In battle over name, Speros nears last stand

ON THE CFL

July 17, 1994|By KEN MURRAY

What started more than four months ago as an overwhelmingly popular decision has come down to a legal last stand for Jim Speros.

On Aug. 3 in Chicago, his attorneys will attempt to persuade a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that an injunction imposed by an Indianapolis federal judge was improperly ordered.

If the owner of Baltimore's Canadian Football League team wins in Chicago -- and gets a stay of the injunction -- he gets new life in the fight for the Colts name.

If Speros cannot get the injunction overturned, however, the game is up. In that scenario, he returns to the Indianapolis court -- where he already has lost -- to face a trial on the merits of the trademark rights case.

You don't have to be Perry Mason to realize the second option puts Speros in serious trouble. It is all but unwinnable.

Speros arrived at this precarious perch last week when U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson denied a motion to hear the case in Baltimore, pending the outcome of the Chicago appeal.

That was Speros' best hope: Get the NFL in Maryland court, with a jury trial, and take his chances. But the Maryland case, filed on March 1, has gone nowhere, while the NFL got its desired and expedited result in Indianapolis.

Nickerson's decision was a significant blow to Speros' cause. Once a decision is reached in Chicago, the 35-year-old rookie CFL owner must decide whether to throw more money into a case that he says has cost him $150,000 already.

Speros had said he would fight the NFL to the highest levels of the legal system over the name. But last week, at least one CFL team owner, Larry Ryckman of the Calgary Stampeders, said Speros should not be afraid to abandon the fight.

G; Sometimes discretion truly is the better part of valor.

The Cup overrunneth

Baltimore seemed destined to succeed on a different playing field last week, though. The Grey Cup will be coming to Memorial Stadium in 1996, after all, if logic wins out.

Baltimore is competing against Hamilton for the right to be the game's host, and the battle lines are clearly drawn. The new, young breed of owner in the CFL wants Baltimore to get it because of what it would mean to American expansion: exposure.

The traditionalists want the Grey Cup to go back to Hamilton to help stabilize a failing franchise. In its 125th year, the team is deep in debt, has a bad stadium and little support. CFL governors voted to give Hamilton another year to get attendance back to an acceptable level -- it averaged 17,540 last season -- or the league will allow ownership to move the team after the 1994 season.

That is the biggest reason some owners don't want to anoint Hamilton. "They may not even have a team there in 1996," one owner said.

It's a good season

When Winnipeg quarterback Matt Dunigan passed for a CFL-record 713 yards Thursday night, it shocked many in the league.

"It just makes me glad I wasn't there," said Calgary coach Wally Buono, whose specialty lies on defense.

Said Calgary quarterback Doug Flutie: "I'm amazed. [But] the last year and a half, Matt's played unbelievable football. I can't imagine 700 yards. He must have averaged 20 yards a completion.

Actually, Dunigan averaged 21.6 per completion in the Blue Bombers' 50-35 rout of the Edmonton Eskimos. But receiver Alfred Jackson averaged 44 yards per catch (seven for 308), and wide-out David Williams had 10 catches for 240 yards.

Dunigan, from Louisiana Tech, shattered the record of 601 yards by Danny Barrett of British Columbia a year ago. Flutie's career-high game of 582 yards ranks fourth in the league, behind Sam Etcheverry's 586.

Is Dunigan's 713 breakable? "Obviously he did it, so it's possible," Flutie said. "I don't foresee the day I throw for 700. I can foresee the day I throw for 600. But standards have changed in this league. When I came in, 300 yards was a solid game and 400 was a good game. Now 400 is solid and 500 is good."

Playing with pain

Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Dan Rashovich gets this week's tough-guy award. He broke his left fibula on a missed field-goal return in the second quarter against Calgary, and played the rest of the game.

For what it's worth, the Roughriders expect him back this season.

Getting drenched

This is how bad things have been going in Shreveport: Last Monday, workers finished carpeting a brand-new locker room for the Pirates. At 6 p.m., a violent storm dumped four inches of rain in the area. One inch went into the locker room. Fortunately, the Pirates had industrial carpeting and it was OK.

Said coach Forrest Gregg, who joined the team in mid-training camp: "I almost hate to get up in the morning because I'm afraid of what's going on."

Woe is them

The Las Vegas Posse is having trouble fitting a CFL field into Sam Boyd Stadium. First, there were the 15-yard end zones, five shy of league specifications. Now comes word that the field is 63 yards wide instead of 65. Seems that when the lines were painted, it was decided the field was too close to the walls. So

the lines were moved in one yard on each side.

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