- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2000

FROSTBURG, Md. They gathered on the Delaney Plaza lawn at Frostburg State University Saturday to mark the passing of the Boy Owner-led Redskins.

It was dubbed the "Jack Kent Cooke-Out" in honor of the deceased owner who brought the burgundy and gold to this outpost tucked in the Allegheny Mountains in 1995.

Hail to the Redskins?

Strike that.

Hail to the Bobcats, the nickname of the university's sports teams.

You couldn't beat the prices at the former summer home of the Redskins.

Parking: free. Admission: free. Hamburgers: free. Hot dogs: free. Drinks: free.

The skies were blue, the temperature a comfortable 76 degrees. Traffic was light, the crowd manageable and polite. Ashburn was a world away.

Pull up a chair. Take a load off your legs. How was your trip? How about those $5 hamburgers at Redskin Park?

Contempt for the Boy Owner was just beneath the surface of civility.

Snickering was permitted, if not encouraged.

Casper R. Taylor Jr., the speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, the Democrat representing Allegany County, was standing near the table with the free soda, free iced tea and free lemonade.

He is an important man in these parts, the region's economic lifeline to Annapolis. He was making small talk with friends of the university. His friends, too.

He was wearing a Ravens cap, which was a nice touch. He is said to be one of Art Modell's golfing buddies. They don't just talk golf, either.

David Modell, the Ravens president, checked out the campus facilities earlier this month. Who knows? By 2003, after the last two years on the team's contract with Western Maryland College in Westminster have expired, perhaps the Ravens will move their training camp to this hospitable site.

Taylor is recalling his only meeting with the Boy Owner last year. There were rumors even then that the Boy Owner was looking to pull out of the team's 10-year contract with the university. Understandably, Taylor wanted to know where the town stood with the new ownership. That meant a meeting, and an ordeal in trying to arrange it. Taylor might have had an easier time getting the pope.

Taylor's persistence eventually resulted in a face-to-face meeting with the Boy Owner, but in retrospect, what did it matter? What did his word mean? Not a thing. Not a darn thing.

"I distinctly remember his bottom-line comment being they have a contract and intended to live up to it," Taylor says. "End of story."

But that is not the end of the story, or the end of the acrimony, or even the end of the dealings between the football team and university.

The state attorney general's office is working to negotiate a settlement with the Boy Owner's lawyers on the remaining five years of a $331,000-a-year contract.

The Boy Owner's settlement money is expected to be stronger than his word.

At least that is how they see it. He's your problem now, they say, and they can say that. They are not on his payroll. He can't fire them. By the way, would you like a slice of cornbread with your taters?

"I really feel sad for the Redskins team and their fans," Taylor says.

Here's the thing: Taylor does not look sad. If anything, he looks convinced of his rightness.

"The team's tradition and class is much above the class of the new ownership," Taylor says. "That's the best way to say it."

The talk is not about wins or losses or what the acquisition of Deion Sanders means to the team. The talk is about the right and wrong way to do business, and in their minds, the Boy Owner fits the latter category.

Their objection is not that the Boy Owner pulled his team out of here. This town (pop. 8,075) was forged long before the Redskins, in 1812, to be exact, and it will survive this. That's the spirit of the place, the grit. They overcame that awful tornado two years ago, they will have you know. It leveled a bunch of homes, but they picked up the pieces and knew there would be better days ahead, just not their days with the Boy Owner.

He ignored their overtures and pleas as he was making plans to make a buck off training camp at the team's headquarters in Virginia. The arrogance of the man. The lack of professional decency. Is a man's character twisted by wealth and power?

"A number of people tried to reach out to him," says Dr. Catherine R. Gira, president of Frostburg State.

And?

Nothing.

Dr. Gira had a "two-second" encounter with the Boy Owner last summer. She said hello. He said hello.

"He kept walking," she says.

Her last brush with the Boy Owner was a two-sentence fax that reached her office 12 hours before the news conference announcing the team's plans to leave Frostburg State.

"It seems to me, most companies, if they're planning to do what he did, just out of fundamental civility, they let you know that they're considering other options," Dr. Gira says.

The Redskins provided the town with a certain cachet, plus $2.9 million in the local economy each summer. That was not pocket change to an area trying to reinvent itself after its manufacturing-based economy went belly up.

"Life goes on, and people out here know that," Dr. Gira says.

Life is going on for Larry Garton, proprietor of the All Seasons Sports Cards shop on Main Street, although at a loss of "$15,000 to $20,000" without the Redskins.

"You could sell anything with the Redskins logo on it," he says. "I had regulars from D.C. and Virginia, and they would pick three Redskins jerseys off the rack and think nothing of it. It would be hustle and bustle for a month, but no more."

No more Redskins. No more daily live reports from the television stations in Baltimore and Washington. No more daily dispatches in the big-city newspapers. The restaurants and stores along Main Street are less alive. July is just another month.

"You can't replace a man like Jack Kent Cooke," Garton says. "He was class."

That assessment is free, too.

Taylor, the politician accustomed to moving in the corridors of power, resorts to an old saying to express his disdain for the Boy Owner.

"What goes around comes around," Taylor says. "In his case, it's worth contemplating."

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