Putting the name Stallions on Baltimore's team in the Canadian Football League wasn't all that bad an idea. Except Jim Speros should have thought of it earlier rather than later.
Speros has been all over the lot in pursuit of a name. First he tried Colts, only to be denied by the courts. Next, after protracted consideration, he decided to go without a name -- which was distinctive and also refreshing.
There's no rule in any book that specifies teams must play with nicknames. The franchise, Speros promised, would then and thereafter be known as the Baltimore Football Club. Yeah, Baltimore.
XTC It was to open the CFL season that way but then Speros made a sudden change. He rode in on a horse (once was enjoyable but not a second time with the same gig) and opted for Stallions, a name that would have been used in St. Louis had that city received a National Football League expansion franchise two years ago rather than having to wait on a move of the Rams from Los Angeles.
The way Speros played the name game borders on the bizarre. It was his belated decision to take a name except he wanted it to fit the logo he already had. A classic case of lining up the cart in front of the horse. Usually, a team has a name and then develops a logo. Speros was doing it the other way around but he made it happen.
A longtime Baltimore football enthusiast, Lou Fritz, of Linthicum, deeply resents what has taken place. Fritz's father was a Colts' season-ticket holder dating back to the All-America Football Conference in 1947. Now Lou is a similar supporter of the CFL, so he has paid for the right to complain.
His views, which he has put in writing and mailed to Speros, are presented on the basis that the CFL owner waited until 1995 season tickets were sold before he went for the name Stallions. It might appear that way but we're not sure the premise is correct since the history of Speros in Baltimore is one of frequent change.
Fritz feels Speros wanted to keep his ties to the old Colts so as not to alienate any former ticket holders of the original team. "To the best of my knowledge," says Fritz, "no professional sports franchise has ever changed its name during the regular season." But Speros broke new ground.
It's upsetting to Fritz that Speros went back crying to the NFL to make use of a name it earlier had offered to him when he attempted to utilize Colts. Fritz thought Speros should have held his position, staying without a name, to demonstrate clearly to the NFL that he didn't need its help in taking on a name it had once thrown to him much the way of an old crust of bread.
Fritz, 36, like a lot of young fathers, was hopeful of being able to eventually take his 2-year-old son to games and relate to him the grand history of the Colts and the tradition that went with them. "My father even talks of the days of the green and silver uniforms so you know my love for Baltimore football is something that's precious and I feel I practically inherited my interest in the team."
In revealing his discontent, Fritz goes on to say when fans hear the Colts' Band playing the Colt Fight Song they need to differentiate and realize "it pertains to the Baltimore Colts and not the exploits of any current players." Taking on another name, after the courts prevented use of the Colts, is interpreted by Fritz as some kind of surrender by Speros of Baltimore's birthright.
"Mr. Speros claimed over the past several weeks that the team needs a new identity and that the new name will allow him to merchandise and market his product more effectively. As fans we once again see that in professional sports, money supersedes community pride and tradition."
This is true, but the name change isn't going to increase ticket sales. It may sell more caps and T-shirts yet it won't be reflected in the number of seats that are paid for in Memorial Stadium.
Fritz goes on to conclude that Speros' business decision of July 7, 1995, effectively ended the era of Colts football in Baltimore. Sad but true. He believes that down the road the Colts' Band will become known as the Stallions Band, but we hope he's wrong. Fritz said he had to commend Speros for buying the musicians new uniforms but says "a franchise by that name [Colts] no longer exists, not even in the CFL, or our imagination."
What Fritz, a security specialist with the federal government, hoped Speros would do was to keep the team nameless while the fans, in a vicarious way, continue to relive the past by bellowing C-O-L-T-S. That'll continue, to a decreased degree, but not with the same depth of nostalgia and affection.
This, of course, is a setback -- the name revision after the season opened, which adds only to the commercial value of selling souvenirs.