It's time for change, not blame, with a bit of caution, too


ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Searching for the "smoking gun," the culprit who shot Baltimore's expansion bid full of holes and left the patient wounded, more psychologically than physically, is impossible. Why? Because no suspect exists.

That's disappointing. In every scenario, especially one involving a high-stakes prize, there's a feeling of satisfaction when the trigger man is uncovered and brought to justice. This case doesn't offer evidence that Baltimore was violated by any club owner, the commissioner or parties bent on creating a conspiracy.

There's a surge of sympathy -- for whatever that will mean -- across the nation for what happened to Baltimore when the NFL preferred to take Charlotte, N.C., as its only expansion site and told the city to stand in line to compete against St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn., and Jacksonville, Fla., for the one other location to be decided on Nov. 30.

When Al Davis, owner of the Los Angeles Raiders, heard Gov. William Donald Schaefer's remarks and offered praise for what was said, it was an early indication he may be wanting to move again. The compliments were merited, but Davis might have an ulterior motive. Pay attention.

In fact, there's also reason to believe the other Los Angeles team, the Rams, might like to come to Baltimore, which would be ironic when it's considered the Rams were once traded for the Colts -- the only time in sports such a deal was consummated.

It was in 1972 that Bob Irsay ostensibly bought the Rams from the estate of the revered Dan Reeves. Then Irsay swapped the Rams to Carroll Rosenbloom to allow an avoidance of paying taxes on capital gains.

It could be that both Los Angeles clubs, in a race with each other, will consider beating a path to Baltimore to cash in on the deal for a new stadium and the financial windfall that goes with being in a facility that offers untold riches.

Would some NFL owners vote against Baltimore in expansion so they could have a shot at the territory themselves? The Maryland Stadium Authority and Gov. Schaefer must protect themselves in the clinches and resist any spell created by these merchants of con.

Baltimore could be involved in starting another league, but it would be suicidal and it's much easier to jump off the Bay Bridge. Schaefer and Herb Belgrad, head of the Maryland Stadium Authority, need to enlist Jeff Lurie and Matt DeVito, who has been co-chairman of Baltimore's expansion bid, as owners, either individually or in a double-team arrangement.

With gratitude for what Malcolm Glazer and Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass have tried to do for Baltimore, it hasn't worked. The game plan needs to be changed if Baltimore is to be given any chance of beating out St. Louis. The city can't come back with the same cast of players.

When Glazer and Weinglass study the full picture and realize what has evolved, they may want to step aside and give another group or leader a chance to prepare for a Baltimore bid. The call is theirs. Glazer and Weinglass endeavored to help Baltimore and gave it their best but nothing happened -- except a tie with St. Louis, Memphis and Jacksonville and the right to try again.

The governor and stadium authority, along with the public, should be grateful and remain so for the sincere attempts they made in behalf of Baltimore. One NFL owner went so far as to say St. Louis wasn't as impressive as the other three, which means the race is still open and Baltimore must respond to the maximum, as painful as it is.

"Baltimore is a great place, just one hell of a town," said Ken Hofmann, a Seattle Seahawks part-owner. "You still have a wonderful chance to get this expansion club. Don't quit now."

And Ed McCaskey, chairman of the board of the Chicago Bears, commented, "Gov. Schaefer and your mayor, Kurt Schmoke, are admired. And Herb Belgrad has his whole heart in this effort. I made a speech two years ago in Baltimore and told everyone how I felt. I want Baltimore to get the team."

Roger Goodell, an assistant to commissioner Paul Tagliabue, smiled and couldn't resist a jocular suggestion.

"Another 30 days will give you a chance to work on changing the name Bombers," he quipped.

Bombers is a dreadful suggestion, insensitive to the times. You wonder if NFL Properties approved it because it felt Baltimore wasn't going to be an expansion factor.

Baltimore needs to come in with new owners and an appealing name for a possible team. Since the financial conditions can't be revised, according to Tagliabue, a different look has to accompany Baltimore's next visit to the expansion theater.

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