I’ve been distracted by a television ad NFL Films has been running to promote NFL Films – Colts – The Complete History.
In the ads, footage of Baltimore greats Johnny Unitas and Lenny Moore are intercut with Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. This juxtaposition sticks in the craw of anyone from Baltimore. Artie Donovan, Gino Marchetti, Bubba Smith and Raymond Berry have as much in common with Indy as Branch McCracken, Bob Knight or Al Unser have to do with Baltimore.
The Colts’ complete history comes as a two disc set–one disc for the Baltimore Colts, one devoted to the Indianapolis Colts.
On the imdb, feedback from Sean Mitchell (Indian Head, MD) captures the sentiments of Baltimore fans perfectly:
“I just purchased this and thought Disc one was fantastic. Here is what you get on Disc 1: A one hour documentary on the Baltimore Colts, the NFL Greatest Games Prsentation of the 1958 NFL Championship, and a series of small featurettes on Raymond Berry, John Mackey, the 1967 Colts etc. In total, Disc one is about 3 hours long.
Disc 2 is about the Indianpolis Colts and I have no idea what is on it and I never intend to find out. Shame on Steve Sabol and the NFL for forcing Baltimore fans to puchase this disc as well. The Colts departure from Baltimore left a hole in my gut that never healed…”
The Baltmore Colts are a storied NFL franchise. In 1958, the Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Football Giants at Yankee Stadium in The Greatest Game Ever Played. Fans of Baltimore native Barry Levinson’s Diner will remember that Steve Guttenberg made his fiance pass a Baltimore Colts quiz before the ceremony. Likewise the Wedding colors were Baltmore Colts’ blue and white, and the wedding march was the Colts’ fight song.
The Baltimore Colts won three titles: back to back NFL Championships in 1958 and 1959, and Super Bowl V in 1970.
Since Bob Irsay (below) absconded with the team from to Indy in the middle of the night in Mayflower Vans (below), the Colts have won nothing.
Baltimore continues to take ownership of the Baltimore portion of the Colts history, evidenced by the monument of Baltimore Colts’ quarterback, Johnny Unitas, “The Golden Arm,” outside the Ravens home in Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium.
Baltimore resents Indianapolis for claiming as its own the history of the franchise…the memories belong to us. The state of Indiana tried to exploit Baltimore Colt Johnny Unitas’ #19 in a fundraising plan for a new stadium for the Indianapolis Colts. (According to Untias’ wikipedia entry: “The Unitas family sued, eventually getting the offer revoked and receiving an out-of-court settlement.”)
While respecting the past, in Baltimore it is all about the present: the Baltimore Ravens, winners of Super Bowl XXXV in 2000, have their sites set on winning their second Super Bowl title since relocating from Cleveland*.
This Saturday, the Colts will return “home” to Baltimore to face off with the AFC North Champion Ravens. Winner moves on. Loser goes home.
It will be our pleasure to help the Indy Colts keep their losing tradition alive.
The winning tradition belongs to Baltimore.
*Anyone who’d like to comment on the Bicycle Thief-like irony that Baltimore picked a pocket in order to right a wrong perpetrated on them need only look to the speed with which Cleveland was offered an expansion team–two years–and recognize that they got to keep their colors and history in tact. They were given all the advantages of an expansion deal in the NFL (squandered ) and they were spared two years of bad football (1996: 4-14; 1997: 6-9-1.