A generation without Colts Younger fans unmoved: Their parents still have strong feelings about the Colts, but for most of those too young to remember the move to Indianapolis, they're just another team.

January 14, 1996|By Brad Snyder and Paul McMullen | Brad Snyder and Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

It has been nearly a dozen years since Bob Irsay moved Baltimore's beloved Colts to Indianapolis in the middle of the night.

Some folks will never forget waking up on the morning of March 29, 1984, without their team.

Others are too young to remember.

There is a new generation of pro football fans who have grown up in Maryland without a hometown team. Many of them are more familiar with the Muppet named Bert (and his pal, Ernie) on "Sesame Street" than with the Bert (Jones) who was a Colts quarterback.

Their parents will be watching today's AFC championship game between the Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers with mixed emotions -- rooting for the Colts, against them or not knowing what to do -- but many younger football fans do not seem to care.

Reisterstown's Jason Ergott was 6 when the Colts left town. Although he recalls going to U.S. Football League games to see the Baltimore Stars, his memories of the Colts are "vague."

"I don't remember it that well," Jason, 18, said.

For the past four or five years, Jason has rooted for the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders. This year, he latched onto the Kansas City Chiefs. He will be watching today's game, but only with passing interest.

"I don't like either team," Jason said. "I wanted the Chiefs to go all the way."

Jason said the Chiefs are his favorite team until the NFL returns to Baltimore. For now, football does not excite him the way other professional sports do.

"For me, it's not a personal sport," he said. "You just watch whatever team pleases you the most."

For Jason's father, Butch, it's very personal.

The past president of the Council of Colt Corrals, the team's still vibrant fan club, Butch has an office next to his bedroom that is filled with Colts memorabilia.

The only thing Butch was allowed to do at his daughter's wedding was pick the colors -- blue and white -- just as in Barry Levinson's film "Diner." Butch did not need to give his son-in-law (a big Colts fan) a Colts quiz, but instead of throwing rice at the wedding party, onlookers launched blue and white balloons.

Butch, 49, will be watching the game today. He does not know which team to cheer for.

"I'm not really sure if I want to see them lose," he said. "I hate Indianapolis -- the big thing is I don't think they have football fans like we had here in Baltimore."

Playing a different tune

There were perhaps no bigger Colts fans than the Ziemanns, who live in Jarrettsville. John, the current leader of the Baltimore Colts' Band, met his wife, Charlene, a former Colts cheerleader, at one of the games.

Today, the entire Ziemann family is still active in the thriving Colts band, but their two sons are not Colts fans.

Christopher Ziemann, who was 4 when the Colts left, grew up a Miami Dolphins fan. A friend encouraged him to root for the Dolphins, and Christopher liked Don Shula and Dan Marino.

Christopher, 16, said he will be rooting for the Steelers "because the Colts left and because they beat Miami twice [this season]."

Christopher's 11-year-old brother, Patrick, wasn't even born the last time the Colts played in Baltimore. A new football fan, Patrick picked a new team as his favorite, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

John Ziemann, 48, said he is rooting for the Steelers because they have had the Colts' band up to Pittsburgh to perform. But he said if the Colts win, he will be happy for old friends Jimmy Irsay, the owner's son, and coach Ted Marchibroda. Even though Ziemann's sons are involved with the band, John acknowledged that they have little understanding of what the Colts meant to this city.

"They're both so much removed from when the Colts were here," he said.

Like father, like son

Paul Brager learned how to worship the Colts from his father. He has taught his son to revile them.

There are three generations of Milton Paul Bragers in North Linthicum. Milton, the grandfather, became a Colts season-ticket holder in the 1950s. A decade later, he began taking his son, Paul, who himself was a season-ticket holder until the team moved.

Eight-year-old Paul Brager will be rooting against the Colts today, and not just because the Steelers are his favorite team.

"He doesn't like the Colts, and he picked that up from me," said Paul Brager, 40, a construction worker. "When he first started taking an interest, I told him the whole story of why I don't root for them, of how they left in the middle of the night.

"I started going to games in '67, sat in the last row in the upper deck, Section 3 in the end zone. I never saw Jimmy Orr catch a ball in Orrsville. I had to listen to the crowd to tell if it was a touchdown or not.

"Irsay took a lot of good years away from us. I'll never forgive him for that."

When the Colts left, Brager began pulling for the Steelers, one reason his son, a third-grader, wears a Steelers jacket and a Steelers hat on his head when it's not resting on a Steelers throw pillow.

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