Clancy-Robinson duo might have been a winner

THE BALTIMORE SUN

What might have been the winning combination -- Clancy & Robinson -- never fully functioned in a total game-plan concept in behalf of Baltimore's quest for a NFL expansion franchise. It was a case of supporting the wrong ticket . . . Malcolm Glazer, Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass and then, with the decisive 11th hour at hand, the presence of Al Lerner. That correlates to 0-for-3.

Tom Clancy and Jim Robinson were in it together as an early entry, despite the fact Herbert Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, wasn't enamored with their presence, especially thhat of Clancy, one of the most successful authors in the world who had been a fanatic of the Baltimore Colts.

The Clancy/Robinson combination came into play again yesterday when the Advertising & Professional Club of Maryland gave Robinson its most coveted honor, naming him the "distinguished Marylander of the year."

Both were at the head table, along with the present, past and future governors of the state and the newly elevated cardinal, William Keeler.

The head table, at opposite ends,had a sporting balance, Arthur Donovan, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Cal Ripken Jr., a baseball Hall of Famer-to-be. But through the oratory and presentations there was the gnawing awareness and frustration that Baltimore never took its best shot in the losing NFL expansion race a year ago.

Clancy and Robinson would have made a stronger statement for Baltimore. There was so much discouragement for Clancy that he withdrew. Robinson didn't have the time to go it alone.

The two had hired John Unitas, the Hall of Fame quarterback, to represent them at $25,000 per appearance in an attempt to lobby NFL owners. So Unitas and Ted Venetoulis, who was in charge of strategy, began to make their rounds . . . Pittsburgh, New Orleans and other places.

At that point, after allowing Charlotte's Jerry Richardson to do the same, the NFL told its member clubs not to put themselves in the position of making commitments or receiving emissaries from expansion cities. That was a setback for Clancy and Robinson, yet more so for Baltimore.

The odd twist in this scenario came about when Clancy joined Peter Angelos in his quest to buy the Baltimore Orioles. Now, with more than a slight touch of irony, Angelos and Clancy are involved in a partnership that controls the Orioles and Angelos is hopping about the country, kind of a two-legged "Peter Cottontail," trying to buy an existing NFL franchise.

This translates into additional evidence that the world is indeed round, in case any doubtful citizens who flunked geography are still around from 1492. Word is that since Parris Glendening is the new governor that Belgrad will remain as chief potentate of the Stadium Authority, after earlier telling friends he might resign. This latest development is a natural deduction since Harry Hughes, a Glendening adviser, was the governor who appointed Belgrad to the Stadium Authority in the first place.

William Donald Schaefer was told by a top adviser, a man who was acquainted with the pro football wars, that he should replace Belgrad, since he was a Hughes holdover. Schaefer refrained from that after a meeting and finding out how much Belgrad wanted to keep the job.

Robinson, the film producer and founder of Morgan Creek Productions, one of the most successful companies making movies today, with such credits as "Silent Fall," "True Romance," "Last Of The Mohicans," "Ace Ventura" and "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," was upset when Clancy pulled out of the Baltimore effort. He was even more upset over lack of encouragement.

"I've always had the philosophy that what happens is for a reason and I put the disappointment behind me in going on to the next step," explained Robinson, who holds no profound regrets over the way the ball bounced. But imagine a Clancy/Robinson/Unitas team and what it might have meant in a collective way had they gone before the NFL.

Schaefer, the other chief executive of the state who was present for the Robinson testimonial, may have been wondering the same thing as he observed the setting.

Upon leaving the Stouffer Hotel, scene of the gathering, similar ideas were exchanged by the departing luncheon guests. Lou Grasmick put it all succinctly when he said, "We had the perfect twosome to get it done in Robinson and Clancy. It was a blunder not to let them take the lead. They are true heavyweights. And they're the kind of personalities and achievers the NFL owners would have been attracted to giving their top consideration."

The same suggestion was not lost on others. Robinson is a winner. What he has done in the business of making films is spectacular. Nine of his 20 films have opened in the No. 1 box office position, a percentage unchallenged in the industry.

Linda Goldenberg, who has spent almost 20 years in the promotion of films at the major studio level, said, "I believe if Jim Robinson would have been encouraged to pursue a franchise that Baltimore would be in the National Football League. He's an unbelievable negotiator. Talk about effective. He knows how to make a deal. His drive is beyond comprehension."

Robinson came from Dundalk, a proud working-class suburban neighborhood. Clancy was from a similar background, Northwood. They were the best Baltimore had to offer, giants in their respective fields. But they were resources that weren't used -- and their old hometown, sad to lament, is the loser.

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