I'm back. I hope. The "black dog", as James Lileks puts it, has been curled up at my feet for a while, but hopefully I'm fighting back to the surface.
I'm not a professional sports fan by any stretch. I have no idea how people can get excited over a bunch of guys who don't even live in the same state and are hired by some rich guy to play a game. Joe Buttplug on the street worships these guys and yet they wouldn't give Joe the time of day, since they're big time sports stars, don'tcha know. Like many people, I only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. Well, and an excuse to knock back chili, nachos and lots of beer.
But given all that, there's an interesting matchup coming to Baltimore: Ravens vs. Colts.
The Colts have a lot of history in Baltimore. They go back to a time when football players might actually live next door to you. They used to do summer camp not far from here and hung out at a restaurant known for its hot dogs, of all things. The players were the stuff of legend: Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore, Gino Marchetti and the all-time greatest character in football history, Artie Donovan.
I played in the Colts marching band years after Unitas had retired and the stands still absolutely erupted when we played the "Johnny U March". Marchetti went on to launch a chain of fast food restaurants which went head-to-head against MacDonald's (MacDonald's burgers were better because they had a pickle, but the Gino Giant beat the Big Mac hands down. No Contest.). Artie Donovan played football long and hard, but not before he hit the beach at Normandy and stormed into Nazi gunfire. He once said that he knew football and he knew war and the difference was that football is fun. Other than the heroic Pat Tillman name me one current "sports star" who has ever deigned to serve in the military.
The Baltimore Ravens are quite different, and I won't dwell on it too much, but in a league now known for thugs they pretty much stand out as thugs. The Colts hung out at the hot dog place, the Ravens hang out at the Windsor Inn and get involved in woman-beating incidents on a regular basis. Of course, they never get arrested for it, but since some of them have gotten away with murder a little slapping around of a woman hardly qualifies as meriting charges.
Anyway, the interesting matchup comes this weekend when the Indianapolis Colts (formerly the Baltimore Colts) play the Baltimore Ravens (formerly the Cleveland Browns).
The Colts were never really the Baltimore Colts. They belonged to Joe Irsay and he could do what he wanted with them. The only municipally owned football team is the Green Bay Packers. Every other team belongs to one or more wealthy old men, not any town. But Joe Buttplug doesn't get that. To this day there are people in Baltimore who deeply resent the Colts and the night they left town.
And that's where I find an interesting history with the Colts. As I mentioned, I was in their marching band many, many years ago. I still have the genuine beaverskin Stetson we wore. My next contact with the Colts was a call in the middle of the night from a security firm I worked for. Everyone with a permit to carry a handgun was called out in the middle of a snowy night to guard the Colts' facility as the moving vans carried them off to Indiana. I don't know how people found out they were moving at midnight in a snowstorm, but they were there when I arrived. Hundreds of people standing outside of the gate. I had to drive through them in my little two-seater Ford, which was a bit like driving through a picket line. Later it got so bad they had to call in guys who didn't have carry permits and issued them shotguns.
So, to make a short story long, I have some history with the Colts and despite an indifference to professional sports, I'll watch the upcoming game. If only for the chili, nachos and beer...