WLAF title game to showcase Gelbaugh

THE BALTIMORE SUN

When quarterback Scott Erney was a senior in high school in Mechanicsburg, Pa., in 1985, he visited the University of Maryland.

Despite the lobbying by his host, Stan Gelbaugh, who's also from Mechanicsburg and was then Maryland's starting quarterback, Erney opted for Rutgers.

"He did a great job," Erney said of Gelbaugh. "I just felt I had a better opportunity to play sooner at Rutgers."

Gelbaugh says he thinks he was a fine host. "I thought I did a darn good job," he said.

It's taken a long time, but the paths of the two quarterbacks from Mechanicsburg will cross again today -- in London of all places.

They'll be the two starting quarterbacks in the first World Bowpitting the London Monarchs against the Barcelona Dragons.

It's fitting that two European teams made the World Bowbecause the league has been a smash there even though it's been a lot less than that in the United States.

The game will attract more than 65,000 fans at Wembley Stadium and will outdraw the first Super Bowl.

For Erney and Gelbaugh, who were both cut by National Football League teams last year and thought their days of playing football were over, it's a Super Bowl.

"I'm probably playing the biggest game of my career," said Erney, who was cut by the Denver Broncos. "Maybe it'll open some people's eyes as far as the NFL are concerned."

Gelbaugh, the league's MVP who was cut by the Cincinnati Bengals, marvels at the strange twist his career has taken.

"It's kind of a crazy sport," said Gelbaugh, who passed for 2,655 yards this year. "You can be in and out of the game in a hurry. I really don't try to dwell on it very much. I'm just happy I got another chance."

When the game is over, both quarterbacks will be waiting to see if the phone rings and they get another chance to make it in the NFL.

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Now that the WLAF is a success in Europe, the next question is whether it can attract the attention of American fans.

WLAF commissioner Mike Lynn said the league plans to expand and says the fact the U.S. teams will have more time to sell season tickets will help. The league also will put more promotional efforts in the U.S. teams.

Most of the promotional work went into the European teams because it was considered such a gamble there. Lynn admits he used to stay awake nights fearing the European games might draw only 7,000 to 9,000 fans.

He probably never dreamed that in the United States, the College World Series would do better in the ratings than last Sunday's London-New York playoff game.

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It was considered business as usual in Indianapolis last year when owner Bob Irsay became unhappy with offensive coordinator Larry Kennan.

Even though many observers thought Kennan had done a good job with the offense working with rookie quarterback Jeff George, Irsay ordered coach Ron Meyer to fire him.

It wasn't the first or last time that Irsay become disenchanted with a coach. But Kennan today could join ranks with Howard Schnellenberger, who won a national championship at Miami after being fired by Irsay as Colts' coach in 1974.

Kennan is coaching the London Monarchs, who are 10-1 and can win the first World Bowl today.

Kennan, who'll be coaching his 32nd game in the last 11 months (20 with the Colts and 12 with the Monarchs), refuses to gloat at his good fortune of being fired by Irsay.

"I'm really glad this came along. It's been a great experience for me. Life has a way of doing that. This has been a real dream come true for all of us," he said.

If the free agency suit the NFL Players Association is backing ever gets to court in Minneapolis, NFL teams might have to make their ledgers public.

As it is now, the only team that reveals its bottom line is the Green Bay Packers, a community-owned team.

The Packers recently filed their report for 1990, and it showed how the new four-year, $3.6 billion television contract that kicked in last year has fattened the bottom line for NFL teams.

The Packers' revenues increased from $30.1 million to $42.3 million and their pre-tax profits from $83,989 to $6.5 million.

Things are going to get even better, too, because the television revenue will go up by another $10 million per team by 1993.

That's an example of the high stakes in the free agency court fight. If the NFL teams can keep the football players from getting the kind of free agency that baseball players have, their bottom lines will continue to be very profitable.

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Just in case Baltimore fans needed any reminder of how unpredictable the expansion process can be, baseball provided one last week when it delayed announcing its two National League expansion teams just a week before it had said it was going to name the teams.

The NFL, which has said it'll name two teams by the fall of 1992, added its own escape clause at the start of the process by saying that "labor-management issues" could cause a delay.

The labor situation became more complicated last week when a federal judge in Washington, D.C., disagreed with federal appellate court judges on whether or not the NFL still has a labor exemption from antitrust laws.

This will give the various courts more issues to sort out. The only certain thing is that there's no collective bargaining agreement on the horizon so the NFL can delay things if it wants to.

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Bobby Hebert learned a lesson last week: never say never.

The New Orleans Saints' quarterback said a year ago that he'd never play for the Saints again when he sat out the 1990 season.

Well, he found there wasn't the market for his services that he thought there was and signed a two-year deal with the Saints last week on their terms. Although he got some good incentive bonuses, his base salaries of $1.3 million and $1.43 million were less than the Saints were offering a year ago.

"Why it is that pro football is the only business in America where you don't have a contract and they still own you?" Hebert asked after he took the Saints' terms.

He'll now battle Steve Walsh for the No. 1 spot, but John Fourcade, who's unhappy about being the odd man out, figures he knows how it's going to turn out.

"Everybody in the whole country knows what's going to happen," Fourcade said. "Bobby's going to start and Steve Walsh is going to back him up. I don't want to be just another arm going into camp. I knew Bobby was coming back, but I can't believe this. After all he's said and done, and now they're going to welcome him back with open arms and double his salary. I guess that's life in the NFL."

Fourcade has to hope his next stop isn't the WLAF.

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