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Glazer tries to bring city NFL (new football luck)

THE BALTIMORE SUN

For the better part of two decades, pro football in Baltimore has been hampered by Murphy's Law -- whatever could go wrong did go wrong.

The latest example came when New York businessman Robert Tisch had a chance to buy half of the New York Giants earlier this year and pulled out of the Baltimore expansion picture.

What were the odds that one faction of the Mara family suddenly would be willing to sell half the team? The team had been in the family for more than six decades.

But it was typical of what has happened to football in Baltimore since Robert Irsay acquired the Colts in 1972.

It has been one thing after another. Irsay's first general manager, Joe Thomas, rebuilt an aging team, but did it in such a brusque manner that he alienated many fans.

His second general manager, Dick Szymanski, got the idea of hiring a nice-guy coach, Mike McCormack, in 1980. He was so nice he lost control of the team, which led to the 2-14 disaster of 1981.

That was followed by the inevitable hiring of the tough-guy coach, Frank Kush, who had made a lot of enemies. But what were the odds that one of them would be the San Jose State coach, Jack Elway? He just happened to be John Elway's father. That set the stage for the fiasco of the Elway trade in 1983.

Kush also wanted to shift the team to Phoenix, where he had enjoyed his glory days at Arizona State. He got Irsay talking to Phoenix interests, and even though those talks weren't fruitful, it got Indianapolis into the picture.

And then, when Irsay was trying to make up his mind, the Maryland legislature got the not-so-nifty idea of passing an eminent domain bill, which prompted Irsay to move in the middle of the night.

After losing the Colts, Baltimore had a chance to get the New Orleans Saints in 1984, but the political and business leaders took the high moral road and decided it shouldn't try to steal another city's team.

That changed in 1987, when Bill Bidwill decided to move his Cardinals from St. Louis, and Baltimore made a big pitch for the team. But he passed up the city's offer of a new stadium for the empty seats and an old stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

Meanwhile, the NFL kept delaying expansion. First, there was USFL trial and then the lack of a collective bargaining agreement. The city also lost a sympathetic voice when Pete Rozelle resigned as commissioner in 1989. And then Tisch came and went.

That's why the entrance of Malcolm Glazer, the sole owner of First Allied Corp., into the Baltimore expansion scene is a sign that Baltimore's fortunes finally may be changing.

Glazer's cash gives him a good chance to get the team, and, in many ways, his family has assets from a Baltimore standpoint that Tisch lacked.

Tisch was a New Yorker at heart whose roots were there. He was coming to Baltimore only because it was close to New York.

Glazer wants a team here because he thinks the twin stadium complex, the television market and the location make it the best place in the country to put an expansion team. Baltimore won't build a convention center the way St. Louis will. It will build a football stadium.

It also helps that two of Glazer's sons, Joel and Bryan, are single, in their mid-20s and have no roots elsewhere. If the Glazers get the team, the sons plan to move to Baltimore, settle down and make their lives here. They will be what amounts to local owners.

They're also talking about spending the money it takes to put a successful team on the field.

Finally, Baltimore's fortunes seem to have turned. Now, it only can wait to see if the NFL will award it a team. But it can't be overconfident until it knows that Murphy's Law won't strike one more time.

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The First 100 Games.

There'll be a milestone in Indianapolis today. The Colts will play their 100th game since moving from Baltimore. In their first 99 games, including a playoff game and three strike games, they're 38-61. In their last 99 games in Baltimore, they were 31-67-1. There hasn't been much change.

They're 0-3 this year, coach Ron Meyer's job is in jeopardy every week, and they could draw their smallest home crowd, against the Detroit Lions, since making the move.

Their previous low was 47,950 for the Chargers in 1987, when they started 0-13.

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The New York Jets-Buffalo Bills rivalry is on the verge of becoming one of the hottest in pro football.

Bruce Coslet, the Jets coach, didn't have much use for coach Marv Levy of the Bills from the days when he was in Cincinnati and Levy complained about their no-huddle offense before the AFC title game after the 1988 season.

After last week's 23-20 victory over the Jets, Levy accused them of faking injuries to stop the no-huddle offense. Apparently, the Jets weren't faking the injuries.

Reading from notes, Coslet borrowed one of the lines Levy had used against the officials and referred to him as "an over-officious jerk."

He also said, "I'm tired of taking crap from this guy." He added of Bills general manager Bill Polian, "You guys can tell Bill Polian to -- shove it, too."

Coslet said that the Jets would file a complaint with commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

Levy then tried to cool things down, saying: "I don't have any vendetta against [Coslet]. I have admiration for his coaching abilities."

.' The rematch is set for Dec. 1.

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Tagliabue probably won't have much time to spend on the Bills-Jets battle. He'll be in New England this weekend looking into Victor Kiam's problems. Kiam owes Fran Murray, who's now a member of the St. Louis expansion group, nearly $40 million and hasn't been able to come up with the money. Kiam has asked for an extension. On top of that, the Patriots have stadium problems.

Tagliabue also has to deal with the Vikings' complaint about the three-way deal in which the Dallas Cowboys traded linebacker Jesse Solomon to the Patriots, who traded him the next day to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Solomon came to Dallas in the Herschel Walker trade, and one stipulation was that Dallas couldn't trade him to another NFC Central team. Dallas got around the clause by sending him to New England, which then shipped him to Tampa Bay. Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson worked for Patriots president Sam Jankovich when they were both at the University of Miami, so the Vikings argue Jankovich did Johnson a favor to violate the clause in the contract.

Tagliabue could void the trades or fine the teams or even take away draft choices.

Another matter on Tagliabue's desk is the Terry Long situation. He's the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman who tried to commit suicide on July 24 after flunking a steroid test. He returned to the team Aug. 20 and had a hearing with Tagliabue on Sept. 6. Tagliabue has yet to rule on his status, but he's starting for the Steelers today because doctors discovered that Brian Blankenship has a congenital spinal defect that could end his career.

Then there's the case of Art Schlichter, the former Colts quarterback suspended for gambling who's been in the Arena Football League. He's asking to be reinstated.

When Tagliabue got the job, he said he thought it would be fun. He's finding out how many headaches go with it.

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The San Francisco 49ers called a players-only team meeting last week after falling to 1-2.

"It was for everyone to get on the same page," quarterback Steve Young said. "It wasn't about gripes. It was to turn things up a notch and take care of business on the field."

Offensive lineman Guy McIntyre said: "We're disappointed in ourselves, basically because we have not been as focused and as sharp as in the past."

Of course, team meetings aren't going to solve the real problem, which is Joe Montana's injury.

It's not a surprise that Young isn't another Montana. A Montana comes along only once every generation or so. The 49ers still don't know how soon he'll be back from his elbow injury. But they're finding out how much they miss him.

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