It was past midnight, Wednesday, March 28, 1984, when the City of Baltimore witnessed the horrific images of its most prized possession, the Baltimore Colts, leaving town on a fleet of Mayflower buses. Baltimore, Maryland is a city of over 630,000 citizens. That repulsive and snowy day was a day that Baltimoreans will always remember with contempt. I was just 15 years old living in the Park Heights community of northwest Baltimore, and during this time I didn’t realize the impact that that day would have on my city, the cities of Cleveland and Indianapolis, the National Football League, and lastly, my life.
I have lived in Baltimore for 40 years, and that doesn’t include the time that I have spent away attending college, attending trade shows professionally, or traveling with the “world’s greates” United States Navy. I am an official Baltimorean. Baltimore is nicknamed “Charm City,” the same place where Oprah Winfrey’s career began, as well as countless others. Baltimore is the home of the most hated owner in all of sports, Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore is also the home of “The Wire,” an HBO series that depicted the violence that has plagued the city of Baltimore, and the politics that took place in order to fight against it. Like Kansas City, Missouri, Baltimore has also been plagued by guns, violence, and drugs. If you don’t know, now you know.
During the 1980′s, crack cocaine had its worse impact on the northeastern United States, in cities like New York, Philadelphia, Newark, the District of Columbia, and of course Baltimore. At this juncture in history, Baltimore was under the leadership of its most coveted Mayor, William Donald Schaefer. Schaefer led the city from 1971 to 1987, and subsequently became the state of Maryland’s 58th Governor from 1987-1995. But it was in 1980 that put Mayor Schaefer on the map when he gave rebirth to the downtown Baltimore area with the opening of the Inner Harbor, a historic seaport and currently the top tourist attraction in the city. Back then, I never heard the citizens of Baltimore complain about Mayor Schaefer. He was truly the best Mayor that my city has ever had.
Mayor Schaefer was an avid Colts fan, and fought hard to keep the Colts from walking out on him and his citizens and their 30-year friendship. Unfortunately, the owner at that time was a man named Robert Irsay. Mr. Irsay had purchased the Baltimore Colts in 1972; three years after the greatest upset in NFL history took place. That game featured Hall of Famer “Broadway” Joe Namath, who predicted that his New York Jets would undoubtedly defeat the mighty Baltimore Colts led by Hall of Fame quarterback, Johnny Unitas. For short, you could just refer to him as Johnny U. Johnny U was number 19. As far as Baltimore is concerned, Len Dawson couldn’t lace up his cleats as good as the late, great Johnny U (also known as “The Golden Arm”). One year before Robert Irsay acquired the Colts, Johnny U had led the Baltimore Colts over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V at the Orange Bowl in Miami. It was definitely a time of “Festivus Maximus” (the official slogan of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl run). When Robert Irsay purchased the Colts, the city of Baltimore was one of the most loyal advocates of this new enterprise called the National Football League. It only took Bob Irsay four years before he had began to shop his new team around; and before you knew it he had been contacted by a prospective buyer who wanted him to move his new ball club to sunny Phoenix, Arizona. Then shortly thereafter, the media began to report that there were many other clandestine offers that were being made to good ol’ Bob. These offers were coming from the city of Indianapolis, the city of Los Angeles, the city of Jacksonville, and a few others. And each time that the city heard these things, it was like a slap in the face.
In 1979 a bid was placed by the city of Memphis, five years later the Baltimore Colts were sneaking out of town at 1 o’clock in the morning on the Mayflower bus company. It was cold and snowy, and it scarred many residents for life; me for one. For 12 years the city of Baltimore was without a professional football team. It was during this time that I became a Kansas City Chiefs fan.
I have been a Chiefs fan for 22 years now.
The Baltimore Ravens originated in the Cleveland Browns relocation controversy in 1995. Art Modell, then owner of the Cleveland Browns, announced his intention to relocate the team to Baltimore, a move which resulted in legal action. Following the legal action, a unique compromise was struck: Modell would keep the Browns’ existing player and staff contracts, but his team officially would be a new franchise. The Browns’ name, history, and archives would stay in Cleveland, and a new Browns team would begin play in 1999 after a three-year period of “deactivation”. Modell’s team was named the “Baltimore Ravens” after a fan contest and began play in the 1996 season. So now, Baltimore has a stolen team from Cleveland, and Cleveland gets a new franchise. As my colleague, Nathan Kent, would say — despondency!
But I will say that the Modell family and staff are the best that the city has ever possessed. Grade A.
People say that I don’t like my city, if I don’t like the Ravens. The fact of the matter is that I actually love my city, and football has nothing to do with how I feel about my city. Notwithstanding, I was very excited and happy when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000, but I was happier for my city than I was for the Baltimore Browns. Ooops! The Baltimore Ravens.
As it stands, the city of Baltimore wears the color purple each and every Friday preceding a Ravens football game, as is the practice in Kansas City every Friday when its citizens where the color red. This city and its citizens despise the Indianapolis Colts, and we also continue to believe that the NFL has an ongoing conspiracy in place for this city to be unsuccessful in professional football. Each year the city wants to prove to the NFL that we are resilient and full of resolve. This becomes especially obvious each time that the Ravens play against the Indianapolis Colts or the Pittsburgh Steelers, two teams that consistently beat them. And this year is no different, notwithstanding that the Chiefs are standing in the way of the redemption-seeking city of Baltimore. The 2000 Super Bowl championship wasn’t enough. So, the Ravens were built this year to win it all, and finally defeat the evil empire named the Colts; and if possible, beat our neighboring state of Pennsylvania (Steelers) in the process.
The last time that the Chiefs played the Ravens was on opening day in 2009 at M & T Bank Stadium (a game that I attended), and Brodie Croyle, 0-9 all-time as a Chief, was the starting quarterback. And although the Chiefs had many chances to win the game, they went on to lose by a score of 34-24. I can assure you that this game will be different altogether. Chiefs Nation we must really “Focus, Finish.” The Chiefs must play their best smash mouth Derrick Thomas-esque football in order to move forward into the 2010 NFL playoffs.
Stand tall with us Chiefs fans! Let it not go unspoken that the city of Kansas City, Missouri also has a story to tell. It’s a city called the “City of Fountains,” and has approximately 483,000 citizens who haven’t experienced an NFL championship in 40 years. So, let’s go fight the Baltimore Browns with everything that we’ve got, because that it what it’s going to take in order to beat this team.
In 1845, Edgar Allen Poe, who lived in Baltimore, wrote a poem called, “The Raven,” from which the Baltimore Ravens inherited their name. In short, the poem describes the life of a gentleman who is mourning the loss of the love of his life, named Lenore. One day a Raven appears on his window sill and spoke to him. Unfortunately, the Raven only knew one word, and that word was “nevermore”. So, when Ravens fans suggest to me that the Ravens will defeat the Chiefs on this coming Sunday, I will simply reply, “nevermore”. CHIEFS WILL!