Live from 2025 A.D., It's Baltimore's Latest NFL Bid. Guess How it Ends

January 22, 1995|By RAY FRAGER

Some people are saying that we just should give up this crazy NFL quest. Some people say we can find better uses for public funds than sitting by the telephone like the girl in the Vikki Carr song ("It must be him/Oh dear God, it must be him . . . . Or I'll just die"). Some people say the NFL simply doesn't want a team in Baltimore.

Maybe you're one of those people saying such things.

But if you are, would you keep it down? I'm tryin' to write over here.

Before we go and do something frivolous such as commit stadium money to schools or hospitals or homeless shelters, let's consider what the future could be like if Baltimore remains a perennial NFL contender. Cue the Zager and Evans. Here's what we could be reading in the year 2025: City and state officials say they aren't discouraged that Baltimore has failed once more to land an NFL expansion club. Yesterday, the league added its 65th and 66th teams, awarding franchises to Carson City, Nev., and Jakarta, Indonesia.

"We thought this was our best shot since the expansion of 2002," said acting Gov. Louis L. Goldstein. "Of course, that time, it was the NAFTA treaty that did us in."

In the '02 expansion, the NFL awarded three teams each to Mexico and Canada, creating the basis for the MexCan Conference, which has produced the past five Super Bowl champions.

"Maybe the NFL has something against us," said Mr. Goldstein, the 111-year-old former state comptroller, who has served as interim governor since 1995, when a court ordered a recount of the ballots in the 1994 governor's race. The recount should be complete by next month, unless they lose count again, as they did in 2013.

The league denied any bias against Baltimore.

"That's a wonderful city," said NFL Commissioner Deion Sanders. "As you know, I've been a big supporter of a team there."

Mr. Sanders was referring to his efforts, in his other job as baseball commissioner, to raise funds for a new ballpark for the Orioles, who say decrepit Camden Yards is no longer a viable home. Orioles owners John and Louis Angelos say renovations two years ago -- which added such common stadium amenities as blimp hangars and remote-controlled whoopee cushions on the visiting bench -- were merely a stopgap measure.

Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken has said he will continue his effort to bring an NFL team to Baltimore, "mainly because Billy needs something to do.

"As long as the stadium funding remains in place, we still have a chance," said Mr. Ripken, whose deal to bring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Baltimore fell through five years ago when owners Bryan and Joel Glazer were unable to find out where their father had left the keys to the Bucs offices.

Other recent close calls for Baltimore have included:

* Discussions between the state and Northern Virginia Redskins owner Marion Barry on the possibility of a stadium to be built adjacent to Laurel Race Course and Casino.

* An offer by Jim Irsay, owner of the Gary Colts, to vote for a Baltimore expansion team in exchange for a loan that he would use to rent a field so his team could play in Indianapolis again.

* Suggestions from the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Ohio State University Buckeyes that they might leave Ohio for Baltimore if they didn't get better stadiums.

* A visit by Bill Bidwill, who finally admitted that maybe if he'd picked Baltimore over Phoenix in 1988, he wouldn't have ended up moving the Cardinals into the crowded Los Angeles market, where, as the city's 12th team, he's forced to play games at the airport, using whatever runways were supposed to have been occupied by the airline that went broke that week.

Still, Baltimoreans have hope.

"Thank goodness the $165 million is still there," said veteran radio talk show host Stan "The Old Fan" Charles. "We can build the NFL a dome."

League officials have said, however, that Baltimore also would have to come up with the money to build a stadium under that dome.

Ray Frager is an assistant sports editor at The Baltimore Sun.

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