Speros is making wrong move, reversing his field on BFC name

July 07, 1995|By JOHN STEADMAN

It's getting to the point that Jim Speros, whose heart is in the right place and who has the best of admirable intentions, should be guided by previous declarations . . . the echo of his own voice to begin with, when he ponders making an announcement.

Speros reverses his field more than Red Grange, who was the greatest single draw in the history of pro football -- Canada or America. This preamble has to do with what Speros is going to call his team. Now he's stirring the pot again.

He formally settled on the Baltimore Football Club last Dec. 16. No nickname, he said. It was a decision that merited applause. Baltimore was going to have an identity all its own, the only organization in all of sports that put emphasis on the city and left it at that. All cornball names were out.

Maybe the Chamber of Commerce would realize what Speros was doing and make him its man of the year because of putting Baltimore in the spotlight and keeping it there. Now the BFC is about to play its Canadian Football League home opener tomorrow night in Memorial Stadium against the respected San Antonio Texans, which incidentally qualifies as a shop-worn nickname.

So Speros, for commercial reasons known only to himself, had an "11th-hour" change of heart and is considering taking on a name, in this order of preference -- Stallions, Mustangs or Steeds. It's Jim contradicting himself. The programs are printed, press guides are out and newspaper and broadcast outlets have been used for extensive advertising.

If Speros wants to do what's right for Baltimore, then go without a name. He needs to reread his statement of Dec. 16 when he said his organization would be the team with no name. It was a story carried all over North America. By giving the team a name, he's wiping out his good intentions.

Putting a name on the team won't sell one ticket. Not an additional spectator will be in the seats because the Baltimore Football Club is now called the Stallions, Mustangs or Steeds. Two years ago, the National Football League would have been happy for Baltimore to take the name Stallions, because it wasn't going to use it in St. Louis, but Speros sued over the right to use the name Colts.

He put up an admirable fight but reported attorney fees cost him over $500,000. This was surprising since another lawyer, acquainted with the nuances of sports, Ron Shapiro, offered a true pro bono arrangement. Shapiro said he'd handle the case for nothing, a gracious offer motivated by civic pride and his belief that he could be victorious. Speros, though, looked a live gift-horse in the mouth and went with another legal firm that he agreed to pay.

This was regrettable, as it turned out, when Speros lost in the courts what appeared to be a winnable verdict since the name belonged to Baltimore as early as 1947, or three years before it joined the NFL. In fact, in 1953, when Baltimore, after a two-season interruption returned to the NFL, it took over the bankrupt franchise of the Dallas Texans.

Now, in a twist of irony, Baltimore is back playing a team with the same name, Texans, as the one it replaced four decades ago. The only difference is these Texans come from San Antonio, not Dallas. To add to the confusion and overdone use of the name Texans, there was a second team, in the American Football League that called itself the Texans but its founder, Lamar Hunt, moved to Kansas City and christened them the Chiefs.

So Texans is not exactly going to win any prizes from the standpoint of origination. The same with whatever it is Speros might do with a new name in Baltimore. He's interested foremost in Stallions, especially after hearing the NFL had signed off on controlling its use and the name may be available.

The vacillation of Speros on such a fundamental matter as a name only confuses the public. First he's not going to bother with a name and makes such an opinion official . . . Baltimore Football Club.

Making an about-face at this late hour by giving his coaches and players a name to operate under isn't going to make them perform any better. For his own benefit, he ought to leave the name open, considering he has the Colts' Band performing at its games and the Colt Corrals members supporting his team.

And the fans, with special urging by Leonard "Big Wheel" Burrier, are still going to cheer C-O-L-T-S, this team that's still dear to the hearts of Baltimore fandom but has been buried in Indianapolis the last 11 years. Imagine trying to spell out Stallions or Mustangs. Is Stallions one "l" or two?

Speros is not helping himself, his team or the Canadian Football League by searching for a name on the eve of the home opener.

His efforts to try hard, and what he has achieved so far, are deserving of respect but putting a hurried-up name on a team for the sake of commercialism is straining for something that is not in the best interest of Speros, Baltimore or the grand old CFL, which is a much better product than is realized.

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