Last night I, as I’m sure many of you did also, had the pleasure to watch Barry Levinson’s documentary, “The Band That Wouldn’t Die.” The 60-minute film, part of ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary series, was a wonderful depiction of Baltimore’s loss of the Colts, and subsequent years of futile efforts to get the NFL back in town, using the Baltimore Colts Marching Band as a centerpiece. (See trailers and rebroadcast schedule information here)
This piece was the absolute best that I’ve ever seen on the subject. Head and shoulders above what ESPN did last year with their “Greatest Game Ever Played” documentary on the 1958 NFL Championship, and better still than any short 5-10 minute segments that local B’More channels have put together in the last 25 years.
I am 27 years old. I have no memory of the Baltimore Colts. I’ve heard the stories countless times, and at this point I fell pretty squarely in the “get over it” category regarding the Colts’ move to Indianapolis. The way Levinson told the story though, really articulated, better than anyone ever has, what losing the Colts meant to Charm City. I had heard stories about Robert Irsay – he was a drunk, an idiot, a lunatic. However, I wouldn’t have known the guy from Adam, had you shown me his picture. The footage Levinson included, of Irsay being too drunk to open the door at BWI Airport, and his subsequent expletive-filled press conference/tirade/tongue-lashing of the Baltimore media, during which he declared that he had no intentions of “moving the god damned team,” was something I had never before seen. I know now why my father’s and grandfathers’ blood boils at the mere mention of the name Irsay. I understand why it seems like so many in Baltimore are unable to “get over it,” despite having a great new NFL team to root for. And I HATE that drunken moron more than I ever have, for denying me the opportunity to root for the same team that men in my family and city did for 30 years.
As I heard one radio announcer put it today, (and I’m paraphrasing) “it’s like losing a family member. Everyone loses family members, but that doesn’t mean you love new additions to your family any less. Such is it with Baltimore and the Colts and Ravens.”
The story of the Baltimore Colts Marching Band, their 13 years of limbo, and their re-branding as Baltimore’s Marching Ravens, is a tale of civic pride and love that should be required viewing for any fan, of any sport, in any city.
If you didn’t catch it the first time around, make sure to clear your schedule or set your DVR for one of the times listed at the above link. You’ll be glad you did.
Thank you, Barry Levinson.