When Colts bolt again, Baltimore offers example

August 17, 1996|By GREGORY KANE

Dear Indianapolis:

They call us natives of Baltimore Balti-morons. That may be so, but at least we morons have it all over you guys. At least when it comes to naming a football team and getting new colors and a logo. On that score, we're light-years ahead of you folks out in Indy way on the intellectual scale.

You see, we've got it all done. Cleveland will be getting a new National Football League franchise soon, so there was no need for Baltimore's team to keep the name Browns or the team's colors. Those will remain in Cleveland where they belong, part of the city's 50-year history of supporting professional football.

We Balti-morons then went about getting the team a new name. We did so in short order, coming up with the name Ravens. We got that link to Baltimore's history, taking the moniker from the Edgar Allan Poe poem of the same name. Poe lived here and wrote here for a while. He even died here. He's buried in downtown Baltimore.

Once we had the name, we got the logo and colors for the uniforms. We had it all done, nice and tidy, before the start of the NFL exhibition season. It took less than six months. So apparently it wasn't the hardship the Irsays pretended.

Back in 1984, we Balti-morons were more than happy to be rid of the Irsays. We just bemoaned the loss of our team. Choose another name and leave us our beloved Colt blue and white and those horseshoe helmets is all we asked. Indy fans could then pick a name unique to Indy or the state of Indiana, thus giving the city a team with an identity and a history all its own. It could have been the Indiana Hoosiers, or even the Indiana Skulkers, to commemorate the way Colts owner Bob Irsay left Baltimore with the team.

How did you folks think the Colts were named in the first place? It wasn't some NFL honcho who doled it out to us from on high. We held a contest. We Balti-morons sent in suggestions and somebody suggested Colts to celebrate the city's horse-racing history. Not bad for a bunch of intellectually challenged folks, huh? I suspect the Irsays could have done something similar with Indy's team, but it would have smacked of something called thinking.

So for years we loved, nurtured and supported those Colts through good times and bad. That is, until Bob Irsay came in and wrecked the joint and bolted with the team. We didn't mind him leaving. We just wanted to keep the name.

But judging from the reaction of Bob Irsay, you'd have thought we asked the man to scratch his left elbow with his left hand. The man didn't just refuse, he got downright ornery about it. He didn't just want to move his team to Indianapolis. He wanted to -- with sadistic glee -- stick it to us Balti-morons so that it really hurt.

Oh, it wasn't bad enough that he took over one of the winningest franchises in league history in 1972 and ran it into the ground. It wasn't enough that he fired general manager Joe Thomas, who through the draft built a team that won division championships three straight years. It wasn't enough that from 1978 through 1983 he fielded dreadful teams and tried to shop the team around to city after city.

Nooooo. That wasn't enough. After he got to Indy, he, his son Jim, and some of those trifling players tried to blame us Balti-morons for the team's woes. The Irsays' shortcomings in drafting quality players and the players getting pushed up and down the field was our fault, not theirs.

Bullet Bob -- so named for his tendency to shoot from the lip during his intermittent periods of public intoxication -- was obviously miffed that Baltimore fans stayed away in droves during the Colts' last days here. It seems he blamed us Balti-morons for having the good common sense not to subsidize incompetence both flagrant and deliberate.

But all too many Indy fans bought the "Baltimore's to blame" charge hook, line and sinker. That was proved wrong by the years of futility from 1984 until recently, when the Colts finally made the playoffs last year under coach Ted Marchibroda. How did the Irsays reward Marchibroda's competence? They canned the guy, thus assuring yet another cycle of nincompoopery on the part of those daffy Irsays.

Do you think, oh benighted Indy football fans, they might take a lesson from Jerry Jones down in Dallas? Jones bought the team in 1989, had a contender within two years and three Super Bowl championships within the past four years. He's done more in seven years of ownership than Bob and Jimmy Boy have done in the last 24 with the Colts. There's a moral there. If you know football, do football. If you know air conditioners, do air conditioners.

So good luck to you, Indy fans. Within most of your lifetimes you will see the Irsays no doubt bolt for another city when you've grown good and tired of them. When and if you get another team, take a lesson from us Balti-morons and name it yourselves.

Pub Date: 8/17/96

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