Thom Loverro: Mo' money, mo' problems in Battle of the Beltways

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Ravens,Thom Loverro

The Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens meet on the field in the state of Maryland on Sunday -- inside the Washington Beltway at FedEx Field.

Since the Ravens, who also play in Maryland, are inside the Baltimore Beltway, I guess this technically is the "Battle of the Beltways" -- the rivalry title apparently given now to every time either the Nationals or the Redskins play the Orioles or the Ravens.

It's not a rivalry between the players -- in football or baseball. And despite the inferiority complex toward Washington that fuels the passion of Baltimore fans, Washington fans, for the most part, consider Baltimore a nuisance more than a rival.

But in boardrooms and management offices, men in suits have been fighting this sports rivalry for nearly 70 years, with millions of dollars involved. Consider now that the battle between the Nationals and Orioles over the MASN network revenue could wind up deciding who gets $50 million to $75 million.

And the pro football rivalry between the two cities has a history of nearly equal bitterness, dating back to the first incarnation of the Baltimore Colts in the NFL in 1950 -- when Redskins owner George Preston Marshall fought the NFL coming to Baltimore.

The Colts had been part of the All-America Football Conference starting in 1947, but the conference folded in 1950 and several teams were merged into the NFL, the Colts being one of them.

But Marshall claimed Baltimore was his territory and demanded payment. The Colts agreed to pay Marshall $150,000 over three years, but the Colts were only able to make one $50,000 payment before the franchise folded.

Marshall declared Baltimore would now be Redskins territory and even told the Baltimore Sun he hoped to play some Redskins games in Baltimore. But in 1953, with fears of a pending antitrust lawsuit, the NFL agreed to return to Baltimore, in the form of relocating the Dallas Texans franchise to Baltimore. But Marshall demanded a clause in the agreement, according to the Baltimore Sun, that gave Baltimore to the Redskins "in the event the Baltimore franchise is forfeited or is transferred to a city other than Baltimore."

Marshall was long gone when that opportunity came up after the Colts left Baltimore in 1984. But Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke took advantage of it, fighting efforts for NFL expansion in 1993. But he relented when the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens, and Cooke got paid -- the state of Maryland agreed to put up $70 million in road and infrastructure money when Cooke built his Landover stadium.

The rivalry continues today, stoked by Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who has declared several times they want the Ravens to be a force in Washington.

"We're trying to take control of this whole area," he said last year. "We'll take over Washington D.C. while we're at it."

Rivalry? When you're fighting for money, you better believe it's a rivalry.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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