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CFL game wins over fans -- at the expense of NFL


The NFL has not been very nice to Baltimore during the past 10 years, so Nick Syropoulos of Mayfield decided to do something about it.

He kidnapped Paul Tagliabue.

Well, not really. He collaborated for nine hours on a life-sized, papier mache version of the NFL commissioner, replete with glasses and an NFL tie.

Syropoulos, a 43-year-old member of the so-called Colt Liberation Party, is holding Tagliabue for ransom until Baltimore gets the Colts name back, an expansion franchise, or at the very least some respect. He is one of the many Baltimoreans who have expressed their frustration with the NFL by adopting the CFL as their pro football league of choice.

"This is great football here," said Syropoulos, one of 39,247 fans who attended last night's game at Memorial Stadium. "Why should we hold our breath waiting for the NFL?"

Alex Franckewitz, 40, and his 12-year-old son, Christopher, expressed their changing allegiances by hanging a sign on the railing below Sec

tion 11 that said, "Not Further Liked" and "Colts Football Lives."

"If we get an NFL team, I would still support this one," said Franckewitz, who lives in White Marsh.

So would Donald Louey. A Colts' season-ticket holder from 1963 until the team left town in 1984, Louey started rooting against Indianapolis. He also started following the CFL.

"It moves faster," Louey said. "The width of the field really surprised me."

Louey is ambivalent about the rouge, when a team fails to run a punt or kick out of its own end zone.

"I'd hate to see a game settled by one point," Louey said.

"But I'd like that, as long as it's in our favor."

The NFL has definitely fallen out of favor with Parkville's Mark Balog. He was wearing a T-shirt that used an obscenity to refer to the NFL on the front and said "We've got the CFL" on the back.

"You can see what we think of the NFL," said Balog, 37, whose wife, Joan, bought him the shirt outside the stadium.

Balog said he likes the CFL style better than that of the NFL.

"They don't call as many penalties, so it's a lot faster," he said.

The NFL made Bill Berger III so mad that he printed up his own T-shirts that say, "To hell with the NFL, Baltimore is Colt country."

Berger, who sent one of his shirts to CFL owner Jim Speros, is enthralled with the city's new pro football franchise.

"It's so exciting that it makes me not want to go to an NFL game again," said Berger, 34. "The NFL is overrated."

Berger likes the CFL rules -- the three downs, the rouge, and the lack of fair catches.

"It's in its infancy stage and I enjoy that," said Berger, who lives in Parkville.

Don't expect Baltimoreans to start drinking Molson's instead of National Bohemian or to start saying hey hoser instead of hon. But the CFL has definitely caught on.

"It's up to these fans," Berger said. "They're part of a new era."

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