Icy roads tune out Colts' Band's salute to Eagles' Braman

December 27, 1993|By John Steadman

PHILADELPHIA -- Plans went strangely awry for the Baltimore Colts' Band when, for the first time since being organized in 1947, it was prevented from fulfilling an engagement. Reason: Iced out.

It wasn't because their lips were frozen to their instruments, but road conditions yesterday morning created conditions that made too precarious for the trip here from Baltimore even to be attempted.

L The 147-piece aggregation was advised to cancel the mission.

Musicians, color guard and flag-line members were isolated in their homes and slick highways kept them from meeting their chartered buses for the 6:30 a.m. departure for Philadelphia and a 10 o'clock rehearsal at Veterans Stadium.

So, the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints went about the business of playing a football game without the guest band present to provide the musical and marching entertainment. The program was to be dedicated to Norman Braman, the Eagles' owner, who cast the only vote for Baltimore in the recent National Football League expansion.

Braman, longtime admirer of the Colts' Band, was disappointed the weather intervened but, of course, realized the situation dictated that discretion be exercised.

The same Colts' Band, en route to Pittsburgh in 1986, experienced a fire in the motor of one bus that necessitated all hands vacating the vehicle. Still, the show went on.

The Colts' Band, had it been able to keep its Philadelphia date, would have been making its 31st appearance at an NFL game.

Baltimore's team took a hike in 1984 for a place called Indianapolis, but the band plays on in parades and appears at civic functions. This adds a measure of distinction to Baltimore and testifies to the band's extreme devotion.

Arlen Saylor, entertainment director for the Eagles who is in charge of pre-game and halftime entertainment, said he first got a telephone call from John Ziemann, president of the Colts' Band, late Saturday night, telling him a brief snow shower had covered roads in some sections of Maryland and traveling was hazardous.

"He said every reasonable attempt would be made to depart for Philadelphia," explained Saylor, "but if the situation didn't change it was doubtful they could risk it. At 6:35 a.m., he called again to tell me members of the band, some of whom lived a considerable distance away, couldn't reach the point where they were to assemble."

Saylor said the band had picked the Dec. 26 date last summer when the Eagles were putting their schedule together. Then, when Braman backed Baltimore and took a determined position that an expansion club be awarded the city, the Colts' Band wanted to use yesterday's visit to pay him a special salute.

At a previous Eagles game, four enthusiastic fans showed up in Veterans Stadium carrying a sign that hailed Braman for his support of returning the NFL to Baltimore. They were Paul Pretko, Bob Barry, Brian McKain and Brett Schlaich, all employees of Sweetheart Cup Co. in Owings Mills.

Their only interest in being there was to publicly signify their gratitude to Braman. The Colts' Band was hoping to do the same but a blast of frigid weather, which turned some roads and highways into skating rinks, forced a cancellation of the 104-mile trip.

"We were to meet our three Gunther charter buses at Howard County Fairgrounds," said a disappointed Ziemann. "We had pick-up stops along the way. But I didn't feel it justified the risk of accidents on the slippery roads. We just couldn't chance it. I feel so bad to have disappointed Mr. Braman."

The Eagles' owner understands. In fact, the band is sending him a Stieff silver letter opener, with an elegant eagle-head design on the handle, as a token of its gratitude. Saylor promised the Colts' Band would be invited to appear in Philadelphia next year and didn't want Ziemann and his membership to feel it had been remiss in any way.

"We were going to dedicate our performance to Mr. Braman," said Ziemann. "We would have carried the Eagles' flag next to the Colts' flag prior to the kickoff and at halftime. We'll have to wait until next year to honor Mr. Braman, but we'll do it."

Meanwhile, Ziemann said the band will suspend activity for the rest of the winter, but be in tune and in step for Baltimore's St. Patrick's Day parade.

It's the only band in the land named for a football team that no longer exists. That's the true personification of hometown pride.

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