deed approached — I’ve decided that I need to move on from those feelings about the Irsay family and the whole “Baltimore needs to get even with Indianapolis” feelings of Mayflowers and drunk press conferences and dread and anger. I just can’t carry this with me for the rest of my life and approaching my 42nd birthday I have a myriad of reasons to have reached this enlightened state of maturity.
Jimmy Irsay didn’t move the Baltimore Colts. Bob Irsay moved “the goddamn team.” And Jimmy Irsay shouldn’t have to live in the shadow of his father any more than my son should have to pay for any of my sins – real or imagined. And Bob Irsay has been dead since 1997. And we have our own purple football team here that has restored and replaced any football tradition built here by my father and his generation and I wouldn’t trade it for any blue horseshoe at this point in the game, circa 2010.
All of that is the “logical” side. I’m very pragmatic on most issues and it’s time that I healed this wound with the gift of forgiveness.
Again, I was there in 1996 with his father’s head on a stick. What’s left of it resides at the front bar at Nacho Mamas in Canton. I have a mini Bob dummy, also made by my multi-talented and humorous lifelong friend Mike Ricigliano, who carted the original Big Bob dummy through the upper deck at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia in 1984. I took the mini dummy Bob Irsay to Indianapolis – TWICE – to try to put a hex on the Colts. The mini Bob sat on the lap of Leigh Steinberg and Don Shula in Miami in 2007, and that didn’t work, either.
And to add insult to injury, the Colts and the city of Indianapolis and the Irsay family got a Super Bowl ring that week. They also have the best quarterback who has ever played the game and they have the Ravens’ number of late, which is the real reason I shouldn’t like them.
To say that I’ve invested a lot of emotion in this rivalry – and it kinda goes beyond that a little for me, more like an obsession – would be an understatement.
Earlier this week, I spent some quality time with Jim Irsay at the owner’s meetings in Orlando, Fla. It’s the second time over the past few years that I’ve gotten to chat at length with the son of Robert Irsay, who is a congenial and thoughtful man at the age of 50.
So, there I was hanging out with Jim Irsay, who upon each meeting has been a complete and total gentleman, good guy and dignified soul. He agreed to sit with me to discuss my book on coaching and leadership after initially turning me down. I’ve been touring the country over the past month talking to a variety of Baltimore sports figures and it’s been a spiritual journey for me in many ways chatting with all of these incredible people who have passed through Baltimore and carry the soil with them on their life’s journey. So far the initial list and interviews have been impressive: Mike Smith, Mark Shapiro, Frank Kush, Jim Fassel, Marvin Lewis, Jim Schwartz, John Scheurholz, Sam Perlozzo, Bruce Manno, Jack Del Rio, Ken Whisenhunt and Mike Singletary have spent anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours with me discussing their life’s lessons in coaching and leadership. Roger Goodell, Don Shula, Brian Billick, Eric Mangini, Jerry Richardson, Howard Schnellenberger and dozens of others have all agreed to sit with me for the book.
I chased Irsay down purely on sight at the owner’s meetings on Monday. He was walking through the hall talking to the media and I caught his ear. He remembered me from our hour-long walk on a veranda at the Biltmore in Arizona three years ago, just after he’d won the Super Bowl. Steve Bisciotti knew that I wanted to approach Jim Irsay about the Colts records and arranged time for me to chat with him.
To be honest, it was the coolest hour of my journalist life, being with Jim Irsay on that deck talking about my father and the Colts and how much the records and history mean to the people of Baltimore. For the record — and I’ll make a long conversation short here — Jim Irsay agreed to do whatever necessary to restore the Colts’ pre-Indianapolis heritage to become a part of the Ravens’ Baltimore past if the Pro Football Hall of Fame were amenable and told me so three years ago. Essentially putting the Baltimore records back in Baltimore.
Honest to God, the owners have nothing much to do with how the Pro Football Hall of Fame nerds archive the records in Ohio. I’ve approached these people repeatedly only to be rebuffed. I was in Canton four months ago and videotaped the experience:
Back to Jim Irsay. His past issues and abuses are a google search away. Much of the more lurid details he fessed up to in Jon Saraceno’s USA Today profile from a few weeks ago and he’s moved on from his own sins and addictions over the years. He’s never made excuses for his father nor has he openly condemned his actions or sins.
But I can only judge a man by the decisions he makes and how he has personally treated me, not the ill will brought on by his drunk and misguided relatives who are now deceased. At this point in my life as I take in this amazing amount of information through personal relationships and education, I try to be mentally flexible. I’ve asked our audience and sponsors to be flexible as we’ve completely reformatted and re-branded our company over the past three years. Deepak Chopra would say: “Infinite flexibility is the key to immortality.”
Most people in my life know I’m a pretty yogic guy and an advocate of peace – a departure from my 20’s when I was young and stupid. I wouldn’t want to be judged by the actions or intellect of my paternal father, either, who is off in Venezuela