One of my favorite characters of the NFL, Art Donovan died Sunday at age 89. I have enjoyed Donovan’s storytelling since I can remember, mostly through NFL Films, but also his book “Fatso” which I used to own before lending it to someone who didn’t give it back. I later learned he had been a regular on David Letterman’s shows which got him the book deal. As for his autobiography, he “never read it.” I also remember seeing footage of him in tears when his Baltimore Colts left for Indianapolis in 1984.
Here’s a clip of him on Letterman from 1988:
Donovan, a son of the Bronx, was a Marine, serving in World War II. He was awarded the Asiatic Pacific Area Ribbon and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon. He also stole a case of spam and to avoid being sent to the brig, he was forced to eat all 30 pounds of it, which he did in 9 days. When his time had come, he wanted to go under a tree at his country club eat too many kosher hot dogs and drink a case of Schlitz and then explode. Based on the obituary in The Sun, that didn’t see to happen. Make sure you read that obituary too, it is a great one. Check out the NFL.com obit too, it has a great video tribute (which isn’t embeddable).
A Washington Redskins vs. Baltimore Ravens guest prognosticator post is coming, but I thought I’d do a little post just for fun.
WTOP radio is pushing this as a local rivalry, probably because they have a couple of Baltimore fanboys in their sports department. This isn’t a rivalry on two fronts though.
Baltimore isn’t local to Washington, its regional. I can see FedEx Field in Landover, Md., where the Redskins play from an Alexandria overpass I go over most days. That stadium is also visible from other parts of Northern Virginia and D.C. That is local. The Ravens stadium is not visible from any part of the D.C. area.
The other reason this isn’t a rivalry is because they only play each other every four years in the regular season. I have mentioned before that I’d like it to become an interconference rivalry annually. The potential for many regional/intrastate interconference games exists and I was hoping with an eighteen game season we’d see them added. However, since that seems to be off the table, I don’t see this happening anytime soon if ever.
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FedEx Field, for all of its shortcomings (which are overstated), is superior to the NFL stadium approximately 37 miles up I-95 because it has grass. It may be torn up and muddy (DC Sports Bog, The Post), but that will always be superior to the shameful artificial turf in Baltimore.
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Sports on Earth has a great preview of the game in this week’s NFL Lowdown which includes this:
Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall was walking around on crutches earlier in the week. Suddenly, the clutches broke free of Hall and got open for a 20-yard reception. Hall chased the crutches down the sideline and somehow managed to horse-collar tackle them, earning a 15-yard penalty. Hall complained about the flag to his orthopedist. Dan Snyder responded to the incident by calling Hall an All-Pro, showering him with money and saying dumb things about the Giants.
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History is about where it happened and not the corporation involved. As far as I am concerned, the Ravens are the poorly dressed descendants of the Baltimore Colts. Here’s some great video of the pregame of a Monday Night Football match-up between the Redskins and the Colts at Memorial Stadium from 1978.
39-year old Billy Kilmer had just been renamed starting QB, replacing Joe Theismann. This would be Kilmer’s final season.
The Redskins had just switched to gold facemasks — Kilmer looks weird in it. ’78 was also the last year for gold pants until 2010.
This was the first year the Colts wore white facemasks.
This was also the final Monday Night game at Memorial Stadium, inclusive of the two years the Ravens played there.
Joe Washington highlights are featured, but as a Colt. He joined the Redskins a few years later and was a key part of the offense that led the Redskins to two consecutive Super Bowls, one of which the Redskins won.
It has been fun over the last two weeks getting guest prognosticators to talk about the Washington Redskins opponent. However, this week I don’t have an opposing fan — I don’t know any Indianapolis Colts fans and I don’t think I want to either. A bitter Baltimore Colts fan would have been good, but I think they are all over 40 and I don’t know any Baltimoreans who meet that description. I do know somebody who feels that Baltimore got shafted by Robert Irsay and that Indy fans are frontrunners undeserving a team with the pedigree as the Colts — my childhood friend David. He’s out in San Francisco now where he occasionally takes in a 49ers game in decrepit old Candlestick park and agrees with me that football was a lot more fun when we were kids.
Mayflower moving vans. Poorly shot, shaking television news footage of Mayflower moving vans pulling out of a parking lot under the cover of a snowy night. That will always be the image to me — apropos footage for a crime scene or a burglary in process.
Baltimore didn’t deserve it.
True or false — you would have to have a substance abuse problem to move a
football team out of Baltimore?
False. I can think of one other thing. Knives and wives. The Dodgers could end up in Reno or Albuquerque simply out of spite. (Editor: Bob Irsay was an alcoholic, Jim Irsay was a pillpopper)
Can you name 3 NFL cities less deserving of an NFL team than Indianapolis? I don’t think I can — even Jacksonville has a better claim since they at least play outdoors on grass.
I’m still baffled that Phoenix and Tampa (which predates the 1984 move) have NFL teams. Phoenix’s population growth makes abundant sense, but still its Phoenix. Desert football. I’m not sure Tampa even needs much comment.
To be more responsive to your question, there is no way Indianapolis deserved a team. To think that two premier original NFL powerhouse cities lose (and then regain) their teams and Indianapolis gets a team is an outrage to all sense of sports and tradition proportionality.
I just don’t see this happening in Indianapolis:
This is where my slavish adherence to tradition collides with itself. If I had my way, Cleveland Municipal Stadium would have never been destroyed and the Super Bowl would be played on a rolling basis there, at Lambeau and at Soldier Field. There are many component parts to the hazy glow of NFL Films nostalgia, but one of them is the rabid loyalty of fans that die with their team. As much as Indianapolis didn’t deserve to receive a stolen football jewel, I like the fact that a team other than Green Bay can thrive and at times be fearsome in a small market. I also give them credit for not doing anything stupid with the helmet or numbers and staying strictly blue and white.
Peyton Manning comes off as really unlikable, but then he does something likable such as going on Saturday Night Live and doing fake United Way commercials which makes him seem kind of likable — does that actually make him really unlikable?
Cut that meat!!
Peyton Manning is the perfect player for the Techmo Bowl/Madden generation. Thanks to the relative sophistication of Madden’s video games, the world is now filled with people that think they are offensive geniuses. Manning is their leader and icon. He has taken the ultimate jock-stud position and made it at once bookish and goofy. That’s probably a good thing for human civilization. But the obsessive need to endorse every product points to a megalomania that I despise.
Now that we have insulted the Colts, their ownership, their “city” and their greatest player, how bad is the karma we have created for the Redskins? Your prediction, good sir –
Any time the Colts play the Redskins I’m reminded of a story about Mike Curtis. As the story goes, Curtis resented the fact that he was made eligible for the expansion draft in 1976 and was picked by the Seattle. He left Baltimore bitter and angry. (Seems believable.) He played in Seattle for one year than joined the Redskins. While finishing his career with the Redskins he had the opportunity to play the Colts in which he played at his most savage and vicious, which is saying something, and sent several Colts off the field. Apocryphal perhaps, but fits nicely in that hazy glow I mentioned before.
I fear Manning will dance on the secondary’s face. IND nee BAL 31 WAS 13
As much as I want to rationalize Bryan Orakpo, LaRon Landry and London Fletcher hitting Indy often and hard enough to remove the will to play, I think David is right that Manning will tear them apart.
Oh and the most critical prediction — the Redskins will wear gold pants.
While my antipathy towards Baltimore’s baseball team is well documented, I have said on a few occasions that the Colts moving out of Baltimore is probably the worst franchise relocation in professional sports history. The fans were great, the team had great, memorable players and a marching band with a catchy fight song. The team moved away ultimately because the owner, Bob Irsay, was a really nasty individual who was also an alcoholic. Indianapolis was and still is completely unworthy of those horseshoe helmets and uniforms.
Noted film director Barry Levinson, a Baltimore native, has made a documentary for ESPN 30 for 30 about that marching band, “The Band That Wouldn’t Die.” The band played on even after the team abandoned them and eventually became the Marching Ravens after the Cleveland Browns (another bad move, but one that was corrected almost immediately) came to Baltimore. The whole story gets told tonight at 8 p.m.
It looks pretty good.
UPDATE: It is pretty good, great even. It is completely one-side anti-Irsay, pro-Baltimore fan propaganda, but really well done propaganda. Here is the first part:
On March 29, 1984, Robert Irsay moved the Colts out of Baltimore under the cover of darkness to Indianapolis, an unworthy destination. In observance of the anniversary, the Sun has a number of articles in Baltimore Colts section that basically say “let’s get over it already.” Yes, there is a bit of irony in those statements since the paper’s Web site has a regularly updated section a generation after the fact, but they are probably right. In the end, Baltimore got a new team, one that won a Super Bowl, and stadiums for football and baseball. The new team, the Ravens, came from Cleveland, but the NFL did the right thing and insisted the colors and name be left behind there and put a team back there three years later.
That’s the text message MC Hamme sent me last night. Since Erica and I were hosting Grandma, my brother and his fiancee last night, I did not get to watch the Baltimore vs. Indy showdown. I’m glad I didn’t since there were no touchdowns scored and the Ravens blew it. D’oh!
Readers of WWN might be surprised to learn that I have a lot of respect for the football culture in the next town up I-95 from here. In fact, I respect the football fans up there so much that I will even call their city Baltimore instead of Balmer like I do when I speak of Peter Angelo$ and his franchise.
I am old enough to remember when the Colts still played in Baltimore. Their owner, an evil, cowardly, alcoholic named Robert Irsay moved the team out in the middle of the night on March 29, 1984. His reason — spite. He was upset about the way his tenure as owner was viewed by the press and mad that fans were growing weary of his incompetence. To this day Irsay is hated in Baltimore, as is his son Jim, the current owner. The younger Irsay may say that he harbors good feelings for the place, but apparently not enough to have sold or even given back the Colts name when Baltimore got a team again. That would have gone a long way to adding a little dignity to the Irsay name, but he missed a golden opportunity to right a wrong; not too mention sell a whole lot of merchandise by creating a new team name, colors, etc. Duh. It’s a sin to see those beautiful uniforms representing such an irrelevant place as Indianapolis.
Harboring resentments is not a good thing for any of us, because it turns on you. No matter what the situation is in life. “If I forgive you, that frees me. Resentment is bondage. Whatever those feelings are, the cast of characters that existed when my dad was there” and all the things that went on a quarter-century ago, it’s a long time ago.
Is it just me or does he sound like a recovering addict with that sort of talk? Or right, he was a pillpopper (Indy Star)! Thank goodness he’s learned to forgive people!
I think the Colts leaving Baltimore may be the worst move in professional sports history. In Baltimore, a tough historical city with a distinctive culture (ever see Diner?), the Colts were passionately loved. In Indianapolis, a bland square plopped into the middle of one of the least interesting states in the union, the Colts have never been embraced the way they were in Baltimore. The fans their had trouble filling the place up until Peyton Manning showed up. It was not even a lateral move.
Now, I know people will argue that the Browns moving to Baltimore was one of the worst moves, which is true, but it was not as bad as the Colts. At least in the Browns case, Art Modell left the legacy and colors behind and the NFL acted swiftly to correct the problem. I also believe that the Dodgers move to Los Angeles is not as bad. Brooklyn’s heart was broken, but that was just as much a fault of New York politicians (especially Robert Moses) as it was Walter O’Malley.
Anyhow, I’ve rambled a lot already and I need to get to the main point. I want to see Indy destroyed by the Ravens this weekend. I want to see a shutout. I want to see Irsay effigies. I want some serious histrionics from the Ravens, something like “we had to beat them to stick up for the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland. This was personal. As long as we have anything to say about it, Indy will never win a title. Give up the horseshoe that your drunk father STOLE, druggie!” after the game.
More coverage from The Sun: Ravens & The Indy Star: ColtsIrsays
My brother notes that the Wikipedia entry for Art Donovan lists November 16, 2006 as the date of his death. I have not been able to verify this from any other sources.
The Bronx born Donovan was a Hall of Fame DT for the Baltimore Colts. In retirement he became an excellent contributor to NFL Films and a regular on Letterman during the 1980s and 1990s. I also remember he used to do commercials on Baltimore stations. I used to own his biography Fatso but lent it out to someone who never returned it.
Donovan always said that one day he would go out and sit under a tree at his country club and eat kosher hot dogs and drink Schlitz until he exploded. Thursday’s weather was not really good for doing that which gives me hope that the Wikipedia entry is an error.