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Back in 1981 while at Loyola College, I had an opportunity to choose a marketing elective as part of my Business Administration curriculum. Along with 3 other classmates we arranged for that elective to be an internship with the Baltimore Colts in their PR Department.
Boy did they need the help!
Public Relations wasnâ€™t exactly Robert Irsayâ€™s thing. His thing was heating and air conditioning and Beefeater Gin. This isnâ€™t meant to be a slight on the then PR Director Walt Gutowski, a fine gentlemen and very capable administrator. But letâ€™s face it, a PR Department for the Colts during the Irsay Era in Baltimore is the equivalent of Paris Hilton campaigning for Catholic Charities.
As a wide-eyed intern enamored with the NFL, I had the opportunity to do some pretty cool things. We worked the draft for the Colts, back in the days before ESPN made it an event; we worked mini camps doing things like clocking Rohn Starksâ€™ hang time on puntsâ€¦even catching several punts. I also worked in the press box, recording time of possession, scoring drives and third down efficiency.
Next to me and down a row, separated by a sound proof 1 inch thick panel of glass was Irsay himself.
I canâ€™t say I ever noticed him getting all excited or agitated during a game. And I canâ€™t say the view of him was clear but every now and then I had to peak inconspicuously just to see for myself.
It was sometimes difficult to be in that press box. I was a fan first and most in the press box treated it like a sterile clinic and cheering was frowned upon. The impartial observers took to fandom the way a doctor might take to an emotional bond with his patient. They detached themselves from the game in order to be an objective observer. They anesthetized themselves in order to think with clear heads untainted by a devout heart.
Unfortunately in those days, the weak at heart outnumbered the diehard fans as the number of empty seats in the stadium increased with each additional loss. Many that stayed throughout a loss blamed my neighbor on the other side of the glass for just about everything that went wrong.
Most things did go wrong when it came to the Colts in the 80â€™s.
Irsay wanted a new stadium and politicians couldnâ€™t get behind the idea. Why would they hang their political careers on a man who was scorned, a man whose biting words were softened only by the gin induced slur in his speech?
The owner heard the chants of â€œIrsay sucksâ€ and seemed determined to morph them into â€œIrsay packs.â€
And he did.
Who could blame him? He had dug a hole so deep with the fans of Baltimore that he couldnâ€™t get out of it. Without the support of politicians, without a new stadium, with shrinking revenues and attendance, an inconsistent at best team and the threat of eminent domain hanging over his head, his only option was to find an escape route.
And Indianapolis gave him one.
In a front page column yesterday in The Sun, Rick Maese wrote an article about a humbled Jimmy Irsay, the late owner Bob Irsayâ€™s son. A seemingly remorseful son told The Sun, â€œEmotions come into things, and you know youâ€™re always sometimes tied into certain things for whatever reason. (Talk about being vagueâ€¦)
â€œBut it always gives you the opportunity to take the high road. And to me, itâ€™s all about taking the high road. I donâ€™t have one ounce of anything but good feelings for Baltimore.â€
Then prove it Jimmy!
Do what you say and say what you mean. Something your father had difficulty with.
You had your chance once to redeem yourself with the city of Baltimore when Art Modell rang to see if you would sell the colors, name and history of the Colts back to Baltimore for something reasonable. Like an Irsay, your demands were unreasonable.
Well hereâ€™s your second redemption song. Listen to it closely.
It says to restore the records, history and heritage of the Baltimore Colts to their rightful and just resting place — right here in Baltimore.
Your father hit the road. Letâ€™s see you take the high road like you said.