Everything has been put into position for Baltimore to win endorsement for a National Football League expansion franchise except in one all-important aspect. The two would-be owners, Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass and Malcolm Glazer, are lacking support from some existing club owners -- those empowered with the right to approve or disapprove their candidacy.
To this point in the competition, when measured against ownership groups from four other contending cities, Baltimore shows a weakness. It's the only negative in the Baltimore prospectus. High-placed sources with NFL teams told The Evening Sun it's a situation they are concerned about.
The presentations by Weinglass and Glazer before 12 of the 28 owners at the Chicago meeting over a week ago did not measure up when compared to what came from the four other cities. In quality of ownership, at least in the perception of some NFL owners, Baltimore failed to make a favorable impression.
The Maryland Stadium Authority and Gov. William Donald Schaefer have extended themselves in preparing Baltimore's best financial offer, plus guaranteeing construction of a first-rate stadium facility. So where does Baltimore have a problem?
It's in the quality of ownership. Can the Weinglass and Glazer groups merge to make them more palatable to the league? That's doubtful. Right now, Baltimore must put aside its state of euphoria, the belief it is a "lock and a shoo-in" to get a team, as Weinglass predicted, and deal with reality.
The Maryland Stadium Authority and Gov. Schaefer have reason to be concerned. If Weinglass and Glazer can't offer the leadership that merits a nod from the NFL, if that's where the shortcoming exists, then the stadium authority and Schaefer are going to have to do something to help the cause of Baltimore. They better start scrambling.
This is not without precedent. In the 1976 addition of Tampa Bay and Seattle, there was an "eleventh-hour" change. The interest of a new owner decided the awarding of a team to Seattle. It was largely influenced by the involvement of an entirely new ownership plan. The Nordstrom family was that important.
What has been proven the last two weeks is that the position taken by the Maryland Stadium Authority was right. Director Herbert Belgrad refused to endorse any single ownership group. He felt pressure to do so but held his ground.
Suppose the stadium authority had stamped for approval the Weinglass or Glazer ownership. This would have put Baltimore in a committed position. That, fortunately, is not the case. If other owners are convinced to come forth in the next three weeks it will strengthen the Baltimore application.
Since Bob Tisch, over two years ago, bailed out and bought half-interest in the New York Giants, it weakened the Baltimore candidacy. Then author Tom Clancy defected to baseball and left partner John Robinson with nothing else to do but quit or go it alone. That was another setback.
The stadium authority wisely kept its options open or Baltimore, right now, could be in bad shape. As it is, there's time to readjust. Finding another owner, similar to what happened in Seattle, is in Baltimore's best interests if this reporter's contacts and what they have to say are to be considered accurate.
As for the alleged name for a team, Bombers, it's an embarrassment. Baltimore had only a five-year identification producing Martin Bombers in World War II. This did not stamp Baltimore an aircraft city. The tradition is sea-faring.
The name Bombers today has the connotation of the Beirut bombing, the bombing of the Pan-Am plane over Scotland, the bombing of the World Trade Center and other bombing incidents entirely insensitive to how America feels. A poll by WMAR-TV showed 63 percent of more than 3,000 respondents thought it was a bad name; 37 percent found no objection.
Of more importance, before a name is agreed upon, Baltimore needs to address its ownership arrangement. The NFL's Roger Goodell said there's no mandatory insistence that Baltimore have a name before a team is awarded.
Right now, the game plan should be: Get the kind of owners that will eliminate any doubt for approval and then worry about what the team is to be called.