As I grew into a teenager in the early to mid sixties, my Sundays revolved around listening to Colts on the radio and watching Johnny Unitas’ heroics on TV. In the mid seventies, now married and working, I was able to finally get a couple of those cherished season tickets at old Memorial Stadium. Chuck Thompson, Vince Bagli, Joe Crogan, memorable voices all. The cost of those tickets — $19 per seat on the 35 yard line!
I remember telling my wife as chants of "Irsay sucks, Irsay sucks" reverberated through the stadium, "Honey, Irsay’s not going to put up with this crap much longer. He’s going to move the team." Well, he didn’t put up it with it and he did move the team. The memory of those Mayflower moving fans pulling out of the Colt complex on that snowy March night in 1984 remain by far my most sad sports memory. And our long football diaspora began.
Ironically I watched the same scenario play out about a decade later in Cleveland. In the mid 90’s I was traveling to the Cleveland area for work quite a bit and had adopted the Browns as my favorite team. Art Modell’s team played in a decrepit stadium built for the 1932 Olympics that Cleveland never got, and let me tell you it looked every bit of 60 years old. Repeated calls for state and city help went unheeded as Jacob’s Field and Gund Arena were built and whispers began in Ohio that Art would move.
At first, I didn’t know how to take it. I was acutely aware of the Browns fansâ€™ angst and anger and I really felt for them. And given how our old team left town in the middle of the night, I felt slightly embarrassed for us and especially how Parris Glendening gloated over the acquisition of an NFL team for Baltimore. And judging by the look on Art Model’s face at the formal announcement ceremony, so did he.
Now 10 years later, with many winning seasons and a Super Bowl under our belts, we have come full circle. Unlike some fans my age, I now longer pine for the Colts name. The name and history of the Baltimore Colts will always remain a cherished sports memory for me, but their time is long gone and it’s not coming back. We are a Ravens town drenched in Purple and Black.
This Sunday we’ll welcome the Indianapolis Colts to M&T Bank, but it will have no special significance for me other than the fact that the Colts now stand in the way of another Ravens’ Super Bowl run. For me, they’re just another team. I’ll cheer against Peyton Manning, but not in a malignant way. Not the way he honors Johnny Unitas every game by wearing a number closest to #19, not the way he tried to honor Unitas’ memory and legacy by wearing black high tops the Sunday after his passing, an honor sadly denied by the No Fun League.
On Sunday, let’s cherish the memories but root for the Purple and Black.