Now that our team has a name, time to forge new NFL identity

March 31, 1996|By John Steadman

Preservation of the grand era of the Baltimore Colts is now assured, so there's reason to be proud. A certain distinction and reverence accompanies their past. The pride of the name stands alone, so set it apart. This is as it should be. It represents a sterling chapter in the history of the city and, yes, the NFL.

The Baltimore Colts. . . . May they be revered in the future and continue to be held in rich esteem. They deserve the ultimate compliment . . . the true fondness of our memories. That's flattering, to merely be remembered. By taking the name Ravens, a new chapter is about to begin for the team that came to Baltimore from Cleveland amid prolonged turmoil and acrimony.

The Colts of Baltimore, certainly not Indianapolis, were with us for 35 years. A then-resident of Middle River, one Charles Evans, gave them their name in a 1947 contest and won an autographed football, two season tickets, a radio-phonograph and a visit from a wonderful fun-loving team owner named Bob Rodenberg, the man who gave Baltimore a football identity.

And how many in the audience on this day of Raven mania remember the lamented Baltimore Bluebirds of the long-ago Dixie League, except that almost everyone, for reasons unknown, called them the Orioles? Now it's the Ravens, a bird of prey.

From this point on, the reference will be to Ravens, as in New Haven Ravens, an Eastern League baseball affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. Legal complications may arise, however, since the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, through lawyer Ben Hayes, has written the NFL of its objection. There also are seven colleges and universities that use the same name of Ravens -- including Anderson (Ind.) College, where the Indianapolis Colts train.

Edward Massey, majority owner of the New Haven club, was asked about the conflict and if there is a copyright violation. "There certainly will be some action taken," he said. "We asked the NFL about it and requested Baltimore refrain. They have chosen to go ahead and do it without contacting us. That's disappointing. We'll have to protect the value of our assets."

How far the dispute goes remains to be seen, but this arbitrary action by NFL Properties, which tries to rule the world, isn't surprising. It likes to run over any kind of a competitor. It was NFL Properties, remember, that refused Baltimore's Canadian Football League franchise use of the name Colts when it had nothing to do with its origination. Now the tables, conceivably, could be reversed should the conflict follow the legal process.

If the testy situation is resolved, the Baltimore Colts' Band should by all means become the Baltimore Colts/Ravens Band to protect a historic link to the past. The double name sounds good and so do they . . . the marching band. Keep the old musical tribute, "Fight On You Baltimore Colts," plus write a different one to fit the Ravens. Play both versions before every home game. That'll give Baltimore something no other city has -- not one but two alma mater songs, even if the name Ravens was previously owned by a baseball team.

The Colt Corrals may evolve into the Ravens' Nests, but Jim Phillips, president of the Council of Colt Corrals, says "we won't do anything right now, but in time, we'll sit down and talk about it among ourselves and with the Modells [Art and David]." At the Friday unveiling, Phillips held up a sign reading: "Thanks Art For Giving Baltimore The Ball."

Hopefully, if New Haven doesn't stand in the way, the Ravens eventually will establish a Baltimore identity. Emphasis should be on the bird, not Edgar Allan Poe, whose literary genius puts him in a special category. For the record, Poe never saw a football game, having died from alcoholism before the sport was invented and having also admitted to using opium and laudanum.

Players in the NFL doing drugs and abusing alcohol, the same as Poe, deserve the chance to be rehabilitated, to make a recovery. Unfortunately, Poe kept falling off the wagon. Modern NFL players don't need to be reminded of Poe as a role model. We admit to being around Baltimore for a year or two, but can't recall ever having a drink with Poe in the Ravens Nest, a saloon on Loch Raven Boulevard, but there were times when we celebrated with Alex Hawkins, Jack Brandt, Bert Rechichar and Jimmy Orr -- far more interesting than Poe.

For the last two years, the Ravens of New Haven have been in existence and built a following. Mary Lee Fones Weber, a bright Western Maryland College graduate who resigned last season as assistant general manager/communications of the team's marketing department to join the staff of television station WTNH, said there was a suggestion to name the team mascot Poe or Edgar Allan, but they stayed away from that. They called him Rally.

"The reason we selected Ravens is quite obvious," she said. "New Haven Ravens has a nice ring to it. A perfect fit. Over 1,500 entries came in, and they all got a free ticket. Every member of the selection committee had Ravens listed in the top five of preferred names. The New Haven Brewing Company even put out a product called Black Bird Premium Ale. Our team colors were black and teal. You can hardly have a raven for a nickname and not use black."

Had the Baltimore club gone for the name Americans, it could have challenged the Dallas Cowboys. Then Baltimore truly would have been the team for all Americans. Allen Keiser, a certified public accountant and business consultant, suggests a museum should open in the new football stadium that'll be reserved for the Colts of Baltimore. That's entirely feasible.

Meanwhile, long live the Ravens . . . Baltimore and also New Haven. Another chapter begins.

Pub Date: 3/31/96

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