TORONTO -- Barring an upset, or the owners of the Canadian Football League voting against it, the city of Baltimore is the favorite to host the 1996 Grey Cup Championship, a Canadian replica of what the National Football League refers to as the Super Bowl.
Commissioner Larry Smith, the progressive leader of the CFL, the man who brought expansion to the United States, said Baltimore is one of three cities listed for final consideration.
Smith said taking the Grey Cup, which has been played for 81 years to determine the Canadian champion, to the U.S. is "an ultimate objective, sooner as opposed to later."
It's possible, though, Smith could run into resistance from some CFL team owners, who may perceive such a move as demeaning to the sport's long history in a country that is proud of preserving tradition.
But Smith is an innovative thinker and sold the CFL on entering the United States by placing expansion franchises in Sacramento, Calif., Baltimore, Las Vegas and Shreveport, La., with two or four teams more coming next year.
"The big game, our Grey Cup," said Smith, "would fit Baltimore perfectly. This would mean the game would be making its inaugural American presence in a city that has been such a hub of football prestige. This year the Grey Cup is in Vancouver and in 1995 in Regina, Saskatchewan."
The meeting to decide where the 1996 Grey Cup is to be held comes about Monday in Hamilton, Ontario. Baltimore club owner Jim Speros will be there to tell why the city would be the appropriate host.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who gave the green light to Speros and the CFL, will be with Speros as the presentation is made. Last night, team officials were trying to contact Gov. William Donald Schaefer to ask him to be join them in making the presentation.
However, Speros and his associates realize Schaefer, by what he hasn't done up to now in their behalf, only has eyes for the NFL. That's why he's encouraging Peter Angelos, owner of the Orioles, to buy all or part of the Los Angeles Rams and move them to Baltimore.
It's understood that for Baltimore to be awarded the Grey Cup, a guarantee of $3.1 million in ticket sales would be necessary.
"I think we're going to get it," Speros said. "But it all depends how good our presentation is on Monday in Hamilton."