In the town of Frostburg west of Cumberland, the residents now sport gold and burgundy. Overnight, the town's residents have turned into die-hard Washington Redskins fans. That's because the town of 8,000 in Western Maryland this month became the summer training camp of the Washington football team.
The Redskins will provide a bonanza for the area during July and August, especially for the dominant industry in the town, Frostburg State University. It is estimated that moving the summer training camp from Carlisle, Pa., to Maryland will pump $1.7 million into the chronically ailing Allegany County economy, not to mention the priceless publicity that the little-known public college of 5,000 students will gain.
And yet as picturesque as the Frostburg setting is, it wasn't mountain brooks and stands of sycamores that drew the Redskins' owner Jack Kent Cooke. No, this man enjoys his green dollar bills. The crusty mega-millionaire owner hopes that shifting his squad's training camp to Frostburg will ingratiate him with state leaders -- especially House Speaker Casper R. Taylor of Cumberland -- and pave the way for the state's considerable help in building a new stadium for his team inside the beltway in Prince George's County.
Frostburg's gain is Carlisle's loss. The Pennsylvania burg of 20,000, just outside Harrisburg, is an hour's drive north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Many Baltimoreans can feel their pain. As with Baltimore and the Colts prior to their midnight flight out of town, Carlisle served as summer camp to the Redskins for a generation-plus, in an era when professional sports teams had a more familial, less mercenary, relationship with their supporters. Such romanticism is anachronistic in today's sports-as-business-and-entertainment economy.
Maryland used to be called "America in Miniature." Now you might call the state "Sports Emotions in Miniature." In an era where team owners and stars are constantly in search of a better deal, Maryland has experienced it all. The Colts are gone. The Orioles, again in local hands, are now filling Camden Yards despite baseball's labor woes. Baltimore's Canadian Football League Stallions and the new minor-league hockey team have their own rabidly devout following. Meanwhile, the city's pursuit of another National Football League franchise is the longest-running tale of unrequited love since Clark Kent met Lois Lane. Sports relationships -- Maryland has seen them all. Now it's Frostburg's turn to savor the benefits of a pro sports connection. Let's hope it lasts.