The Baltimore Colts' Band will take a nostalgic journey on Sunday.
For the first time since the Colts left Baltimore in 1984, the disenfranchised marching unit will appear on the same field with the team. The not-so-joyful reunion will take place at Buffalo's Rich Stadium during the Bills-Indianapolis Colts game.
In a halftime performance titled "Circus of Clowns," the band will show it hasn't lost its touch after all these years. The opening number will be "Pagliacci," an Italian opera piece about a sad clown. The second number will be "Send in the Clowns."
An Indianapolis spokesman said yesterday that Colts owner Robert Irsay is expected to attend the game. Jim Irsay, Colts general manager, was unavailable to comment.
The Bills, meanwhile, can't wait.
"We're looking forward to it," said Tim Maloney, special events director for the Bills. "If it distracts the Indianapolis Colts and helps us win the game, we're more than happy to accept that."
Maloney denied the appearance of the band has any connection to the Colts' off-season signing of Buffalo Pro Bowl tackle Will Wolford. The Colts were able to sign Wolford last off-season with a signing-sheet offer that guaranteed he would be the highest-paid offensive player on the team. The Bills, with quarterback Jim Kelly and running back Thurman Thomas, were unwilling to match the offer and lost Wolford.
John Ziemann, president of the band, said he was asked by the Bills two weeks ago about appearing at Sunday's game. The performance will be the 30th given by the band since the Colts moved to Indianapolis for the 1984 season. Of the band's 160-member entourage, Ziemann said 18 are holdovers from the Colts' last year here.
He also said the band will carry a Buffalo Bills flag, along with a flag commemorating the three world championships won by the Colts in Baltimore.
"As always, we'll leave the field playing the Baltimore Colts fight song," Ziemann said. "We're not changing that."
In another twist, the band will have a Mayflower van at its disposal for the 10-hour trip to Buffalo. Since 1984, Mayflower, the company that moved the Colts to Indianapolis, has donated a truck and driver to transport band equipment.
Maloney said he does not expect the band will have any problems with the Bills fans, despite its Colts affiliation. The band played in Buffalo for a game with the New England Patriots a year ago.
"The fans remember them from last year," Maloney said. "They are great representatives for your city. They're a delight to work with."
Ziemann said he expects to have some flashbacks Sunday, but will adopt a business-only approach. "They're up there to do a job, and we're up there to do a job," he said. "We want to show we can coexist with them."
Ziemann said the band has come close to playing at a Colts game at least twice. The last time was 1987, when they were scratched from a game in Pittsburgh because of a players strike.
Describing his band as ambassadors in the bid to bring the NFL back to Baltimore, Ziemann said the group will continue to perform even if the city is unsuccessful in winning an expansion team on Nov. 30.
"We're not going to take that tradition and throw it away," he said.
Asked who he'll be rooting for Sunday, Ziemann didn't hesitate. "The Bills," he said.