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Friday, January 21, 2005

The Midnight Trucks Are Next

Baltimoreans will never forgive the Irsay family.


The Irsay family loaded up the trucks in the middle of the night and moved to Indianapolis after the latter city offered the Irsay family a good deal to move a bellwether NFL franchise to the Midwest. Goodbye memories, goodbye Colts. Imagine Pittsbugh without the Steelers, Dallas without the Cowboys. That's what Baltimore is like without the Colts. Sure, the Ravens are there now, and, yes, they did win a Super Bowl, but ask an old Colts fan, and it isn't the same.

It's hard to be that critical of the Irsays, truth be told, because moving was their right. How they moved, on the other hand, left something to be desired.

Hard to be that sympathetic with Baltimore, either, because when the then-owner of the Cleveland Browns, Art Modell, wanted a good stadium deal of his own, the town fathers of Baltimore gave him the deal to end all deals, making the Irsays look like they sold out for a minor-league arrangement. So, while Baltimoreans hate the Irsays and scorn the Colts, their city essentially did the same thing to Cleveland. And they gave Modell an obscene deal to boot. I don't have the precise dates, but these moves are part of the more recent lore in NFL history.

And they might continue.

They might continue because the Indianapolis town fathers have guts. Sure, they'd like to keep their Colts, for the simple reason that the team is good and for the political reason that no one wants to have as his legacy that he let the beloved football team leave town. But, they won't just do anything to keep the NFL team in town.

Which means no downtown slot machines and no gambling taxes to help fund a palace that will cost somewhere between $500-$700 million. That would have required a lot of pulls of the one-armed bandits, a lot of carpel-tunnel issues, and a lot of seniors betting much more than they can afford.

Which just isn't right. Gambling just cannot be the solution to revenue shortages. The politicians in Indy know that, and for that they are to be commended. They are taking a stand, a stand which might cost them money, and a stand which might cost them their NFL team. They are making a major show of character where many other politicians would not have.

So now the Irsay family has to figure out what to do next. Jimmy Irsay is probably looking into long-haul trucking contracts and a CB radio as we speak. He's probably looking to get the convoy together and move the team to Los Angeles, which hasn't an NFL team since the Raiders left (and, no, USC is not a professional football team). (Actually, he should get L.A. in a bidding war with Anaheim, given that those two are involved in a Texas Death Match over rights to the name Los Angeles).

Or, if the Colts really want their stadium to be funded by slot machine taxes, they should move to Las Vegas, where, the last time I checked, there were plenty of them there.

The town fathers of Indianapolis have made a tough call, but they have their priorities straight. Should this drama play out and the Colts bolt somewhere else, you'll now have the citizenry of two major cities loathing a single football franchise.

And that has to be some sort of record in and of itself.

Then again, politics is, after all, the art of the compromise. Perhaps the Irsay family can make one last pitch to the Indianapolis crew, which is that they'll promise to pay for a championship defense if they get their stadium. That, at least, would be fair. But given the way the Colts are managing their salary cap, with huge contracts for both Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, don't bet on it.

Thankfully for the citizens of Indianapolis, their elected officials are much more careful with their checkbook than the Colts are with theirs.


Anonymous Sam Cimino said...

I understand Baltimore got their team the same way as Indy. The big difference is that the Modell's left the history in Cleveland.We have to watch a symbol the horseshoe helment. That bleonged to Baltimore fans for thirty years.They could have just left us with the history of our team but now we only have memories.All good until Irsay got here.

3:22 PM  

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