Tuesday, October 13, 2009

THE BAND THAT WOULDN'T DIE- Barry Levinson's Story of the Baltimore Colts Marching Band

A few minutes ago I finished watching the premiere of Academy Award winning director/screenwriter Barry Levinson's documentary, The Band That Wouldn't Die, the latest of ESPN's 30 for 30 series, looking back on the past thirty years of sports in America, the span of ESPN's life as a broadcast network. The story Levinson tells might entertain the non-sports fan, but will touch the heart of all of those, like me, who live and die on the fortunes of your team. It's the story of the love and the commitment the members of the Baltimore Colts Marching Band had to their team and its legacy, even for the 12 years there was no NFL football in Baltimore, from the time the Colts left under cover of darkness in 1984 to the relocation of the original Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1996.

To me, the Baltimore Colts were the NFL's version of baseball's Brooklyn Dodgers; regular blue collar guys playing in a blue collar town for blue collar fans, who worshipped them, and who similarly had their collective hearts broken when ownership took their teams to "greener pastures". Robert Irsay, the erratic owner who took control of the Baltimore Colts in the early 1970's, and almost immediately began making demands for a new stadium or else he'd leave town, comes across as a tragic villain in this film. His son, Jim Irsay, talks candidly about his father's alcoholism and rashness, with the elder Irsay coming across at times like a semi-crazed warlord.

Irsay took the Colts out of Baltimore in the middle of a snowy night in 1984 for Indianapolis. The Mayflower vans that took away the team's equipment took a big chunk of the city's soul as well. Jim Parker; Raymond Berry; Tom Matte; Gino Marchetti; Art Donovan; Bert Jones; and the greatest of them all, John Unitas- the Colts were part of the fabric of the city, and they were gone forever. All that was left were the fans of one of the NFL's flagship franchises, now a city without a team.

But they still had the Baltimore Colts Marching Band. And this is the story of how and why they stayed together for 12 years in a town with no pro football. Its a story every sports fan will love....because all of us who love our teams can sense, if not feel, the pain of their loss, and their ultimate triumph.

The Colts Marching Band held on to hope....and it came in the form of an unlikely savior- Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell, who gave the city of Baltimore another team, while tearing the hearts out of the fans back in Northeastern Ohio.

If you're an NFL fan, and are into the history of the game, this short one hour film is a must see.

Click here for more information, and for the next showtimes on the ESPN family of stations.

Below, the Band That Wouldn't Die trailer.

1 comment:

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