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It's time to play game of revenge


ROSEMONT, Ill. -- They insulted our governor, they insulted our intelligence, they exceeded their own arrogance. They lied, they cheated, they deceived. And now they're telling us how we could have spent the money we needed to join their stupid league.

"We didn't force anybody to get involved in this process," NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said yesterday about the expansion losers. "That's a judgment people have to make. Maybe they prefer to have a museum or plant in their town."

A museum or plant, how touching.

We've got both in Baltimore.

What we need now is revenge.

Jacksonville, they chose Jacksonville. Why not put a team in Hagerstown? Until yesterday, the two cities had the same number of pro sports franchises. But to hear Tagliabue, you'd think Jacksonville was growing faster than Beijing.

When does this nightmare end?

Baltimore has almost as many TV households (938,520) as Jacksonville has residents (944,000). Pat Williams, general manager of the NBA's Orlando Magic, said a Jacksonville victory would be "like World War III breaking out and Norway winning."

Well, hello, Oslo. "I guess you heard, huh?" an NFL lackey told Governor Schaefer shortly before the announcement. No, Schaefer hadn't heard -- just as he hadn't heard nearly 10 years ago when the Mayflower moving vans swept the Colts out of town.

What now? It's very simple. Set a May 1 deadline for luring an existing franchise, and if no team bites, embrace the CFL. Forget the next expansion. Tagliabue will just steer the NFL toward more virgin territory -- Missoula, Mont., or Biloxi, Miss.

The May 1 deadline would enable the Los Angeles Rams to give the city of Anaheim the required 15 months notice and move to Baltimore in time for the 1995 season. With St. Louis expected to target the New England Patriots, Baltimore's best hope will be the Rams or Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Play the dirty game until May 1, and then get out. Frankly, the CFL no longer looks like such a terrible option. In fact, it can be the perfect vehicle to embarrass the NFL -- if we approach it right, not as a diversion, but as a crusade.

You've heard of the 100 Years War? Make this the 100 Years Grudge. Give CFL owner Jim Speros the keys to Memorial Stadium, but only if he calls the team the Baltimore Colts -- we've checked, it's legal. Then, pack the place week after week. Bring out the tailgates. Have some fun.

The grass-roots campaign would catch fire, the national media would jump on the story and the Colts tradition would pass down through the generations. It's not the first option; it's the last resort. But after yesterday, it seems the perfect response.

All that work, all that planning, and nothing mattered. Not geography. Not market size. Not a new, publicly financed stadium. Remember when Tagliabue expressed interest in adding one old city and one new? That was before he discovered the Southeast and anointed himself Sun King.

"The commissioner said unequivocally there would definitely not be two teams in the Eastern time zone, probably one in the East and one in the Central, that there even could be two in the Central," Memphis owner Billy Dunavant said, recalling a September meeting with Tagliabue.

Two in the Central? And ignore the great metropolis of Jacksonville? Perish the thought. Never mind that Jacksonville was the smallest city of the expansion finalists. Never mind that it must renovate the Gator Bowl. Tagliabue called it a "hotbed of football interest."

College football, but not pro. Jacksonville-Charlotte won't ever be as big a game in Florida as Florida-Florida State. The Northeast is the NFL hotbed. For all the talk about Baltimore being too close to Washington and Philadelphia, it was Eagles owner Norman Braman who gave the city its one vote.

All that work, all that planning, for one measly vote. The governor was inconsolable yesterday, and he didn't have Al Lerner's shoulder to cry on. The Chosen One departed with Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell shortly after his presentation. Nice hearing from you, Al. Why'd you bother?

They insulted our governor, they insulted our intelligence and then the commissioner said we could have built a museum. Someone tell Mr. Georgetown that the stadium funds might be better spent improving education or fighting crime. We don't need his hypocrisy. We don't need his stupid league.

One last stab, and that's it.

If not the NFL Rams, then the CFL Colts.

Enough is enough.

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