significant. My Pop HATED the fact that he was gone — just HATED it — so he bought me a San Diego Chargers full-size pennant. I still have that pennant to this day — the Super Chargers 1970′s thunderbolt!
But a VERY significant thing happened at that vendor’s stand right in front of the main gate, where those bushes sat and that black fence stood.
I saw Columbia blue.
And that was it!
My first crush came because I thought the powder blue looked cool. I was 4. I begged my Pop to buy it for me, and he probably rightfully thought that one NFL pennant on my first Colts game day was sufficient. But I put a little extra squeak behind the wheel and, he gave in and bought me my first Houston Oilers’ pennant.
Simply put: I treasured it!
I put it on the wall and it NEVER left my wall during my childhood.
I always went to Colts games — probably six a year on average from 1974 through 1983 — but the Oilers’ line on the scoreboard was ALWAYS significant to me. Love the Colts, follow the Oilers — that was the “company” line in my house. And it worked out just perfectly for me. The Colts were awesome from 1975 through 1977 and in 1978 Earl Campbell fell onboard and I rode Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, Dan Pastorini, Bum Phillips AND “Luv Ya Blue” right on up to when the Colts left — which made it easier for the Oilers and I to stop seeing each other in dark alleys late at night.
When Irsay bolted for Indianapolis, the Oilers and I moved in together, shacked up, shagged our eyes out we did all through the first half of the school year every year right on up until 1996, when I traded in my silly, childhood baby blue for a more regal color: purple!
But I still feel my Pop’s pain every time I see a Mayflower truck or that picture from the snowstorm in March 1984. The Colts were his whole world for four months of the year, especially if the Orioles weren’t headed to the playoffs come August.
Even after John Steadman would crush the league’s policy in The News Post time and again over the price of preseason football games, my Pop and I STILL went out to many preseason games because it was easy to get tickets and, even if the football stunk, we’d still rather be at Memorial Stadium hanging out than most anyplace else.
We would also take advantage of watching a cool, visiting team from the NFC that we wouldn’t get to see otherwise. I vividly remember seeing the Vikings, Bears and Falcons play in the preseason during that time!
Even then, I was bored with the Jets, Dolphins, Bills and Patriots coming to town every year.
I also vividly remember vomiting in the upper deck bathroom behind Sect. 35 before a Bears preseason game that we never made kickoff for.
The really neat thing about my Pop at that time was this: he had no other priorities in the world after work. So, if I asked my Pop if we could go to a game — any game we could take the bus to — we just went. He NEVER, EVER said “no” to going to a sporting event when I was a kid.
As much as he didn’t really care for hockey, I remember MANY dark nights downtown in the mid 1970′s when the corner of Howard and Baltimore Streets was a much scarier place to be for a 60-ish man and his 10-year old boy. This was a few years before the Inner Harbor and tourists downtown. It was a THREATENING place (like something out of Gotham City in that first “Batman” movie), even for a little boy who felt protected by his Pop. And we waited for buses on those dark, cold corners ALL the time!
But if I wanted to see the Nova Scotia Voyagers or the Hershey Bears or the Richmond Rifles on a Tuesday night, my Pop was pretty much “in,” as long as it wasn’t too cold. But we did even do a few memorable nights in the snow.
And NOTHING stopped us from getting to the WWWF matches!
But the Oilers were my MAJOR “thing” when the Orioles weren’t playing, pretty much all of my life until that day when Art Modell showed up in Parking Lot D with the Browns in tow.
When I got into my late teens and early 20′s and finally started making a few bucks, any Oilers game within an eight-hour ride of Baltimore was fair game in the fall. The Jerry Glanville-era Oilers were a lot of fun, with Warren Moon, Mike Munchak and the run and shoot offense! I saw them play in Pittsburgh and Cleveland most every year, and had done driving road trips to Buffalo, New England, New York and Detroit as well.
And as a kid, it was fun to have a couple of semi-successful teams to root for and follow.
I also followed and loved the Washington Bullets during that era. My Pop called Abe Pollin “Satan” and “the anti-Christ” for moving the Bullets to Largo. I don’t ever remember going to a Bullets game at the Civic Center. They left in 1973, right on that bubble where my real