Just before Baltimoreans saw the final connection of their football past to its future, as Johnny Unitas handed the game ball to referee Dale Hamer before yesterday's first Ravens game, Bob Costas was casting a critical eye on the proceeding and its symbolism.
Costas, standing on the Memorial Stadium field, was noting the "irony . . . especially thick" in the old ball yard, as fans who had mourned the loss of their beloved Colts in 1984 were now whooping it up, much like fans in St. Louis, and pledging "their allegiance and [emptying] their pockets for owners who have just done the same thing to loyal fans somewhere else."
In his essay, Costas said: "It's hard to believe that this sort of cynical business has much in common with the innocent emotions that once bound the people of Baltimore to a team called the Colts." He noted that the old stadium would soon be replaced by a "luxury box-loaded, team-revenue-producing, publicly funded edifice -- without which the average NFL owner would have as much use for Baltimore, and all its fans and tradition, as he would for East Hoboken, N.J."
He continued: "So even amid the excitement here, there is reason to remain unmoved. Which is how the Cleveland Browns should have remained, instead of becoming the place where some of the last illusions about loyalty and tradition in sports were trashed. And all the cheering here today, much of it from people who cried when the same thing was done to them, can't change that."
No reasonable person would argue that sentiment. 'Twas no fouler a deed done to Clevelanders than was done to Baltimoreans, and sensitive people here mourn greatly for the fans on Lake Erie.
But, we might ask Costas why he and all the other indignant souls weren't boxing NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue about the ears for not using expansion to return football to cities that had improperly lost it?
Of course, we might also ask about the role of the networks, which fund and fuel the "hypocrisy, greed and betrayal" Costas so eloquently spoke of. We might have asked Costas all of that, but alas, he was already on his way out of the stadium before Unitas handed off the ball.
CNN's "NFL Preview" had a terrific piece on Hamer, the referee who worked yesterday's Ravens game, his first after missing all last season because he was recuperating from near-fatal heart disease.
Also, three cheers to ESPN, the only network to air reaction footage from Cleveland on its first Sunday without football. Everybody else just paid lip service to Browns fans.
Three words: Jerry Glanville. Why?
The failure to inform
Our Washington spies tell us that Fox let 22 minutes lapse between showing scores from other games during a stretch of the Philadelphia-Washington game.
Of course, unlike their competitors at NBC, the Fox folks at least include pennant race baseball scores in their crawl. Sure, they have the World Series, but it seems Fox better understands that sports fans want to know what's going on in all sports.
Pub Date: 9/02/96