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The greed in sports is appalling


The way sports are today, who can blame people for being cynical and skeptical?

It's gotten so that we expect to be lied to and disappointed.

Take this business with Mike Brown, president of the Cincinnati Bengals.

He says if he doesn't get an agreement for a new stadium in Cincinnati by Thursday he'll negotiate only with Baltimore.

And what does John Moag, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, say in response to this?

Moag says: "I'm not optimistic. I'm absolutely convinced he [Brown] is committed to his hometown and very badly wants to stay there."

Good for John Moag. He may be new as MSA chairman, but there's nothing naive about him.

Moag knows how many Maryland hearts have been broken by the NFL. He knows how sports owners play the game today.

That's not to say that Mike Brown is lying to anybody. He has a stadium problem in Cincinnati; he needs to see what else is available. He made no promises when he visited Baltimore.

You see, Mike Brown, son of the late NFL Hall of Fame coach and owner Paul Brown, is known around the league as an honest man. A straight shooter. A guy whose word is good.

And then there's Al Davis.

Davis is owner and managing partner of the Raiders. In 1982 he moved his team from Oakland to Anaheim. Now he wants to move it back to Oakland. He says.

Last Friday Davis signed a letter of intent to go back to the Bay Area. Well, he didn't exactly sign it. He faxed his signature. Vintage Al Davis.

Even now, despite the "signed" agreement, people wonder whether Davis and his team actually will go to Oakland or play in a new stadium at Hollywood Park in Los Angeles.

There have been times in the past couple years when Davis expressed interest in Baltimore.

Just last month a lawyer connected with the effort to bring the NFL to Baltimore told me something that would have been huge news, had it concerned anyone but Al Davis.

"At 10.30 last night," the lawyer said, "I had a deal on the phone with Al Davis to bring the Raiders here. And you know what? I don't believe a word he said."

That's what's so sad about the sports scene today. Even the insiders, the John Moags and the deal-making lawyers, find it hard to believe anyone or they find it impossible to become excited. Or both. They understand sports owners in the mid-'90s.

Ex-Governor Schaefer is another disenchanted Marylander who has learned some hard lessons.

Schaefer, the June speaker at the monthly sports luncheon at J. Patrick's, is still stung by the treatment he and the Maryland delegation received in the NFL expansion process.

Schaefer talked about running into the Jacksonville delegation on the hotel elevator in Chicago. He told about the laughter and joy of the Jacksonvillians, who had already been told they had been accepted by the league -- even though no one had bothered to tell the Maryland people.

A story in the June 19 Sports Illustrated headlined "The Shakedown" tells of the greedy sports owners who are threatening to move their teams elsewhere unless they get new stadiums or better leases.

How many NBA, NHL, NFL and major-league baseball owners would you say are playing that game? Take a guess. A half-dozen? A dozen?

Sports Illustrated says the number is 39.

No Baltimore team is among the restless, of course. The Orioles are our only major sports franchise and they are here to stay, thanks to two things:

1. Committed Maryland-based owners, led by Baltimorean Pete Angelos, who paid a record $173 million for the team so it could remain here forever.

2. Blackmail.

That's right -- a blackmail job that paid off. The late Edward Bennett Williams, who owned the Orioles, refused to sign a lease for more than a year unless he was given a new ballpark.

That led to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The people love it, as the sellout crowds here prove (in the face of a 22 percent attendance drop throughout the majors) and the franchise is anchored here.

The city's NFL future is rather bleak, as Schaefer sees it. "I don't see us getting in the NFL in the next four or five years, if ever," he said.

Schaefer blames Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, who, understandably, does not want competition 40 miles away.

"Jack Kent Cooke is our mortal enemy," Schaefer said at J. Patrick's. "Don't forget that."

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