Thirty years ago today, this young boy woke up to a snowstorm in Baltimore, Maryland. As was always the case, we would turn on the TV and watch the news to find out about school closings (note to my young friends, there was no Internet.) Instead of a weather report, we witnessed our mayor outside his rowhouse steps crying, feeling as though he had let our city down. The Baltimore Colts had packed up moving vans in the middle of the night, without notice, and departed for Indianapolis. And with those Mayflower moving trucks, the heart of our working-class, blue collar city was ripped out.
If that sounds overly dramatic to you, withhold your judgment, for you do not understand how these great athletes and local citizens wearing the horseshoe, living in our neighborhoods, were an indelible part of the fabric of our community. The Colts were Baltimore. And they were instrumental in helping bring the great sport of football into the national consciousness. The NFL wasn't always what it is today.
I have fond memories of filling a thermos with hot chocolate and heading out with my dad to sit on those ice cold metal bleachers at old Memorial Stadium. Those bonding moments gone in a flash.
My father wouldn't let us turn on the TV on Sundays (until 60 Minutes came on) for the next 12 years. He was disgusted. So was I. I didn't watch a full football game for more than a decade.
Every so many years Baltimore was rumored to be getting a new team. But the NFL chose to award expansion franchises to cities with no football tradition like Carolina and Jacksonville (that worked out well). Other teams used Baltimore as their stalking horse to coerce their municipalities into publicly financing a new stadium for the team. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, a Washington lawyer, made it clear he didn't want a team in Charm City.
When the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens, the soul of the city was rekindled. It was time to forget the past and forge a new football tradition.
As fans, we have been blessed. We have had the privilege of watching iconic athletes and leaders in their prime (Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Jonathan Ogden). We have been blessed with an extraordinary front office that keeps us competitive year in and year out in the most parity-laden sport on the planet. And we have been blessed with arguably the best ownership in professional sports -- a quiet but strong leader who hires and compensates the best and lets them do their job. Steve Bisciotti is non-invasive, but always seems to have his steady hand on the wheel.
The result has been two Super Bowl championships and a lifetime of new memories for me, my family and my friends.
And oh yeah, that Irsay family still owns the Colts. And while the son is far better than the father, as this past week showed us, he still is forced to confront a legacy of personal demons.
It was a bumpy ride, Baltimore, but we are better for it. And while it would be great to still have the horseshoe on our helmets, that black bird suits us just fine.
What Time Is It???