On a sweet day, still a sour taste Commentary: As NFL returns to Baltimore, angry memories linger.

November 06, 1995|By John Eisenberg | John Eisenberg,SUN COLUMNIST

The story is firm. The answer is yes. The Browns are moving from Cleveland to Baltimore. There are no what-ifs, no maybes, no anythings now. The NFL is coming back to town. The deal is done. The announcement is today.

Still doubt that it will happen? Still in denial until you see the ball in the air on the opening kickoff next September? Fair enough. You have company in this town of football cynics. And you have justification for your cynicism. Justification named Tagliabue, Glazer, Bidwill and Cooke.

The truth is that few people here, if any, will really believe the Baltimore Browns until they see it next year. That's what happens after you get jobbed so many times that you forget what good news sounds like. That's what happens when you get abused by weasels in expensive shoes for more than a decade.

Today, of all days, let's not forget about all of the misery, all of those sour deals that went down. Let's not forget that we have spent 11 years getting dragged through the mud. Because as much as there is a windfall of totally warranted sympathy for Cleveland right now, let's not forget that no town has gotten kicked around like our town.

It's a shame that our joy is unavoidably mixed with guilt today, because if ever a town deserved a moment of unfettered joy, it is our town.

Let's remember why. Maybe it'll make you feel better.

Let's remember the ice tinkling in Robert Irsay's tumblers as he fired his coaches at halftime, ran the Colts into the ground and ruined pro football here.

Let's remember the Mayflower moving vans shifting gears as they picked up speed on that snowy midnight.

Let's remember Bill Bidwill's victory tour of the Inner Harbor. He said he was thinking about moving the Cardinals here, came to town and took a helicopter ride. "You have a lovely city," he said upon disembarking.

It was so lovely that he moved his team to Arizona because, he said, well, you know, the weather is just so nice out there.

The man never intended to come here. He just used us as leverage.

Let's remember Malcolm Glazer and his sons, America's fun family. They said they were committed to bringing a team to Baltimore, then spit on us after they overpaid by $50 million to get the Bucs.

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

Let's remember Jack Kent Cooke, who conspired to block an expansion team coming to Baltimore but put on a smile and called our town "lovely."

Another lovely.

Then, after the NFL snubbed us, he had the gall to call reporters in Baltimore to lobby for support of his stadium in Laurel.

Let's remember Paul Tagliabue, our favorite commissioner, who, after the league expanded to Carolina and Jacksonville, suggested that we use the stadium money to build a museum.

Let's remember the temptations of the Bengals, Raiders, Patriots, Rams -- all teams that admitted to having us in their sights at one point. Let's remember Carolina owner and ex-Colt Jerry Richardson smugly telling a reporter after the expansion debacle, "Tell all my good friends in Baltimore hello." Let's remember the lawsuit over the Colts nickname.

Let's remember it all today, as pro football returns. Because no one took more hits or harder hits than we did.

It's a day to cheer, if for no other reason than to see what is happening to all those folks who did us so wrong for so long.

Bidwill and Glazer, the king weasels, had the gall to suggest they were interested in Baltimore again because things weren't so great at home. They needed leverage again.

Ha.

Cooke? He's a man without a stadium.

Ha.

Tagliabue? The NFL is falling apart on his watch. It traded L.A. for Jacksonville, lost "60 Minutes" and found Bart Simpson. It's a league where tradition means nothing, where stability is gone, where one in every three teams is thinking of moving. And that'll all be on his headstone, the bum.

Ha.

The hell with all of them.

For all of their sins, we deserve the right to smile today.

Sure, it's a sad day for Cleveland, which doesn't begin to deserve such a fate, not that any town does.

Sure, we look hypocritical for gaining from another town's loss.

Yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.

It's our turn; that's just the way it is. And did we ever earn it.

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