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A tossup: Area football fans cheer and boo proposed move


Across the Baltimore-Washington region, the public offered up a mix of joy, angst, cynicism and apathy yesterday at the idea of a Laurel Redskins football stadium.

"I'd rather drive 5 1/2 hours to Pittsburgh and see the Steelers play than walk a half-block to watch the Redskins," said former Colts season-ticket holder John Vatenos, manager of Burke's Cafe, who watched the Steelers play in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Around the Inner Harbor, the reaction last night was much the same. Baltimore fans seemed offended even by the notion that they ever could love a Washington football team.

"I'd rather have the Patriots here than the Redskins. That's how much I hate the Redskins," said Tarun Loomba, an engineer who lives in Columbia.

In Carroll County, Mike Coons, 48, football coach at Francis Scott Key High School in Taneytown and a lifelong Redskins fan, said: "I hate to sound cynical, but, really, who cares?

"The owners are going to do whatever they want to do. Cities go nuts to get their teams and the owners, well, extortion may not be a pretty word, but that's what happened to Baltimore [in 1984]," he said.

"I think it's great," said Motorola account manager Kevin Brady, a

Bowie resident and football fan for 32 of his 38 years.

"But then I'm a D.C.-suburbs Redskins fan, so I see that as basically an advantage for the state if another stadium is built in Laurel," Mr. Brady said at what was -- for some -- a happier happy hour at Joe Theismann's restaurant near Dorsey in Howard County.

"I would love it if they moved here," said another Motorola manager, Marge Puccinelli, 41, of Severna Park, "because a lot of people in D.C. and Virginia would give up their tickets and I could get tickets."

Ms. Puccinelli said when she last checked, she was No. 24,954 on the Redskins' season-ticket waiting list.

"I don't understand why Governor Schaefer's so against this, because it's still Maryland; it still benefits the state," she added.

PD John Ziemann of Jarrettsville, president of Baltimore Colts Band

Inc., said a Redskins move to Laurel "would kill Baltimore's chances for getting an NFL team" -- but it would not kill the band.

"There are other NFL teams to play for," said Mr. Ziemann, who has backed Mr. Schaefer's efforts to get a franchise for Baltimore. "It's up to the membership, but I think they want to stay together. We're stronger than ever."

The band that has been without a team for nearly a decade is scheduled to perform in Philadelphia on Dec. 26, during the Eagles-New Orleans Saints game. (Eagles owner Norman Braman cast the lone vote for Baltimore at the NFL ownership meeting that awarded a team to Jacksonville, Fla., last week.)

Neighbors to the site of the proposed 78,600-seat stadium -- ZTC both business and residential -- for the most part viewed the idea with dismay.

Mike Mennella, 27, a Savage resident who manages a Domino's Pizza outlet in the Brockbridge Center shopping complex on Route 198, said: "I think it's going to hurt the area, especially with traffic. The only thing it's going to help is the racetrack -- with all of these out-of-state people going to it after a game."

"This area doesn't need any help," said Harold Seigle, 68, a former horse trainer who moved to Laurel from Detroit 25 years ago.

"It's building up by leaps and

bounds. Laurel was one little country lane back then and was a pleasurable place. Now, I don't like Laurel anymore.

"But it will create jobs," he added.

"And every community could use more jobs at the present time."

Ray Smallwood, president of nearby Maryland City's civic association, threatened Monday to go to court to keep Mr. Cooke from building his stadium near the racecourse -- a sold-out stadium, he said, where local residents would not even be able to buy a ticket.

"It absolutely is not for the local people," he said. "It might bring jobs for the area, but I think it will create more havoc. . . . I think Mr. Cooke is blowing smoke."

But in Annapolis, Whitney Kiser, 29, an avid Redskins fan, said, "I just don't see any negatives for Maryland in this." He said a 20-minute drive to Laurel would be much nicer than his current trip of driving to New Carrollton and riding the Washington Metro

to RFK Stadium.

In Washington, a fan-in-the-street survey did not turn up much alarm at Mr. Cooke's Laurel proposal.

"He's always threatening to go somewhere," said a 46-year-old salesman and native Washingtonian. "He's just trying to get the best deal. He'll probably end up in Washington."

"I'd like to see them stay," said Andy McNally, 41, an attorney from suburban Chevy Chase. "There is a tradition of the team playing in the city it's named for."

Christina Ballard said she would like to see the Redskins move -- to Virginia, preferably near Dulles Airport.

"I hate Maryland," said Ms. Ballard, a 24-year-old accountant from Occoquan, Va. "I hate the way they drive. I hate their governor."

Chris Jones, a 30-year-old Washington resident, also favored a move -- but not of the team.

"Jack Kent Cooke should move as far away as possible, but the Redskins should stay in the city," he said.

"People are tired of him."

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