Challenging Indy is not a ticket to success for Colts

March 16, 1994|By JACK STEADMAN

Casting Baltimore in a race with Indianapolis as to which city can sell the most tickets for a season of professional football is a contrived mission that should be terminated before it even starts. The idea is adolescent, like a street-corner kid screaming my father can beat your father, and serves no useful purpose.

Beating Indianapolis in anything doesn't exactly qualify for bragging rights. If you win, it's a hollow victory, so why even try to make a match in seeing which city can out-do the other in ticket sales?

It's not a fair playing field for either. Indianapolis is selling a more expensive ticket than Baltimore to a game that has much higher recognition.

Based on prestige, it's no contest. The Canadian Football League can be an exciting experience and deserves consideration. Hopefully, it will prove to be a pleasurable alternative for Baltimore.

The new membership in the CFL has nothing to do with Indianapolis stealing the franchise 10 years ago and entering the back door of the National Football League with fraudulent credentials. How many tickets are sold in either Baltimore or Indianapolis has nothing to do with anything, much less the CFL Colts or the NFL Colts.

There's no reason to put Baltimore in such an embarrassing position. Baltimore is a better football city than Indianapolis. Any fool knows that. If twice as many tickets are sold in either place, it makes no difference in the final assessment.

The CFL Colts are new to the game and no doubt will continue to make mistakes as they try to put a front office in place. Jim Speros is a rookie owner. He's trying hard but is in a business that is a learning experience for him. Hopefully, he'll make progress every day he's on the job.

Speros' organization should be "selling" one thing -- how following the CFL is going to be a new and exciting experience. It's a game that has a chance to become an enjoyable option in the United States.

The sport, though, is entirely different. The CFL is faster, has players who move all over the field and, since they are of normal physical dimensions, the fans in the stands can identify with them rather than some of the overstuffed, immobile linemen now taking up space in the NFL.

The CFL has certain appeal. If the Baltimore experiment is successful it will be the most important development that can happen to the Canadian game. It's moving south because it has an imaginative commissioner, Larry Smith, who realizes the future of the CFL is its growth to American cities.

It will be interesting to see if the CFL Colts try to take advantage of the football-hungry fans by putting an exhibition game on the season-ticket package. That would be a major blunder and seriously detract from the official league opener several weeks later.

Many Colts fans, some of long standing, wait with much anticipation to see what the Canadian game is going to offer. Such players as Warren Moon, Joe Theismann, Joe Kapp, Cookie Gilchrist, Billy Vessels, Raghib "Rocket" Ismail and numerous others were drawn to Canada before they even came to the NFL.

Has the NFL regressed to such a degree in entertainment value that the door is open for the CFL to make an impact in this country? Let's hope so. It would be good for football if such a scenario comes to pass.

Marketing adviser Bob Leffler needs to concern himself with merchandising the CFL for what it is and the potential it represents. Trying to put Baltimore and Indianapolis in a ticket-selling confrontation is not in the best interest of either city.

If the CFL is going to make the grade, it's going to take hard work, educating the public and keeping the press informed. In this connection, Speros may want to deal with another matter that may interest him.

One of his co-owners, Tom Matte, the ex-Colt, continues to work as a sportscaster for a television station. Matte has enough friends to fill Memorial Stadium and all of us wish him the best in all endeavors, but he is involved in a conflict of interest. Either he's with the CFL Colts or TV; not both.

Matte needs to decide if he wants to continue as a TV star or work for Speros in football.

Meanwhile, don't forget to order your CFL tickets so Baltimore can have the empty honor of surpassing Indianapolis.

If this is what the CFL stands for, then it has no chance of making the grade and that would be regrettable for all concerned.

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