SPORTS NOTEBOOK

Will Cleveland Heed Baltimore's Siren Song?

FOR years, fans of the Cleveland Browns have withstood the cold winds off Lake Erie to cheer the city's beloved pro football team. Now it appears they may be frozen out altogether.

Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell, almost as much a civic institution as his team, has sent shock waves through the league with his rumored plans at press time to move the team to Baltimore, where a financial bonanza awaits. Will McDonough of the Boston Globe reported Sunday that the Browns stand to double their stadium-related income from tickets, parking, and concessions. A new stadium is also part of Baltimore's siren song.

Baltimore has long wanted a team to replace the Colts, who left town in 1984 during the middle of the night. That was a terrible blow to a city that deserved better, but the NFL may balk at righting that wrong by allowing the Browns to relocate in 1996.

Given the NFL's growing appearance of instability (the evacuation of Los Angeles by the Rams and Raiders and rumors of moves by the Houston Oilers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers), the league may go to the wall to block any Modell attempt to move the Browns.

Houston Rockets' so-so stats

REPORTERS who enter National Basketball Association locker rooms for postgame interviews often find players intently studying that game's statistical summaries. One wonders what conclusions they would draw from an examination of last season's statistics, recently reviewed in the NBA News. The list shows the top teams in a dozen categories, and guess which team doesn't rank No. 1 in any of them? The Houston Rockets, champions for the last two seasons. The Rockets, in fact, only made the top five in one category - tied for No. 2 with three other teams in field-goal percentage allowed opponents (.453).

Touching other bases

* Pop quiz: In Barcelona in 1992, one Olympic power made history by sending more women than men to the Games. Can you name the country? (Answer below.)

* The Ladies Professional Golf Association tour was ripe with debutante champions this year, with a new face emerging about every third event. Eleven players won tournaments for the first time. Most prepped in US college ranks, where athletic scholarships have created a strong feeder system for the LPGA.

* By 1997, bicycling's off-road community is expected to have a 3,000-mile route to call its own. The Adventure Cycling Association in Montana is piecing together the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which cuts north-south through the American West from Canada to Mexico.

* Quiz answer: China. Women outnumbered men 128 to 116 on China's 1992 Olympic squad.

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