City, not owners, will carry ball in NFL expansion game


Many who want to see Baltimore back in the National Football League are looking at the situation backward.

They seem to believe the primary consideration is which group will get the franchise -- Ed Hale's? Bart Starr's? Al Lerner's?

Walt Gutowski, who has been brought aboard by the Maryland Stadium Authority to work full-time in obtaining the franchise, reminds us that it is the city that is awarded the team, not an owner.

"When the NFL evaluates expansion," says Gutowski, a onetime PR man for the Baltimore Colts, "it'll go by the city, not the owner.

"It'll consider things like population, demographics, TV market, stadium. If a city doesn't measure up, it won't matter who wants to own the franchise.

"There's a misconception about this in a number of cities. People talk only about Jerry Richardson as the prospective franchise owner in Charlotte. For St. Louis they only seem to talk about the group headed by Fran Murray and Walter Payton.

"Potential ownership can change overnight," Gutowski said. "Last week Bob Tisch dropped out in Baltimore and Fred Smith took himself out in Memphis. Nobody knows what else might change before a couple cities are picked to come in in '93.

"The stadium is a big part of the decision, and no one else in the expansion race has the funding in place for a new football stadium. Ours is a done deal."

Gutowski peered westward out the window from the Stadium Authority offices on the 23rd floor of the World Trade Center. He could see the new baseball park going up in Camden Yards.

"That's going to be a big plus for us," he said, "tangible evidence that we can get it done in Baltimore. The opening of the new ballpark next year will get a lot of national attention. That'll help our NFL efforts."

* Jimmy Fields is one of the most amazing athletes I've ever seen in the Baltimore area, but if you've never heard of him it's understandable.

Fields is a ninth grader at Gilman. He's 14 years old, 5 feet 2 and says he weighs "100." Classmates say he weighs 97 pounds.

Fields stole the show over the weekend as the Independent Schools Association's basketball tournament wound up at Gilman's handsome new Finney Athletic Center with the host school beating McDonogh, 71-61, for the championship.

The tourney MVP was Gilman's Jamal Cox, a football star heading for Georgia Tech in the fall. At 6-2, 210, Cox makes two of Fields.

Fields, nevertheless, is a good ballhandler who sees the court well and is adept at hitting open teammates inside. There were two highlights in the title game. One was a three-point shot by the miniscule Fields. The other came after a basket when the net became wrapped around the hoop. Referee Ron O'Leary whistled play dead so someone could leap up and untangle it. Naturally Fields did the honors.

"They say Jimmy'll be a 6-footer when he's finished growing," said his father, "but I'll believe that when I see it."

* Another young Baltimorean, University of North Carolina sophomore lacrosse defenseman Chuck Breschi, will miss the entire upcoming season because of a nearly tragic event.

Breschi, a Loyola High graduate, was at a party off the Chapel Hill campus that was crashed by a group of Skinheads. Breschi told them he thought they should leave and one of the Skinheads stabbed him.

"The boy who stabbed him was a 14-year-old from Florida," said Dan Lohse of the Carolina sports information office. "The knife perforated Chuck's liver. But Chuck's a rugged kid. We expect him to play next year. We'll redshirt him this season."

* If you watched Arizona's 103-96 double-overtime basketball win over Duke last evening and thought you heard the Arizona band playing the Towson State fight song, you were right.

Actually, Towson has, ahem, borrowed Arizona's fight song -- and the lively TSU pep band plays it every bit as well as the Arizona ensemble.

"A few years ago," explains Towson State lacrosse coach Carl Runk, "we didn't have a fight song at our school. I played football at Arizona and we had a couple phys ed teachers from Arizona. So we said, 'Let's use the Arizona song here.' And we have since that day."

You can hear the TSU band play next weekend when the school hosts the East Coast Conference basketball tournament. It would be great to see Towson win that and advance to the NCAA tourney -- and draw Arizona. Both bands would be playing the same song.

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