March 29, 2009
Twenty-five years later, the NFL and three of its cities are better off than they were back then.
Keep that in mind today as you find it in your hearts to forgive the men whose names are tied to those cities and their nomadic franchises. It's time for Baltimore to stop cursing the very name "Irsay," to stop punishing the son for the sins of the father. And it's time for Cleveland to let go of the rage it harbors for Art Modell.
That's all that's left to close the book on the tragedies brought on, or around, these people. To do that, you have to start looking at it not as a tragedy, but as a victory - to take the long view and absorb what has developed since March 29, 1984.
The football landscape here, we all know. So, for a second, put yourself in the shoes of fans in Indianapolis. Two years ago, the Colts won their first Super Bowl since the move (and yes, as an act of absolution, had to go through Baltimore to do it), sending a bolt of joy through the long-suffering fan base. They did it with people who represented the franchise with class, a group its faithful could be proud of.
The man who put all that together? Jim Irsay.
His greatest feat, fans in both cities can agree, is to give dignity and respectability to the family name - to take the taint off it, essentially. The father's name, after bringing the NFL to the city, wasn't even that pristine in Indy by the time he died in 1997. Jim Irsay reversed that.
Along the way, he has extended the occasional olive branch to Baltimore, trying to dilute some of the psychic damage, saying he understood, wanting the bile to stop after all these years.
It's time to take him up on the offer. After 25 years of doing it your way, the horseshoe and colors still haven't come back. The memories remain, as the celebration of the 1958 NFL championship game last winter reminded us. You can't ask for much more than that.
Cleveland might want to walk the same path. The wound is fresher, but the idea that Modell, 83, should still feel threatened for his life if he ever sets foot in the city is patently ridiculous. So is the vindictive campaign to keep Modell out of the Hall of Fame.
Never mind the details of how he moved the Browns to Baltimore for the 1996 season, at least for the moment. The entire pro football world rearranged itself to make sure Cleveland got a team back, quickly, with its logo and history intact (a deal Baltimore never got, but again, we're pouring out the hater-ade here).
So, the final tally: Baltimore is back in the NFL. Cleveland is back in the NFL. Indianapolis has been a tremendous addition. All three cities have the stadiums they deserve.
Everything is so much better now, for all concerned, than it was on the night the Mayflowers rolled out. Thus, everybody should be happier. Whether you are happier or not, unburdening yourself of the venom for Irsay and Modell can raise your spirits even higher.
Unlike 25 years ago, it's not even snowing in Baltimore today. Consider it a sign from above to do the right thing.
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