As many of you might remember, my dear friend and mentor John Steadman would often channel Babe Ruth and write wacky letters to Baltimore sports fans from The Bambino in heaven.
So, on the eve of what would’ve been my father’s 93rd birthday, I’m writing an open letter to Steadman – and my Pop (and maybe even to Charlie Eckman) – to tell them what my eyes have seen in the years since their deaths in regard to the legacy of the Indianapolis Colts. I now realize in many ways I only really saw the Baltimore Colts and their glory through their eyes because other than three years of Bert Jones from 1975-77 when I was a kid, the Colts of Robert Irsay weren’t worth having in Baltimore.
The Baltimore Colts packed up the Mayflower vans on March 28, 1984. Twenty-eight years later and about that many trips to Indy over the years have taught me many life lessons about greed, loss, regret, hatred, football, forgiveness, civic responsibility and pride.
I spent nine days in Indianapolis last week and I’ll be back there again in 14 days for the NFL Combine. I’ll probably be going to Indianapolis for the rest of my life – or as long as they have the Colts – and I’m finally gaining some appreciation, clarity and personal growth for my adventures in the “friendly heart of The Midwest.”
Dear John & Pop:
I know you’re going to have a hard time believing this – and you might even think old Nasty Nestor has gone soft – but I have a very hard, long-term and deep-seated admission I’m going to make and you’re probably going to be very disappointed with me.
After all of these years, I have to admit that I like Indianapolis.
And I like Jim Irsay.
And I even like the Mayor of Indy, Greg Ballard, who I introduced to Chuck Pagano on our WNST set last week in Indy.
And I have to make the tough, honest admission that the Indianapolis Colts have become one helluva success story for the NFL and for their community in Indiana.
I know you might not have liked my “pardon” of all things Irsay and Colts and Indianapolis almost two years ago now, and you’re probably flipping over in your respective graves as you read this but the people of Baltimore almost found out last week what Indiana and “Hoosier Hospitality” is all about.
It’s a shame, really, because the people of Baltimore would’ve been there to see firsthand just how far Indianapolis has come in 28 years if Ravens’ WR Lee Evans would’ve just held onto a sure-touchdown pass from this scrappy kid named Joe Flacco up in New England in the AFC Championship Game. Half of the Charm City would’ve been packing up the family for Indiana like Jed Clampett going to Beverly Hills if the Ravens would’ve pulled out that win over the Patriots.
And that trip might’ve once-and-for-all “healed the war” between Indy and Baltimore. And it might’ve gotten us what we really want — pictures like THIS taken off the walls of local taverns like Kilroy’s because they are as disrespectful as a Confederate flag is to some men in their symbolism:
(And if you’re reading in Indy: Stop selling the Johnny Unitas jerseys in the Circle Center Mall downtown. And stop pushing Raymond Berry’s sorry ass onto the national platform as your own because he’s foolish enough to play along with the charade.
This stuff STILL bothers all of us in Baltimore! A lot…
Do that, and perhaps, all will be totally forgiven.)
But as much as it is hard for anyone from Baltimore to admit it — but time and facts have proven it all true — you have to give Jim Irsay some immense and serious credit. He inherited one of the most screwed up situations this side of Peter Angelos and his boys when he woke up as a 28-year old general manager in India-No-Place