanted Charlie Ward, the Heisman Trophy winner, as the so-called marquee player.

Then he winds up with Tracy Ham

after coach Don Matthews convinced him he needed experience at quarterback. Ham may be a proven CFL commodity but don't expect his presence to sell tickets. Maybe the thinking is peculiar to us, but we can't visualize Ham's name on a marquee. Ham versus Ward as a box-office concept is no contest.

Another Speros suggestion was Ernie Accorsi would be his general manager. Reporters were preparing the story, hours away from going to press. But, no, Accorsi had only agreed to help in a volunteer advisory capacity. Accorsi, of course, is the newly installed head of the Baltimore Orioles' business affairs and will fit like a glove in his new duties.

What Speros needs desperately is a general manager -- one man, with the consummate ability to make football decisions, administer to public relations needs, operate the front office and meticulously care for a myriad of other details. There's more required in

establishing a franchise besides holding news conferences.

Speros told the Baltimore media and the outside world he was going to use the Colts' nickname. The room reacted with deafening applause. Even writers in NFL cities were in accord. Leading Baltimore attorneys came forth to say if the NFL tried to sue they would volunteer their services in what would be a high-profile case.

The NFL doesn't own the Colts' name except in its own mind. Meanwhile, NFL Properties has tried to make an agreement

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with Speros, offering him the name Stallions, which was to have been used in St. Louis' losing expansion effort -- even awarding the logo and team colors if he'd drop his intentions of utilizing Colts. If the NFL was sure of its "ownership" of the Colts' name, why was it willing to make a concession and throw Speros a rotten bone?

The Baltimore public will be incensed if that happens. The same with the insensitive, inappropriate name of Bombers. Imagine going into an airport and asking what gate the Bombers' plane is leaving from. And think of the pain the name Bombers brings to family members in this state who lost children, young men and women, in bombing incidents overseas. We know some of them.

A team named Bombers is not only in bad taste in the present era of bomb-related incidents but the name is no longer applicable to Baltimore.

After talking a good game, and making a favorable impression, Speros must show a football leadership this city and state desperately needs. Baltimore has had enough grief. It doesn't need some boy wonder filling the air with rhetoric. Mature direction is what's required.

Baltimore deserves the best in an owner and team. Is it going to be major-league or bush?

Speros is a hustler and there's nothing wrong with that. It shows he has honest ambition. But he

has to keep from getting carried away and show some stability or the CFL franchise, which deserves to succeed, is going to be in trouble before it even kicks off.

Speros is young, only 35, and his previous experience in pro football was "breaking down" films for the Washington Redskins, a job usually carried out by interns, and then he served as a strength coach for the Buffalo Bills. From such a limited background, he's hardly in the same class with Bobby Beathard, George Young or Jim Finks, to mention only three NFL general managers.

The CFL is off to a momentous acceptance in Baltimore. People, including Mayor Kurt Schmoke, are rooting for Speros. Only he can self-destruct.

Everything about the Canadian game, especially its commissioner, Larry Smith, has Baltimore anticipating a fun time. But Speros needs to pull himself together, stop making irrational statements and establish credibility -- or the CFL in Baltimore will be a failure and he will, too.

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