Just desserts for 11 years of emptiness

November 04, 1995|By Ken Rosenthal

No one gets forgiven, not Irsay, not Cooke, not Tagliabue.

Not any of the creeps who turned us into scavengers, turned Baltimore into Indianapolis, 11 years removed.

We played by their rules, they rejected us. We jumped through their hoops, they rejected us. We earned an expansion team, they rejected us.

Now they ge what they deserve.

They get the relocation of one of the NFL's most storied franchises, the franchise that gave the league Jim Brown and Otto Graham and Marion Motley and Lou Groza.

They get a team in this god-awful football hell, this mid-Atlantic wasteland, this demographically incorrect disaster that couldn't compare with Charlotte or Jacksonville.

And Sunday, they get a riot in the Dawg Pound.

Happy now, commissioner?

This is on your head. Yours and Irsay's and Cooke's.

The NFL didn't want us, so we appealed to that old late 20th-century standby, an individual owner's greed.

Welcome, Art Modell.

Take our millions, please.

Quite a deal, eh? Modell gets a publicly financed stadium, then gets to charge season-ticket holders hundreds of dollars in personal-seat license fees on top of his normal exorbitant ticket prices.

Can't afford the Orioles at Camden Yards?

Wait until you see what it costs to see the Browns at Camden Yards II.

This is sports in the '90s. You want a team, you get dirty, you pay. It doesn't mean you have to like it. And it doesn't mean you become overjoyed when you finally prevail.

We get our Sundays back, we get a boost in status, we get to renew our football heritage. We get a team, but we don't get to keep our pride.

This would be a glorious moment, if only it wasn't coming at another city's expense, if only, morally and financially, it didn't come at such a high price.

No one gets forgiven -- not Bidwill in Arizona, not Brown in Cincinnati, not any of the others who used this city as a pawn.

And not Glazer in Tampa, the carpetbagger who insulted this city, then couldn't wait to hold the promise of Baltimore's riches over his own fans' heads.

What was it Malcolm said last January?

"I sure as heck would rather own a team in Tampa than I would in Baltimore."

Good luck in Orlando, pal.

So many good people worked so hard for this. If no one is forgiven, then no one is forgotten. Not Boogie. Not Herb Belgrad. And, most of all, not former Gov. Schaefer.

That stadium had better bear his name.

Maryland Stadium Authority chairman John Moag and Gov. Parris Glendening will get the credit for devising the strategy that finally created leverage for Baltimore, and rightly so.

But don't forget Orioles owner Peter Angelos offering $211 million for the Buccaneers. Suddenly, it hit the NFL owners: If a profit could be made at that price, this city would be a gold mine.

Duh.

When Moag and Glendening threatened to revoke the stadium funding, Modell, for one, could resist no more.

Last year, Financial World estimated the Browns' worth at $165 million. Angelos was willing to pay nearly $50 million more for the sad sack Bucs. Where does that put the Browns' value now?

Modell knows, or at least he can guess. In all likelihood, he has been plotting for this moment for two years.

Remember how Schaefer enlisted Browns part-owner Alfred Lerner to carry Baltimore's flag in the city's last-ditch expansion effort?

Lerner appeared before NFL owners, but never commented on his interest. The day the league awarded a franchise to Jacksonville, he left the owners' meeting through a back door.

Left with Modell, who voted against his partner, against Baltimore.

Maybe Lerner didn't want to pay a $170 million expansion fee. Maybe he and Modell saw the potential in Baltimore. Maybe they started plotting right then and there.

Modell promised he wouldn't move the Browns.

He's the Irsay of Cleveland, but now he's ours.

It will be quite a scene Sunday at grand old Municipal Stadium, Cleveland vs. Houston, soon-to-be Baltimore vs. soon-to-be-Nashville in the Relocation Bowl.

And it will be quite a gas in the coming seasons, when Eric Zeier and our Brownies stick it to all those teams Baltimore has come to hate.

The Colts. The Redskins. The Bucs.

The Jaguars. The Panthers. The Cardinals.

That will be the fun part. That, and the game-day frenzy. The chance to return to a Super Bowl. The telling, and retelling, of football lore.

What the heck, we deserve it.

Irsay stole our team.

Cooke tried to move to Laurel.

Tagliabue told us to build a museum.

No one gets forgiven, no one gets forgotten.

The NFL asked for this.

It was a long time coming. Too long.

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