To NFL, this train never stopped in Baltimore


January 23, 1998|By DAN RODRICKS

You're gonna love this, hon. Not only did the company that produced the "Super Bowl Train" get it wrong, it's standing firm on its mistake, at the apparent insistence of the National Football League.

As reported in this space last week, QVC, the national television shopping network, has been marketing a train featuring boxcars emblazoned with the team logos of each Super Bowl winner since 1967. Incredibly, it shows the winner of Super Bowl V as the "Indianapolis Colts." Every true-blue Baltimorean knows that no such team existed in 1971. The world championship of professional football went that year to Baltimore-based Unitas & Co. (They beat the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13. You can look it up, if you have to.)

Doesn't seem to matter to the NFL.

In authorizing Mantua Collectibles of Woodberry, N.J., to manufacture and market the "Super Bowl Train," the league insisted that the Indianapolis Colts logo be used. Why? The garbled logic goes something like this: "The franchise didn't change, but rather the location changed." That's how an NFL official explained it to a Mantua representative, who explained it to a QVC publicist, who explained it to me yesterday.

It makes no sense.

Especially from a marketing point of view. I know people who collect model trains, and I know people who collect sports memorabilia. They all insist on accuracy, precision, attention to detail. Are they going to buy an item with such a glaring error?

Here's hoping not.

Feast your eyes

Observed: Some fella's idea of cheap thrills on a weekend morning.

He drives down the old Falls Road, the leafy but trashy backstretch of the city between Hampden and Penn Station. He parks his station wagon across from the sprawling public works yard, high on the rocky banks of the Jones Falls. He throws old bread and doughnuts into the middle of the road. He watches three dozen gulls magically appear, flocking to the feast and squawking at each other like cranky diners at a crowded, all-you-can-eat buffet. He takes his seat at a nearby picnic table, sips coffee and watches the gulls chow down.

What fun, huh?

But, wait, there's more!

A Toyota 4 Runner approaches. Its driver maintains a rate of speed that indicates he has no intention of stopping for the gulls.

Just when it looks like the gulls will become road kill, they scatter in a panic, rising in a swarm just high enough to clear the roof racks. As Keith Jackson would say, "Whoa, Nellie!"

The founder of the feast sits there at the side of the road, thrilled at the sight, looking to see if maybe the gulls strike back at the 4 Runner.

For a few seconds on a weekend morning, some kind of excitement. Now, if only the president could settle for that kind of fun ...

For a lingering afternoon

A friend writes: "I recommend reading 'The Long-Winded Lady,' by Maeve Brennan. She worked at The New Yorker, and these are 'Talk of the Town' pieces, achingly evocative of New York City in the late '40s, '50s and '60s. Brennan lived in lots of small hotels in Manhattan, from Greenwich Village to the Upper West Side. Her prose is like an Edward Hopper woman looking out her hotel window at another Edward Hopper woman across the way. Not to be read when one is sad or stricken with gray nostalgia. But excellent work."

Home at last

First Lt. Frank Ramos, Army Air Forces, was laid to rest yesterday afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery - 54 years after he disappeared into the clouds of the high Himalayas. Ramos received full military honors, his flag-draped casket carried by horse-drawn caisson, accompanied by an Army honor guard of 18, to burial in a section of the cemetery known as Pershing's Hill.

Ramos' widow, Doris Ramos Stepanovich of Catonsville, and the son he never knew, Michael Stepanovich of Randallstown, were joined by more than 100 mourners, most of them from the Baltimore area. The Rev. Thomas M. Kryder-Reid, rector of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Baltimore, officiated at the service and, dressed in a long black cape, led the procession of mourners from the funeral chapel to the gravesite.

On Jan. 31, 1944, co-pilot Ramos and four crewmen were in a cargo plane on a return flight of several hundred miles from Kunming, China, to Jorhat, India. They were flying "The Hump," military jargon for the Himalayas, taking part in the huge airlift of supplies to the Chinese Nationalist Army of Chiang Kai-shek, an ally who was fighting Japanese invaders.

Ramos' four-engine aircraft was flying over spectacular mountains its crew probably could not see and through ferocious Himalayan winds. The plane never reached Jorhat. A search for it was unsuccessful, and Frank Ramos was presumed dead, one of the more than 900 airmen who died in the hazardous Hump missions between 1942 and 1945.

In the fall of 1993, hunters found the scattered wreckage of an American cargo plane on the slope of a glacial mountain near Bomi, Tibet. The remarkably well-preserved remains of three bodies were recovered and returned to the United States. They turned out to be the remains of Ramos and his comrades.

A memorial service for the entire crew of plane No. 41-23862 will be held today at Arlington.

Pub Date: 1/23/98

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