“My dear brothers, never forget, when you hear the progress of enlightenment vaunted, that the devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist!”
– Charles Baudelaire
On one of Seattle’s esteemed NPR affiliates Friday afternoon (Feb. 5th, 2010), sports writer and thinker, Art Theil, lamented the lack of villainy in Super Bowl XLIV. I respectfully disagree. While to the untrained eye it may be difficult to see the devilry afoot, but allow me to remind everyone of March 29th, 1984.
It was a cold evening, with temperatures never getting much above freezing. At about 2am, in the dead of night, 15 trucks with the once comforting words Mayflower emblazoned on the side pulled into the sleepy Baltimore suburb of Owings Mills.
Nameless men without shame stepped out into the darkness, lit only by the flickering glow of the orange florescent bulbs hanging above them and wordlessly began dismantling a child’s football team. They worked quickly, knowing that at anytime Maryland State Police could catch wind of the covert ops and sweep down and seize the trucks. They worked quickly knowing the steady movement and aching backs would help them think of other things than the thieving of the beloved Colts. Packed, stacked and ready 15 trucks pulled out into the cold, gray light of dawn, creaking on heavy shocks, some tilting slightly to the side and each taking a separate route on their way to Indianapolis, lest they be barricaded, or roadblocked by Maryland’s finest. Mouth gards, shoulder pads, and left footed cleats were loaded into truck 3. Helmets rode alone in truck 6. The missing bench seats in section 124 of Memorial Stadium were rumored to be in truck 7, and although unsubstantiated, appeared to be last seen in the picture below.
Indianapolis State Troopers met the fugitive trucks at the state line and have been harboring them at an undisclosed location ever since.
A Short History of the American city Indianapolis
A swampy area settled by fur trappers and Native Americans who were forcibly removed in 1820 to become the capitol city of Indiana. Also a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan between 1921-1928. Little else seems to be known about this Midwestern town.
Have we forsook the memory of the Golden Arm? Does the name Johnny Unitas mean nothing? It meant something to a ten year old boy in the winter of 1984. Now tell me there’s not a villain in this story.
Yes, it’s been almost 26 years. The boy has grown into manhood, has married and sired a boy of his own, but some things can not change.
I’m often asked if it’s hard to hold onto the old resentments, and while it may seem difficult to the outsider who sees things like Peyton Manning’s Peyback Bowl, which raised $380,000 to benefit at risk kids, or Tony Dungy’s All Pro Dad organization aimed at equipping father’s with the tools to make them better role models for their children (the equipment by the way was in truck 5), for me it’s a matter of character. Sure, Peyton Manning is a stand-up guy and one of the best quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen, but think about how much better he would have been in, say, Baltimore. My dislike of Indianapolis’s professional football team is not objective, it is personal. And, although I do not now reside in the city of my birth my heart beats still for that scrappy team from those mean streets. Now, for every child that has endured the tears of a father I end with the names of the retired numbers on both teams. For even in bitterness, I can respect good sportsmanship.
Baltimore Colts (Retired Numbers)
19 Johnny Unitas
22 Buddy Young
24 Lenny Moore
70 Art Donovan
77 Jim Parker
82 Raymond Berry
89 Gino Marchetti
The Indianapolis Professional Football Team (Retired Numbers)
Post Script: Go Saints!