Thursday, January 11, 2007

RAVENS VS. COLTS

A few months ago, I made a post about my childhood love for the Baltimore Colts and my John Unitas action figure. At the time, I had no idea that the Baltimore Ravens would make it to the playoffs and wind up taking on the Indianapolis Colts for a run at the Super Bowl. Since the game is hosted in Baltimore, the media has been abuzz all week about how this will be payback for Robert Irsay moving the Colts out of Baltimore. I too have been caught up in the frenzy and am now forced to come to grips with my 23-year hatred for the Indianapolis Colts.

The players on both teams are either too young to remember when the Colts were in Baltimore or not even born when the team snuck out of town on a snowy March night in 1984. They are bewildered by the intensity of this controversy. Even young Ravens fans don’t understand the anger us older fans feel toward Indianapolis and the need for revenge. Frankly, the more I analyze my own feelings, the sillier it seems to me too. I don’t hate the city of Indianapolis, since they simply wanted an NFL team to root for and found an opportunity to get one. I can’t hate Jim Irsay, the current owner of the Colts, who seems like a much nicer guy than his dad was and had no hand in the move to Indianapolis. The only person I can truly hate is the former owner Robert Irsay, and he’s dead.

The ill feelings between Baltimore and Irsay started as soon as he bought the team and escalated to a fevered pitch by the time he left. It’s like if you had a fine, respectable community newspaper that was suddenly bought by an outside publishing firm, which quickly turns the paper into a sleazy tabloid. After awhile, no one wants to read the paper because, not only is it trashy, but it’s an insult to what the paper once was. The circulation declines, so instead of improving the paper, the owners decide to move it to another city. You’re happy to see the sleazy tabloid go, but you wish the newspaper had continued the way it was originally.

Another criticism leveled at us old-Colt-fan-curmudgeons is that Baltimore took away Cleveland’s team much the same way Indianapolis took our team, so we got our payback. There are some holes in that argument, however. First of all, we never wanted another city’s team; in fact, the idea of doing such a thing sickened us. We tried twice to get an expansion team, but were shot down by then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (The Emperor to Irsay’s Darth Vader). Tagliabue was blinded by geography and television markets. He couldn’t see why Baltimore would want its own team when the Washington Redskins were 40 miles to our south and the Philadelphia Eagles were 100 miles to our north. We should simply shut up and root for one of those teams. What he couldn’t fathom was that Baltimore was no more like either of those cities than Seattle or Phoenix. We had our own culture, our own traditions, and once had our own team.

After it was made clear that the sneering Tagliabue would not give us a team, we reluctantly brokered the deal to bring Art Modell’s team to Baltimore. However, we did one thing that Robert Irsay was too evil and mean-spirited to do. We let Cleveland keep the name, the colors, and the records of its old team should they ever get a new one (which they did within a few years). We started fresh with a new name, new uniforms, and new legends. If Irsay had extended the same courtesy to us, this whole controversy would be a non-issue. We’d still be rooting for the Colts and they’d be rooting for the Indianapolis Nappers or something.

The bottom line is, us old Colt fans were hurt badly, not only by the team leaving, but by the years of acrimony between Irsay and the city leading up to the departure, and by the NFL’s outward contempt for Baltimore. No matter how much you rationalize, you can’t deny the pain. Just like a bad relationship, the hurt remains regardless of how much time passes or how much better your life gets. Beating the Colts in M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday probably won’t change anything, but it’ll sure be fun to watch!

GO RAVENS!!!!

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Woo hoo! Go Ravens!!