Fan stands ground even during takeoff

Astronaut from Baltimore devoted to Colts

Pro Football

January 30, 2007|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,Sun reporter

Perhaps from space, this wondrous blue orb suspended in the cosmos has such a oneness to it that the difference between Baltimore and, oh, let's say Indianapolis, doesn't appear so great.

Well, that would at least be one rationale for why astronaut and Baltimore native Robert Curbeam remains a diehard Colts fan -- even to the extent that he held up a "Go Colts" sign before his space shuttle launch last month.

But to hear Curbeam, a 44-year-old Navy captain tell it, his team loyalty is simple.

"When I lived in Baltimore, it was the Baltimore Colts. By 1984, when they left, I had pretty much left myself. I was just graduating from the Naval Academy," he said. "But I was shocked when it happened. All I can say is that I was always a Colts fan and always will be."

The Ravens, though, are his second favorite NFL team. And though he might have urged on Indianapolis from the space shuttle Discovery before its eventual 13-day mission to the International Space Station in December, on a previous space flight he was proudly sporting purple and black. After the Ravens' Super Bowl win in January 2001, Curbeam wore a Ravens championship shirt during a shuttle mission the following month.

Although he has spent his professional life stationed around the country -- and literally traveling around the world on three space shuttle flights -- Curbeam, a graduate of Woodlawn High, says he still considers himself a Baltimorean. His parents have moved to Richmond, Va., but he has aunts and uncles, cousins and sisters living in this area and he returns a few times a year.

"When I was growing up, my father was a Colts season-ticket holder," he said. And as a kid, Curbeam was a "Junior Oriole."

"We would get a bunch of tickets for some ridiculous price, I think it was something like 10 for $10 in the bleachers, and me and a friend would take the bus down to old Memorial Stadium to watch [Mike] Cuellar and [Jim] Palmer and [Dave] McNally," he said.

From the Baltimore Colts, the astronaut said running back Lydell Mitchell was his favorite player, followed by Bert Jones, John Unitas and Bubba Smith.

But on the current Colts, he admires wide receiver Marvin Harrison.

"You look at that man and all he does is show up and do his job," said Curbeam, who played lacrosse at Woodlawn and Navy. "Marvin could boast and brag and be on magazine covers, but all he does is his job, and he does it well."

Curbeam's most recent space mission was Dec. 9 to Dec. 22, so he had returned in time for the Colts' 15-6 win over the Ravens in the AFC divisional playoffs.

"I was a little bit conflicted," he said. "When you hear ESPN announce the Colts at Baltimore, it just sounds weird. I definitely root for the Ravens unless they're playing the Colts. All I can say is I was glad it was a good game -- and I was happy with the results."

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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