St. Louis might be fumbling away another chance of getting a team

ON THE NFL

August 14, 1994|By VITO STELLINO

Loose lips not only sink ships, but they may help torpedo St. Louis' star-crossed bid to entice an NFL team.

St. Louis already had the reputation of being the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight from the days of the expansion derby. Back then, ownership squabbles cost it a team even though commissioner Paul Tagliabue wanted one there.

But the city's business leaders even topped that inept performance by bungling the negotiations with John Shaw, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Rams.

Not only couldn't the city arrange a deal with beer distributor Jerry Clinton for his 30 percent of the lease on the new domed stadium, but someone from the city leaked the key points of Shaw's 15-page proposal.

For Shaw, who likes to keep a low profile, this was unforgiveable.

He immediately had the public relations firm he has hired to handle the matter issue a statement that he was breaking off talks with St. Louis until it settled the lease problem.

St. Louis responded by hiring former U.S. senator Tom Eagleton, who was George McGovern's running mate for a few days in 1972, to spearhead the effort. The first thing Eagleton did was call a news conference and announce, "I'm Eagleton, the lease man."

St. Louis has to learn that calling news conferences isn't the way to deal with Shaw.

Anyway, the misfiring by St. Louis gives Baltimore renewed hope. If St. Louis can't get its act together, it gives Shaw more ammunition to argue he should be allowed to move to Baltimore despite the opposition of Tagliabue and Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke.

Before that happens, though, he's got to make a deal with Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

Thanks to the leak by the St. Louis group, we now know it's not going to be easy even for Angelos to make a deal with Shaw. He wants a relocation fee of about $10 million (assuming the NFL charges a fee) and he wants the city to pay off the $30 million in stadium bonds in Anaheim. That would be on top of the hefty fee for minority ownership in the club.

Angelos showed he's willing to overpay to get a franchise when he bid $173 million for the Orioles, but even he has to have a limit. Prudently, he's not commenting on the talks.

Meanwhile, Shaw can't overplay his hand. If St. Louis continues to fumble the ball and he can't make a deal with Angelos, he could wind up staying in Anaheim.

Agent Leigh Steinberg is putting together a proposal that would provide for a major refurbishing of Anaheim Stadium, including more luxury boxes and premium seats. The proposal also includes a new practice facility and an offer to buy minority ownership.

"The hardest part of this process is that people seem to believe that this is a fait accompli, that the Rams have already decided to move," Steinberg said. "That's simply not the case."

Steinberg appears to be right that a decision hasn't been made, but staying in Anaheim wouldn't solve the apathy problem. There's no passion for football there, and building luxury boxes doesn't mean they could be sold.

All this leaves Shaw with the task of trying to extract every last dime from Angelos without driving him away.

This negotiation process is likely to be more interesting than most of the Rams' games. It also may last just as long. Don't expect Shaw and owner Georgia Frontiere to make a decision before the end of the season.

An Olympic low point

Wellington Mara, owner of the New York Giants, was thoughtful enough to invite longtime Giants and Jets announcer Marty Glickman, who retired before last season, to make the trip with the team to Berlin last week.

For Glickman, it was one more chance to see Olympic Stadium in Berlin without the Nazi flags there.

He was on the 1936 U.S. Olympic team when he and the only other Jewish runner on the team, Sam Stoller, were yanked from the 400-meter relay team when American officials bowed to Nazi pressure.

Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalf replaced them. Owens, who had already won three gold medals, protested, but was told by U.S. officials, "You'll do as you're told."

At the time, Glickman was 18 and thought he could win a gold medal in 1940. But World War II interrupted the Olympics and they weren't held again until 1948.

Glickman didn't return to Berlin until 1985, and his anger was still palpable.

"I walked down there on the backstretch and nearly passed out," Glickman said. "It's still there. But I think I handle it better now."

Coming back was bittersweet for Glickman.

"I didn't experience that run," he said. "I didn't experience that stick pass. I didn't stand on the winning podium. I didn't do all those things. But I'm here and they're not."

Glickman said when he marched in the stadium at the start of the Olympics, "we looked up at Hitler's box and I can remember saying, 'He looks like Charlie Chaplin.' That's how we felt about him."

Buddy's team

Buddy Ryan's optimism is contagious. He not only has the Arizona Cardinals fans -- they've bought 48,000 season tickets -- talking playoffs, but also has team owner Bill Bidwill caught up in it.

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