As the curtain went up on Baltimore's new NFL act, the characters who had played roles in the 13-year drama of political intrigue and financial largesse were spread from the upper decks of Memorial Stadium to the beaches of France.
The debut of the Ravens at Memorial Stadium marked the official end of one
of Baltimore's most intense municipal struggles. It began with the departure
of the Colts in 1984 and spanned a dozen years of bitter disappointments and,
yesterday, sweet success.
Along the way, it touched the administrations of three governors, three
mayors and the lives of thousands of fans, and changed forever the
relationship between the NFL and the cities it inhabits.
"The important thing is we have football back here," said John Mackey,
who, as a tight end for the Baltimore Colts from 1963 to 1971, played a big
part in the city's football history.
Mackey was one of about 40 former Colts who participated in pre-game
ceremonies, taking the field in Colts jerseys and then donning Ravens jackets.
He lives in Los Angeles and runs team-building seminars for corporations.
He also was an investor in a group headed by novelist Tom Clancy that filed,
then canceled an application to own an expansion team in Baltimore.
"All my kids were born here. . . . They were nine special years," Mackey
Johnny Unitas -- the greatest Colt of all time -- also was there
yesterday, running in the game ball. His gait was slower, but his
round-shouldered slouch was instantly recognizable as he waved the ball to the
crowd and handed it to the referee. He still lives in the area.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke watched the game from the mayor's box and recalled
his own Memorial Stadium memories: He quarterbacked City College in its annual
games against Poly in 1964 and 1965. Later, as mayor, he supported the winning
fight )) for stadium funding in Annapolis and the losing battle for an
"Obviously, I'm thrilled for the whole community and very pleased I didn't
approve the demolition of Memorial Stadium," Schmoke said.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening, whose administration was only 10 months old
when the Browns agreed to move to Baltimore, pronounced, "I am a Ravens fan."
It was the second conversion in the Glendening family in recent weeks. His
wife, Frances, recently switched party affiliations to her Democratic
husband's, and he has suspended, at least for now, his long-standing support
of the Redskins.
His predecessor, William Donald Schaefer, also was there, making the
rounds of the pre-game talk shows and soaking up the atmosphere. He was mayor
when the Colts left and, as governor, assembled the stadium funding package
that convinced the Browns to move here.
"Maybe it was the one-two punch. Schaefer softened them up, and we went in
for the kill," said Glendening, who watched the game with his wife from a set
of midfield, mezzanine seats.
Maryland Stadium Authority chairman John Moag, the lobbyist who finally
got a team to take Baltimore's lucrative offer, tried to hide his tears behind
sunglasses at the opening kick. He viewed the game from 50-yard-line,
upper-deck seats with his wife and daughters.
"It was intense. Look at this crowd, it's a real Baltimore crowd," said
Moag moved to Baltimore as an 8-year-old, to a house two blocks away from
Memorial Stadium, where he parked cars in his backyard and sneaked into games
through a back fence.
Among Baltimore's biggest supporters in the NFL, former Eagles owner
Norman Braman yesterday was wrapping up his extended summer stay at his house
in France, outside Monaco. He returns today to Miami, where he runs a chain of
"I'm really happy for the fans and the community. It took a long time,"
said Braman, who sold the Eagles after expansion.
Leaving the past behind Redemption:
The return of the NFL to Memorial Stadium was especially sweet for those who had agonized over the Colts' departure and worked so hard to bring a team back.
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