Chasing after a National Football League team for Baltimore has turned into an opera, a tragicomedy of would-be heroes, starring Gov. William Donald Schaefer and his latest lead player, Peter Angelos, plus a supporting cast of Tom Clancy, George Stamas and NationsBank.
Schaefer is in a "shoot the works" effort to have Angelos, who has become his favorite son, buy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and move them to Baltimore. It would be a momentous undertaking since Angelos bid $174 million for the Orioles six months ago. At this point, Angelos also is Schaefer's priority candidate to run for governor, but he hasn't convinced him to do so.
No doubt, Schaefer has motivated Angelos to push for an NFL team. Stamas, who was Angelos' attorney in the acquisition of the Orioles, has made two visits to Tampa. The initial premise was the club would not be available until owner Hugh Culverhouse, who is ailing, died.
This, unfortunately, would have turned Baltimore's buying a sports team into a "death watch." There's nothing more demeaning than to think Baltimore, which was robbed of the Colts by Bob Irsay, who took them to Indianapolis, would be engaging in similar tactics perceived as less than honorable. Does the end always justify the means?
Meanwhile, the man who played the lead in the expansion show, Herb Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, has been relegated to a minor position in the proceedings. It used to be Schaefer was proclaiming "Herbie this and Herbie that," but, if you're paying attention, it hasn't happened lately.
If the Tampa Bay transaction comes to fruition, then Schaefer takes the bows. He'll lead the parade. There are more ironic twists to this ongoing story than could be found in the most imaginative plot of a Clancy novel. When moving Belgrad aside, which is his prerogative, despite the fact the man has worked extremely hard, Schaefer is calling all the signals.
"I am actively talking," he said two weeks ago. "I, me. Before, I never did that. I went through the [Maryland] Stadium Authority."
Legal fees could be enormous in pulling off such a deal. There would be a battle with Tampa interests, wanting to hold an NFL identity, plus approval by the league owners and a surrender by Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the Washington Redskins, of his 75-mile territorial rights, which covers Baltimore.
The way the plan is being discussed is Angelos would put up $20 million, Clancy $10 million and NationsBank the rest, providing another investor doesn't join them. Officials of NationsBank want to do for Baltimore what they were able to achieve for Charlotte -- helping with the financing of its new expansion team. Such assistance would remove any perception the bank favored Charlotte and ignored Baltimore.
Another figure, Larry Lucchino, who earlier left the Orioles, is back in the picture with Angelos. A rapport exists that wasn't there before. Angelos didn't retain Lucchino as president of the Orioles after he bought the franchise, which is understandable. He kept him on the board or directors in an honorary role.
Now Angelos and Lucchino are involved in the Buccaneers quest. The price is supposedly $200 million with a $10 million non-refundable deposit. If such a deal doesn't go through then the owner there, Culverhouse, or his estate, clears $10 million without doing anything but reviewing offers.
The Cooke proposal to move the Washington Redskins to Laurel would be so immensely beneficial to Maryland in a financial way, that Bob Neall, executive of Anne Arundel County, could pull, if need be, an end run around Schaefer. He doesn't want to risk losing the benefits for his constituents by having the Redskins go elsewhere.
On Saturday, Cooke will visit Frostburg State University, with an idea to having the Redskins train there. This is being done for one purpose -- to appease Caspar Taylor, speaker of the house, who represents the district. Cooke's offer to pay for his own stadium would end up an estimated $400 million asset for Maryland.
Schaefer upset Cooke by going back on his word in moving the deadline from Feb. 14 to March 1. This has some members of the legislature boiling. They are afraid if Cooke gives up on Laurel and goes elsewhere, say Northern Virginia, Schaefer will have cost the state and some jurisdictions millions in tax revenue, plus not allowing the $160 million for a football-only stadium in downtown Baltimore, to be utilized for other humane purposes.
The show continues; nothing less than bizarre.