If NFL throws Baltimore for a loss, it will be amateur sports' gain New pro team would cut into local coverage

If Baltimore doesn't land an NFL expansion team on Nov. 30, consider it a victory for amateur sports.

Do you agree that the return of the NFL to Baltimore would hurt the University of Maryland, other local college teams and high school and youth teams as well?


Probably not too many of you out there agree, and I wonder if Arundel High athletic director Bernie Walter is the only one who does.

Under the ambitious Mark Duffner, the Terps football team is hoping to appeal to every fan around the state. Baltimore Colts Hall of Famer Art Donovan said at the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame banquet that Duffner was "one of the finest young men I have ever met in my life and will have a great football team before it's all over."


There are a lot of football fans and Maryland alumni who echo those remarks, but their allegiance to the Terps could take a U-turn to Baltimore for the NFL on Sundays.

"People who have season tickets to Maryland football aren't likely to keep them if they can get Baltimore season tickets," Walter said. "An NFL franchise would hurt amateur sports, and I hope it doesn't happen."

I enjoy the Friday night high school football highlights on local TV stations. Channel 11 does a fine job with its "Operation Football."

And nobody does a better job on local sports throughout the week and on his Sunday night "Sports Extra" than Channel 2's Keith Mills.

Ever since Bob Irsay took away the Colts in the middle of the night, media coverage of local high school and college sports has grown, especially in the the fall and winter.

Do you really think that such extensive coverage would continue if the NFL returned to Baltimore?

Friday nights and weekend TV sports coverage during the era of the Colts was previewing the big game that Sunday, and you were lucky to get a couple of high school scores, let alone highlights.

Even Mills, a devoted local sports lover who resides in the county, would have to severely curtail his high school and college coverage to serve fans' appetite for the NFL.


There wouldn't be much time to send out camera crews to amateur games, what with Bombers news conferences, daily workouts and Boogie Weinglass' remarks throughout the week.

And do you really think local amateur sports would continue as the guts of Mills' "Sports Extra" with the Bombers having just played that day?

Channel 2 might even have to bring back Hope Hines (remember him?) to give Mills and Scott Garceau a hand with the NFL coverage.

"I understand your opinion and you could be right," Mills said. "You know how I feel about local sports, but things could change with a return of the NFL."

There is no question that high school and college sports have filled a void for TV sports in the absence of an NFL team. And I think once the TV stations discovered local sports after the NFL exit, they have been amazed at the interest in it from the parents to the fans.

Before the Colts' exodus, the local sports audience was an untapped commodity except for Home Team Sports and local cable.


It didn't take TV executives long to learn that local sports actually sells, but therein is the biggest obstacle to continued local sports coverage if Charm City gets lucky on Nov. 30.

Without question, extensive NFL coverage will bring in many more bucks than local sports.

The loser would be amateur sports, which in this town would go back to the old days of little attention, as the Bombers and Orioles would enjoy a year-round monopoly of the air waves.

It's not likely that much would change in the print media, which long has been the best friend amateur sports ever had.

Linthicum postal worker John Olecski said: "I don't really care one way or the other if we get an NFL franchise, because we had our era and it was great.

"It's the young kids growing up that I feel for. They don't know what it was like having the Colts and what it meant to us older guys. For that reason, so the kids could go through it, a Baltimore NFL team would be great."


But really, could we ever get it back, that heartfelt feeling the Colts once commanded? I doubt it, but one thing is sure -- we wouldn't get back that local sports coverage we've become accustomed to. I wonder what the kids would miss more.

You can't miss what you don't know.

What's your opinion? Call my 24-Hour Sportsline, (410) 647-2499, and I will use some of the best responses in a future column.