now and not a part of my life. So it’s a little personal for me as well…
Jimmy Irsay, whose formal education was as a broadcast journalism major at Southern Methodist in Texas, took the hand he was dealt in life and hasn’t just made it work – he’s made it shine. The Indianapolis Colts were the worst franchise in the sport, a laughingstock by any measurement when his father died. They drafted No. 1 overall almost every year after leaving Baltimore in 1984 it seemed, which is how you get into a position to draft a guy like Peyton Manning in the first place. In 1990, they used the No. 1 overall pick on Jeff George. Two years later, they had the first and second pick in the 1992 draft (the only time in history this has ever happened) and used them on Steve Emtman and Quentin Coryatt.
Bob Irsay died on Jan. 14, 1997. They stunk so bad during that 3-13 year with Lindy Infante at the helm and Jim Harbaugh under center that they earned the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft. (Harbaugh came to Baltimore to play for Marchibroda before he was fired and Harbaugh’s brother is now running our team. Crazy circle of life, right?)
Jim Irsay hired Bill Polian on Dec. 22, 1997 and his first act was drafting Peyton Manning in April 1998 and his second was passing on Ricky Williams for Edgerrin James a year later. Two Super Bowl appearances later, it’s kinda crazy how it all worked. Jim Irsay is a good karma machine. He’s the antithesis of his father in every way. His spiritual growth and ability to overcome his father’s dastardly deeds has shown in his actions, not only within the league but also within his “hometown” of Indianapolis.
And at every turn, he’s offered Baltimore an olive branch. His appearance on the recent Colts’ history DVD on John Zieman and the band was all class. His comments are always positive about Baltimore. He honored the 1975 Colts as the favorite team of his childhood recently in Indianapolis. Here’s a pretty cool video of him singing “Turn The Page” a few weeks ago and I think that’s a pretty symbolic song title.
We already had the Ravens here by the time that he had any control of the Colts. In many ways, we were already “made whole” by just being back in the league. So, it’s not like Jim Irsay had any prayer of putting the genie back in the bottle or the horseshoe back into the Inner Harbor by 1997.
In some ways, Jim Irsay was given an expansion franchise in 1997 and has taken it to two Super Bowls and has brought dignity to whatever legacy Johnny Unitas and company left in those beautiful blue uniforms that will never be ours again and are now deeded into eternity to him and Peyton Manning and Indianapolis. The Colts have now played more games in Indianapolis than they did in Baltimore. We have the Ravens.
It’s time to move on…it really is. It’s time to “turn the page.”
Some would say it’s overdue. Many others will opine below that I’m a communist and should be ashamed of myself for considering anything other than more urination upon Bob Irsay’s grave. You’re entitled to your opinion and your feelings. As my partner Brian Billick would aptly say: “Have at it…”
I’m proud of what I’m writing today because it’s taken me years and two long conversations with Jim Irsay and a lot of soul searching to do this.
If John Steadman were alive he’d say it’s true – Jim Irsay has been a major success story as an owner in Indianapolis. He took the worst franchise in the sport, with the worst track record in the one of the worst NFL markets and has made it work with good decisions. (Knowing Jim Irsay a bit better now, he’d probably talk about good karma…)
Jim Irsay hired Bill Polian, who along with Ozzie Newsome, have been the two best personnel men of this generation. Polian has now directed two different franchises to six Super Bowls.
Jim Irsay hired Tony Dungy, who has become the game’s greatest ambassador of class and dignity even amidst a personal tragedy so horrific it doesn’t bear repeating.
Jim Irsay drafted and retained the greatest player of this (or any other) generation in Peyton Manning. The upshot of this is watching him lose and grimace to my football fan pleasure. Oh, and he does outstanding commercials!
Jim Irsay got a stadium built in downtown Indianapolis that anyone here would be envious of calling home and quite frankly, improved on the one thing that Modell and company really missed on – making our stadium multi-purpose with a dome and a downtown track record of pulling in every major event in the American sporting universe, including a Super Bowl two years from now.
And he’s been a transparent figure about his own transgressions and is universally known as a “right guy.”
I’m a stubborn guy. Some would call be a stubborn S.O.B. But I do not make this pronouncement today in any arrogant way to proclaim that “Baltimore is done with Irsay” because I said so. Quite the contrary.
That’s just foolish. Some people – including those who sent me pictures of various Ravens fans literally pissing on Bob Irsay’s grave