BALTIMORE (AP) _ As Gov. Parris Glendening uttered the unaccustomed phrase ``Baltimore Browns,″ Matt Hershfeld stood 20 yards away, holding a sign that read, ``Do unto others ... Not Cleveland.″
The news that the Cleveland Browns were moving to Baltimore brought relief to Baltimore fans and lawmakers and anguish to Cleveland officials, who vowed to fight to keep their team at home through a lawsuit and appeals to the NFL.
``It happened to us. Why should it happen to them,″ said Hershfeld, a 32-year-old Baltimore computer programmer, who noted that Cleveland still draws 70,000 fans to its games. ``We should find a team that’s not supported by their fans.″
Hershfeld was the exception.
Die-hard football fans lined Camden Yards on Monday to hear Glendening make the announcement, chanting ``Art, Art″ when Browns owner Art Modell stepped out of his car. It was a momentous occasion for Baltimore fans who have longed for an NFL team since the Baltimore Colts left in the middle of the night in 1984.
``I’ve been waiting for over 10 years for NFL football to come to Baltimore,″ said firefighter Joe Steele, who stood in a homemade ``Baltimore Browns″ sweatshirt, holding his 4-year-old son Brendan on his shoulders. ``I remember going to football games with my father, and I look forward to bringing my sons.″
Randy Pleasant, 33, said he’s more than willing to give up his season tickets to the Baltimore Stallions, the city’s Canadian Football League team, if he can watch the Browns.
``I’m more than happy to embrace this,″ he said. ``The NFL level of football is the tops.″
A jubilant gathering in the parking lot of the ballpark was tempered Monday by the knowledge that Baltimore’s gain _ if it overcomes legal challenges and is approved by the NFL _ would be Cleveland’s loss.
The drive for a new team has in the past been led by Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who last year attempted to buy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and made overtures to the owners of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Raiders.
``Art saw a deal he couldn’t resist and jumped on it,″ Angelos said of Modell’s announcement.
Ohio officials say they’re launching a blitz to end the Browns’ drive to Baltimore before it starts.
Cleveland mayor Michael White said in Baltimore on Monday that he is filing a lawsuit to block the move, saying the team has signed an agreement to stay in Cleveland through 1998. And an Ohio senator says there ought to be a law against it.
``Now we stand where Baltimore stood,″ White said. ``We are going to fight this fight. I can’t say we’re not going to lose, but when it’s over, the other side’s going to know they’ve been in a fight.″
Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who was mayor of Baltimore when the Colts left, said he understands how White feels.
``It’s like being kicked in the belly,″ Schaefer said. ``But that’s how they play it now.″
Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke said he offered his condolences to White when the two had breakfast Monday and urged him to try to lure another NFL team to Cleveland. Schmoke said he told White he understood the Cleveland mayor would have to launch an aggressive legal battle to retain the Browns.
``But I also said I didn’t think he was going to be successful in that effort,″ Schmoke said.
Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, said the move would violate NFL rules, and he may ask Congress to legally bar any owner from moving a team when its host city supports it.
The bill would write into law the NFL’s nine criteria to determine whether a team may leave its host city. Among them are the extent of ``fan loyalty″ and the willingness of the team’s stadium authority to address team concerns.
``Cleveland does not meet the criteria,″ DeWine said.