Lesson #215: The Colts Band

Autobiographical Note: Years ago, when we were still in college and he was working as a freelancer, my best friend took me with him on an assignment involving the legendary Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas after which, he introduced me to him. That remains one of the highlights of my time in college.*

I mentioned to my best friend at some point during the World Cup that I’d watched the ESPN 30 for 30 episode “The Two Escobars” about Pablo Escobar (the drug kingpin), Andres Escobar (the late footballer) and Colombia’s surprising run at the World Cup in 1994 and that I’d found it really, really interesting and he told me I had to watch “The Band That Wouldn’t Die.” So that’s what we did tonight…because we both love sports, documentaries and the city of Baltimore.

It turns out the Colts band was instrumental in taking football back to Baltimore. After Irsay literally took the Colts away in the middle of the night in March 1984, the band kept playing. Not only did they keep playing, they played halftime shows for teams in the NFL that were not their own. In the end, when the NFL expanded again in 1997, they were the driving force behind getting the Ravens to Baltimore.

There is still a bitter undertone in Baltimore about the departure of their football team in the middle of the night. Still. Even though they now have a football team and even though that team won the Superbowl while I was in college. However, until I saw this documentary, I had no idea how much of a football history there is in Baltimore.**

*When we were talking about it, he admitted that at the time, he didn’t realize how important Johnny Unitas was to Baltimore. It was only after Unitas died that he really understood. I, despite being a poor American football fan, somehow had a deep understanding of Unitas’ importance to Baltimore — possibly because of my internship at a sports radio station, my family’s connection to the town and team or both — and was beside myself over this opportunity that I only today discovered was a 13-week engagement for my best friend.

**I’m not really that much of an American football fan, to be honest, so the Ravens were always just the other team after the Orioles, who are my baseball team.

One thought on “Lesson #215: The Colts Band

  1. Rachel says:

    I strongly suggest that you do not bring this up when you come to visit, unless you have a hankering to have a four-hour-long conversation with my father which will end with him making his case for Unitas being the greatest quarterback who ever lived; telling you every single stat of every single Colts player who ever lived; going off on a terrible, expletive-laden rant against the NFL; and perhaps him breaking down in tears.

    As much as you may understand what Unitas meant to the Colts, you have no clue what it was like to be there at that time… obviously I don’t either, although after just doing the math, I’m fairly certain that I was conceived shortly after the team was stolen from Baltimore in the middle of the night. Probably because both my parents were inconsolable so they did the only thing they could think of that would improve both their moods.

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