Having Tom Clancy as head of a Baltimore expansio franchise would have been an exciting and pleasurable experience, good for the prestige of the city and the National Football League. That he has decided to withdraw for what he believes are significant reasons is a setback, at least temporarily and psychologically.
Perception isn't always reality but when a man of Clancy's impeccable integrity and reputation, plus his favorite son status, decides to abandon the effort to restore pro football in his hometown it delivers a message, although inadvertent, that maybe there's something wrong with Baltimore and its preparation. This is a total fallacy.
The competing Charlotte, N.C., interests, headed by ex-Colt Jerry Richardson, are in position to take advantage of Clancy's lowering the boom on an endeavor that he pursued with zeal and personal expense (more than $300,000) since becoming involved the quest two years ago. Suddenly, he was turned off. Although the NFL hadn't cited a preference for an owner, Clancy represents the kind of name recognition that reaches worldwide.
Don't rule out the possibility that Jim Robinson, founder of Morgan Creek film productions, will return with another group. He joined with Clancy last August and now cites the "unfortunate timing of Clancy's decision" as the foremost reason why he's abandoning the process.
The other two candidates vying for the Baltimore expansion club are Malcolm Glazer and Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass.
Sources in the league have wondered for the last several months if there were other potential ownerships interested in Baltimore, even at a late hour, as happened in Seattle when Lloyd Nordstrom emerged as a somewhat belated buyer in late 1974 but won the NFL nod. The Clancy defection is a bad break for Baltimore, not the same but similar to when Bob Tisch decided to turn away in favor of buying into his hometown New York Giants.
Clancy, in explaining why he was making other plans, said he is going to stay in the hunt with Peter Angelos for a possible purchase of the Baltimore Orioles. This development, as when Weinglass once went public as having interest in baseball, isn't going to make the NFL too happy. It seems to this reporter that Clancy bailed out too quickly.
However, his personal desires, as with any individual, deserve to be respected.
"From a purely business relationship, I'm going with what looks best," he said. "For the same cash investment, I could double the cash-flow in baseball when compared to football. Being involved with the Orioles is what the family wants."
Asked to evaluate his chances for eventually acquiring the Orioles, he answered, "Better than even money."
But now back to football and what motivated his change of direction.
He points out that some player coming out of college is going to test the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association in court and has the chance of finding a judge who agrees. He followed up by adding, this is "as sure as God made little green apples."
Clancy, in the colorful language he uses, describes this as a "poison pill," meaning such possible danger discouraged him from his quest to join the NFL.
Clancy, with six No. 1 best-selling novels in as many tries, and his latest book "Without Remorse" ready for publication Aug. 11, is outspoken on most subjects.
When the NFL said it wanted suggestions for nicknames of expansion teams, before they were awarded, he mentioned "that's like ordering the wallpaper before you buy the house." Clancy said he "senses a bias for Charlotte" because the league is allowing teams to sell luxury boxes before a proposed stadium is even built.
Losing Clancy as a bidder for a franchise may not hurt but it certainly won't help because it's difficult to explain why a man would be in the expansion chase for two years and then, without any indication or warning, take himself out of the game.