In the name of business, Speros fights a good fight

August 16, 1994|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Of course, he's going to fight. He's going to fight, and he's going to lose, and he's going to earn his rightful place in our ever-expanding NFL Martyrs Hall of Fame.

Jim Speros needed two days to figure this out?

Fighting the NFL is not only good business, but it's also the reason for the Baltimore CFLs' existence. The moment Speros stops playing the name game, his team becomes irrelevant.

So, he's back to pounding the war drums.

Take it from Winston Churchill:

"We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Nor, sir, shall Baltimore.

The trademark case is Speros' own Dunkirk, and like the British at the start of World War II, he's losing battle after battle -- first in Indianapolis, now in Chicago.

Unlike the British, he won't get any help, but damn the torpedoes, and full speed ahead.

"The NFL asked for a fight," Speros said. "They're getting one."

Sir James was ready to concede after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that his team cannot use the Colts name -- "I've taken this as far as I could take it," he said -- but now he's talking about going to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Just imagine Peter Jennings' report:

"Thousands of anti-abortion protesters gathered outside the court today to call for the reversal of Roe v. Wade, only to be drowned out by the Baltimore Colts' Marching Band."

Speros said his other option was to persuade U.S. District CourJudge William M. Nickerson to hear the case in Baltimore, but Nickerson denied such a motion last month.

"He turned his back on our situation," Speros said.

Then again, who can blame him?

Nickerson doesn't want to be the hometown judge who tells the hometown team that it can't use the name chosen by the hometown fans.

Whatever, Speros cited enough "gray area" in the 15-page decision by a panel of three judges to press his case forward. Alas, the offending document all but destroys his argument.

The NFL contended that the two Colts names were confusing, the quicker to obtain a preliminary injunction. The better legal argument might be that the CFLs are benefiting from the "goodwill" established by the original Baltimore Colts. And the NFL has yet to trot that baby out.

Your average 6-year-old would know the difference between the Baltimore CFL Colts and the Indianapolis Colts. "You're never going to make me believe there's a confusion problem," Speros said. But if his attorneys couldn't prove it, then where are they?

The decision reads, "If everyone knows there is no . . . pedigree or line of descent, linking the Baltimore-Indianapolis Colts and the new CFL team that wants to call itself the "Baltimore Colts" (or, grudgingly, the "Baltimore CFL Colts"), then there is no harm. . . . If not everyone knows, there is harm."

Consider the Irsays grievously injured.

So much Indianapolis Colts memorabilia is sold in Baltimore. So many Indianapolis fans watch the CFLs on ESPN2. So many are demanding T-shirts and writing Tracy Ham for autographs.

It's all so ridiculous, but Speros knows exactly where this is headed -- we can forget about Kolts, Coltz, Maryland Colts, anything with Colts.

The case of the Brooklyn Dodger tavern isn't applicable -- that was a bar, not a baseball team. And no one confuses the British Columbia Lions with the Detroit Lions, either.

This case is unique -- the Baltimore Colts were here, but now they are gone, and a new professional football team wants their name.

Morally, we're right.

Legally, we're wrong.

And the NFL will simply fire all of its bullets if this thing goes any further, not that Speros cares.

He said that most of his $250,000 in legal expenses are behind him. He mused, "If I have to go fight this in the Supreme Court, that will certainly open up more expenses." But surely, he's not too worried.

The longer he carries the fight, the more publicity he generates, the more tickets he sells. CFL Colts T-shirts are hot items. Baltimore CFL T-shirts will be, too, once Speros allows the fans to pick a name, generating a third wave of souvenirs.

"I owe it to the fans to exhaust every avenue," Sir James announced yesterday. "At this point in time, I've exhausted maybe 80 percent of them. I want to make sure I try every maneuver, to make sure we were heard properly."

Someone asked Speros what would happen if he returned to the Colts name in open defiance of the court orders. "Some pretty severe actions," Speros replied. "One of 'em being, going to jail."

Owner behind bars.

Now there's a marketing idea.

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