York, PA– Mayflower. Snow. Blue. White. Horseshoe. Irsay. What comes to mind when you hear these words? Meaningless to some but to others, a night most will never forget. In the early morning at 2:00am on March 29, 1984, fifteen Mayflower trucks showed up on a cold, snowy night in front of the Baltimore Colts training facility in Owing Mills, Maryland. Within eight hours, poof…the Colts were completely gone from Baltimore. A fan base in disarray, not knowing what to come. Twelve years later, something miraculous had happened. A National Football League (NFL) team back in Baltimore! The Indianapolis Colts have played the Baltimore Ravens fourteen times since the start of the Ravens franchise which started back in 1996. Every time these two teams meet, the history between these two is brought up. 30 years have passed since that devastating day for the Baltimore fan base. Do Baltimore Colts, Baltimore Ravens, or Indianapolis Colts fans still care? Let’s go back to 1984…
A 35 year old Baltimore Colts FANATIC, Kenneth McDowell (my cousin who is a Baltimore Colts encyclopedia), had a slight fear that the Colts would leave the city but could not believe it. Mr. McDowell was devastated as him and others just got their hearts ripped out. Losing a love affair between a city and a team. Without a team to cheer for, Mr. McDowell followed the Dallas Cowboys as he was very high on Roger Staubach. Then, in 1998, he became an Indianapolis Colts fan. You may ask why? Two words: Peyton Manning. Mr. McDowell found similarities between Unitas-Manning, mostly due to their mannerisms. Manning wanted to immolate Unitas and he sure did well. “What does Manning do after a touchdown pass?” Mr. McDowell asked. “He has no emotion and walks off the field, just like Unitas did!” Mr. McDowell answering his own question. He is attached to the colors, the horseshoe, everything about the Colts no matter where they are. It’s an addiction, a way of life. When the Ravens came to Baltimore, he was glad that the young people had a team to root for, it was great for the community but other than that he did not care because he had his Colts. But who can blame him? His life literally revolved around the Colts. Every time the Ravens meet the Colts or vice versa, Mr. McDowell wants the Colts to win badly. It’s the mystique of the blue and white with the horseshoe. If Irsay would have left everything here in Baltimore while moving to Indianapolis, Mr. McDowell would have migrated to the new team in Baltimore when it was their time. It would be a completely different situation. He poses a good question, “What Colts team would fans have liked more?”
A 19 year old Baltimore Colts season ticket holder, Dennis Koulatsos (a friend and the host of Sunday Sports Voice on WNST Radio), remember’s that move like it was yesterday. A surreal moment watching the green and yellow Mayflower trucks roll out of the Colt’s training facility. Utter disbelief, shock, emptiness were the feelings of the young Koulatsos as he watched on the local news. Mr. Koulatsos did not follow any particular team once the Colts left, he followed the NFL as a whole. It became clear that the Washington Redskins would not be his team of choice once Washington Redskins Owner Jack Kent Cooke and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue did not want another team to be back in Baltimore. Mr. Koulatsos knew that the only way Baltimore would get a team was to steal one from another city. He had mixed feelings when the Ravens emerged in 1996. He asked several friends about Art Modell, assuring himself that Modell was nothing like Irsay. When it came down to it, Modell was just a bad businessman. Now, seeing the blue and white uniforms, Mr. Koulatsos still thinks they are the best in the NFL. But man oh man does he still want the Ravens to smash the living daylights out of them every time the two teams meet. He will always feel this way as long as an Irsay owns them. Mr. Koulatsos believes that his hatred would diminish, bringing closure to the situation if Irsay were to sell the team. If Irsay left everything (colors, uniform, logo, history) in Baltimore and literally just moved the team, the bitterness toward him would be gone once he passed away. A huge reason why the hatred still endures is the fact that “he (Irsay) not only stole OUR franchise, but he stole OUR history” stated Mr. Koulatsos.
An 18 year old, Steve Naylor (my dad), knew a lot about the Baltimore Colts growing up. Mr. Naylor started attending Baltimore Colts games with his father, Frank Naylor, as he was a season ticket holder. He would then attend Colts games a few years later with his buddies as they were all at the age of being able to drive. Once Mr. Naylor heard about the Colts move to Indianapolis, he was in shock and very surprised. It hit him that the city of Baltimore does not have a team anymore. Mr. Naylor made it a point to learn about the Colts past history through his father and cousin, Kenneth McDowell, and that is what he did. He was told many stories about the Colts franchise and truly learned to appreciate the team from back then. The Colts are gone, Baltimore does not have a team so what team did Mr. Naylor follow? That’s an easy one, he started to follow the Miami Dolphins. He always liked the colors and they were always a neat team to watch. Whether it be due to the team being in Florida, having a dolphin in a swimming pool during the games, or being able to watch a team where its nice out ALL THE TIME, he did it. Mr. Naylor thinks a main reason that people followed the Dolphins was because of Coach Don Shula. Coach Shula coached the Colts from 1963-1969 and he feels that Colts fans could use him as an attachment. When the Ravens came to town, Mr. Naylor was very excited! It came down to having a football team back and being able to follow our own players. He continued to follow Dan Marino throughout those years but his full attention was set towards the Baltimore Ravens. Mr. Naylor feels a lot of anger when he sees the blue and white colors with the horseshoe on the sides of that helmet. “This is beyond Irsay, he could have earned a lot of respect if he would have given the colors back” stated Mr. Naylor. There was a lot of passion for the Baltimore Colts. Mr. Naylor does feel that there would have been mixed feelings if Irsay left everything but took the team. Irsay lied to the city but once the city of Baltimore got a team, he feels that people would have been happy.
A 2 year old with not a worry in the world, Jared Welsh (a friend and President at Maryland Sports Insider), was clearly not old enough to remember the Colts move to Indianapolis but boy does he know a lot about the Baltimore Colts. He learned about the Baltimore Colts through his parents, through the major presence of the marching band that continued to march even without a team, and the media that continues to bring up the situation up every year that the two teams go head to head. When hearing about the heartbreaking stories regarding the move, Mr. Welsh still feels that it’s a shame. Just about how it all happened. “Irsay getting out of town under the skies of night fall and pulling one over on the fans.” is how he described it. Mr. Welsh has no connection and cannot relate to the Baltimore Colts so he has no interest when the Indianapolis Colts are brought up in conversation. Mr. Welsh feels that winning cures a lot, and having the Ravens win that first Super Bowl in the 2000 season and their latest one in the 2012 season, that kind of puts all of this talk in the back of his and others minds. If Irsay would have left everything, Mr. Welsh feels that a lot of fury would be calmed. When it would come down to it, Baltimore does not have a team BUT the colors, logos, history, and records would still be here.
Not even a thought yet at the time of the move, Brian Smith (a neighborhood friend of mine), learned about the Baltimore Colts through his father and uncles. Hearing story after story, Mr. Smith summarized his feelings regarding the move in one word….despicable! He wondered what it would be like to root for the Colts if they would have stayed in Baltimore. He tries to put himself in the older generation’s shoes and just can’t do it. Such a terrible situation to be in. Mr. Smith does care about the past history regarding the Baltimore Colts move as he would have liked to share the same traditions with his father and uncles. “The Irsay family is hard to respect and I would be irritated if it happened to me.” stated Mr. Smith. If Irsay left everything in Baltimore, the traditions would have stayed but the anger and hatred really depends on when another team would get here. Continuing to wait year after year for a team would be hard on the city of Baltimore. At the end of the day, “Irsay still took the team away from Baltimore.” said Mr. Smith and “that right there is hard to respect”.
Whether you’re Mr. McDowell who remembers going to the first Baltimore Colts game on November 1, 1959 against the Browns, Mr. Koulatsos who remembers the Colts marching band keeping the flames burning and hope of a city alive that we’d get an NFL team back, or Mr. Welsh and Mr. Smith who can continue to talk to others to learn about the Baltimore Colts history, all the stories say the same thing. The Baltimore Colts will always have a special place in OUR hearts. In reality, us Baltimoreans get the best of both worlds. We get to hear the great stories of Unitas and Co. We get to hear about and see (in the past years) the championships that this city has produced. We get to see the Ray Lewis statue and continue to touch the foot of Johnny Unitas’ statue as we enter M&T Bank Stadium every Sunday. Walking into the stadium and being able to see Unitas and several other Baltimore Colts in the Baltimore Ravens Ring Of Honor. This all means something. Steve Bisciotti has done a tremendous job and gone out of his way to continue to honor the history and legacy of the Baltimore Colts. There is even a picture of him as a kid sitting on Johnny Unitas’s lap in last year’s media guide. That’s great stuff! Some may be curious as to if the Baltimore Ravens organization really cares about this. I have yet to see the word Colts on the scoreboard when they play at M&T Bank Stadium. It just says INDY. You decide…
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A sport management major at York College of Pennsylvania. From Eldersburg, Maryland. A baseball fanatic. Love everything about sports, especially voicing my opinion. Like what you see? Follow me on twitter @sean_naylor Enjoy!