When Virginia businessman Jim Speros announced plans to bring a Canadian Football League franchise to Baltimore a year ago, many people snorted that it wasn't "real football." Now, with the Baltimore CFLs on the verge of becoming the first expansion team in pro sports to win a championship in its inaugural season, some folks still remain unimpressed.
How could Canadian football be so real if an expansion team could flourish so quickly?
How come thousands more fans turned out at the airport to welcome home the Orioles when they lost the pennant race five years ago than came out to congratulate the CFLs when they qualified for the Grey Cup championship?
How come even avid sports fans can't name but three or four players on the team -- and one of them is nicknamed "Iggy"?
Go ahead and scoff, but whether you're an unbeliever or a devotee who delights in screaming C-O-L-T-S at the team's home games, you can't deny this:
In a year in which trust crumbled between pro sports and their constituency, Mr. Speros, his team and this town all lived up to their parts of the bargain of professional spectator sports -- and then some.
Mr. Speros pledged to revive mothballed Memorial Stadium, to field a good product and to give customers their money's worth. Baltimore, in response, turned out 36,000 boisterous fans a game to make the team one of its league's most envied. Mr. Speros capitalized on this city's love affair with the National Football League Colts it lost a decade ago, but not in a cheesy way. He honored former Colt greats at CFL games, paid for new uniforms for the ever-faithful Colts marching band and wielded a slingshot against the brutish NFL to try to regain the Colts name.
The arrogance of the NFL and of Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke may know no bounds. This year's National Hockey League season may never happen. The baseball strike could threaten Cal Ripken Jr.'s longevity streak next season. It's enough to make a fan jaded.
Thanks to the CFL Colts for restoring a little honor and requited love to the big business of sports. Carry home the Grey Cup.