Thousands of Stallions fans gathered at the Inner Harbor yesterday afternoon to greet the newly crowned CFL champions. The cheerleaders were there, and so was Mayor Kurt L. 'f Schmoke, but where was the team?
With Stallions fan Lou Causey holding up a sign that read, "Bring back the Grey but leave the Browns in Cleveland," Schmoke tried to answer both questions.
"Half of the team is in customs, but let's hang around for a while," Schmoke told the crowd. He added that he would try to his best to keep both teams in Baltimore. When he mentioned the Browns, he was greeted with loud and steady booing.
The booing soon was replaced by the championship anthem "We Are The Champions/We Will Rock You," as Mike Pringle and the Stallions, just back from Regina, Saskatchewan, and Sunday's 37-20 victory over the Calgary Stampeders, came in carrying the Grey Cup. The crowd cheered when owner Jim Speros said, "We're Baltimore's team, and we want to be Baltimore's team."
Off-duty police officer Barbara Heckman cheered loudly through the face mask of her Stallions helmet. Susan Gunn of Baltimore came down with her dog, Travis, wearing a Stallions T-shirt because, she says, Baltimore needs to support the Stallions.
After all the players and coaches were introduced, Speros and Schmoke drank champagne from the Grey Cup. As the travel-weary players returned to the team bus, the crowd chanted, "Stallions stay, Stallions stay."
"I don't expect them to stay, but I won't be watching any NFL games," said Bob Howard, a real estate salesman. "It's not football; it's just a business. Canadian football is faster and more interesting, and there aren't as many commercials."
Joe Addis of the booster group Special Teamers said road trips will be planned if the Stallions relocate in a city close to Baltimore. "We'll be able to charter a bus, get a hotel room and tickets for less than it will cost for Browns tickets," he said.
Valerie Wood of Finksburg says Baltimore can support both teams. "It's two different fan bases," she said. "We had 30,000 fans there every week, and I don't think they were waiting for Art Modell to bring the Browns here."
"These are true football fans," said Doug Phillips, president of one of the Stallions Corrals. "You won't see these fans at Camden Yards II, Wine and Cheese Yards."