Glazer's only fault: He isn't a politician

January 18, 1995|By JOHN STEADMAN

When Malcolm Glazer told the world he would prefer to be in Tampa Bay rather than Baltimore he certainly wasn't being hypocritical. He's going to be paid $40 million in television revenues the next three years because he's buying an existing club -- not an expansion outfit in Baltimore, where he would have been excluded from the National Football League's current TV agreement.

He comes out far ahead in the game, which means he gets back $120 million of his $192 million purchase price. You don't have to be able to add 2 and 2 to figure Malcolm does better, starting out, in Tampa with an established team than if he had succeeded in Baltimore with the right to start a new one.

If Glazer didn't know it before, he realizes now that Baltimore is a provincial place, feeding on the propaganda of the harbor redevelopment and a new baseball park. Hometown pride runs deeps. Right or wrong, Baltimore believes it possesses irresistible charm. If you're with the Chamber of Commerce it's understandable that what Glazer said would be especially disturbing.

After getting Tampa Bay, he could hardly be expected to say he wished he was in Baltimore, could he? Before taking Malcolm to the woodshed, stop to consider William Donald Schaefer, the twice-elected governor of Maryland, and the way he condemned a sizable portion of his own state when he called the Eastern Shore a territorial outhouse.

This from the governor, who was elected by voters from the entire state and is inebriated with blind boosterism. If you're unhappy with Glazer, then you have to feel the same way about Schaefer. Maybe you do. In Schaefer's case, this was one of our own putting down a large section of the state he was being paid handsomely to represent.

As to Malcolm, nervous and unaccustomed to public speaking, he was following Schaefer in exercising his right to free speech. Maybe after Glazer is around for a season or two he'll learn to be discreet, which is another word for masking your feelings or dealing in duplicity.

Malcolm is not a speechmaker or a politician. That's a given. And he didn't need to sound off in such a way about Baltimore by comparing it unfavorably to Tampa Bay. We would expect any minute he'll be issuing an apology because he doesn't appear to be a man who goes through life saying hurtful things.

But let's face it: When Glazer was working to be accepted in Baltimore, Herbert Belgrad, director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, didn't do him any favors beyond elementary courtesy. Glazer didn't make the grade with Belgrad but, two years later, won the Battle of Tampa Bay against tough competition for ownership of an NFL team.

When efforts were made to build a new stadium in Baltimore, before the Colts left, Schaefer dragged his feet. He said Baltimore could get along with the old facility and advised putting backs on upper deck seats. The only reason he changed his mind is when the Colts took a hike to Indianapolis. His stadium interest became alive -- after the fact.

Now, the politician he is, Schaefer will take all the bows for the success of the park that was erected in Baltimore, even though he had to be forced into it kicking, screaming and trying to shout it down.

In the Tampa Bay vs. Baltimore confrontation, let it be said both cities deserve to be in the NFL. From the outset of Baltimore's bid for the Buccaneers, it was evident to anyone with even a glimpse of perception that the team wasn't about to leave if a promise was forthcoming from any would-be owner to keep the franchise located where it is.

The heirs of Hugh Culverhouse and the estate trustees wanted to keep the team in Tampa. They considered more than monetary gain, so long as the bid they were accepting wasn't that much different. Also, the Glazers put themselves in a good negotiating position by selecting the same law firm to represent them as that which serves the Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay, in 19 years, was a career loser with only three seasons above .500 -- the last in 1982. Before putting down fan support, crowds of 65,000 were exceeded on 30 occasions. Five times the count was over 70,000 but the team, competitively, has been an embarrassment.

The man with a complete understanding of what transpired in the bidding for Tampa Bay is Baltimore attorney Robert Schulman, who represented a group different from the one led by Peter Angelos. Although he and Angelos lost out, Schulman agreed the strong personal desire by the sellers to remain in Tampa Bay was too much to overcome.

He also said, loud and clear, that in his opinion there was no collusion on the part of commissioner Paul Tagliabue or Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the Washington Redskins, even though Baltimore would like to believe there was. Schulman's involvement brought him close to the entire transaction and never once did he find a hint of conspiracy.

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