For the record, Matte's mark still stands, at least in Baltimore

January 07, 1996|By Ken Rosenthal

Let's get this straight: Zack Crockett didn't break Tom Matte's Colts record for rushing yards in a playoff game last Sunday. Matte holds the Baltimore record. Crockett set the Indianapolis record. And that's that.

Teams want to move, they can move. But enough rewriting of the past. The Colts' history in Indianapolis is separate from their history in Baltimore. The Browns' history in Baltimore will be separate from their history in Cleveland.

"I've got the Baltimore Colts record -- that's how I consider it," Matte said Thursday. "I'm not trying to be malicious. I just think the tradition of Baltimore is very, very important. The kids who play in Indianapolis should have their own records."

Got that, Art? Come the 21st century, some high-stepping running back from Probation State might actually achieve something in a Baltimore uniform that Jim Brown never did. The kid, of course, will have no idea who Brown is. He can't erase his memory, or his records.

When the Browns come, they should start over -- new name, new colors, new records. In this case, a new coach also is required. Not a blast from the past like Don Shula. Someone new. Someone fresh. Someone to be the next Shula.

The Indianapolis Colts took Baltimore's name, and claim to carry on the tradition. It's as if the team never moved. Eleven years later, the media guide still includes all the old records, along with profiles of the nine Baltimore Colts in the Hall of Fame.

The whole thing disgusts Matte, and many of the old Colts. Matte and John Unitas said that several years back, they asked the Colts to stop listing their records. Their requests were ignored, and it irks them to this day.

"All the things from here should be left here," Unitas said. "It's just like the Browns' situation. If they decide to come here, the Browns name, memorabilia, everything else should be left in Cleveland. It has no business being here. Baltimore [tradition] has no business being in Indianapolis."

Unitas' name, like Matte's, is again surfacing in news reports -- he was the last Colts quarterback to win an NFL passing title before Jim Harbaugh this season. Unitas said he pays no attention to such things, but others do.

After Sunday's wild-card victory over San Diego, someone asked Harbaugh if he had heard from Unitas. Harbaugh responded, "Those guys from those days don't really come around," then recalled that Weeb Ewbank had attended one practice this season.

Matte read that, and went nuts.

"Listen, we have never, ever been invited to anything by the Indianapolis Colts -- none of the alumni have," he said. "No wonder none of us go up there to support the team. We've been treated like dirt by Irsay."

Yet, for all his bitterness over the Colts' departure, Matte isn't ashamed to admit it -- he got a kick out of having his name mentioned after Crockett rushed for 147 yards against San Diego, breaking Matte's "old" mark of 116 yards in the 1969 Super Bowl.

In fact, Matte wanted one thing clear -- Crockett's 66-yard touchdown run was the longest in Colts playoff history, but not the longest overall. Matte still holds that record -- an 80-yard touchdown run in a regular-season game against St. Louis on Oct. 12, 1964.

He remembered the play -- 24 lag, a delayed draw. He recalled getting caught and tackled into the end zone by two defensive backs. And he joked that the run left him exhausted, "ruined me for the rest of the game."

Crockett? Matte had never heard of him before Sunday. The rookie from Florida State replaced the injured Marshall Faulk and led the Colts to their first playoff victory since 1971. Matte watched the game, but didn't grasp exactly what Crockett had accomplished.

"My brother called me from California and said, 'Your record's broken!' " Matte said. "I said, 'What are you talking about?' I didn't hear them announce it."

Matte said he was happy for Crockett -- "A game like that, you never forget. It becomes part of your family tradition" -- but he didn't root for the Colts that day, and won't root for them today against Kansas City.

Doesn't matter if Harbaugh throws for more yards tomorrow than Unitas ever did in a playoff game. Doesn't matter if Faulk runs for more career yards than Lydell Mitchell. Those records belong in Indianapolis. The others belong in Baltimore.

Either way, Matte is philosophical.

"Records are made to be broken," he said. "I'm glad I bluffed 'em for 27 years."

No, Tom, you bluffed 'em forever.

The record is yours.

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