If you look back at the Baltimore Colts, their last few seasons, especially in the early 1980s, up until 1984, when they relocated to Indianapolis, it was very dark very gloomy. The team was bad and they weren’t drawing, playing in an aging stadium, that was basically designed for baseball, where the Orioles play. Playing in a rough area in North Baltimore. I know, I went to Orioles games there and went to a Stallions game there as well. Like the stadium, as far as watching games there.
But Baltimore Memorial Stadium, it wasn’t the right stadium for NFL football, as far as allowing a franchise to be profitable there. By 1984 when the Colts left, there were probably more reasons to not go to a Colts game, then there were reasons to go to a Colts game, to the point, that this is also an interesting story and I won’t go very far into it but the Colts actually drafted John Elway in 1983. Elway being the smart guy from Stanford that he is, knew that the Colts by this point were one of the worst franchises in the NFL. Decided that he didn’t want to be part of a long-term rebuilding project, especially for a team that might be relocating and told the Colts he wouldn’t play for them.
The Colts traded John Elway to the Denver Broncos in 1983. Dan Reeves the Broncos head coach/general manager ends up getting a steal in this trade. The most talented QB in the NFL, on a team that was already a playoff contender, but as it so happens, the Broncos end up playing the Colts at Baltimore Memorial Stadium, week 1 of the 1983 NFL Season. Baseball is still going on at this point, the Orioles are still playing, so the football field, half of it is dirt, for the baseball field. (The other half is dirt for the football field also, ha ha)
Week 1 in Baltimore in September and in Maryland at this point it’s still summer time, a very hot humid day in Baltimore, temperature in the 90s, plus add-on the humidity very common late Maryland summer weather and the Colts take their frustration out on John Elway, beat up the rookie QB, the whole game, pounding him into the hot dirt field the whole game. This one game in 1983 against the Broncos, sums up the state of the Colts at this point. After the Colts leave Baltimore in 1983, Baltimore football fans, had one goal and one mission at this point and only one mission.
Was to land another NFL franchise, to prove to the NFL they can support an NFL franchise, even if that means building a new stadium, which is what you see in the beautiful Ravens Stadium, that opened in 1998. Which is how they got the Baltimore Stars of the United States Football League and won the USFL Championship in 1985. With players like running back Kelvin Bryant who ended up playing for the Washington Redskins, how they were able to get NFL preseason games and draw big crowds for all of those games.
In the early 1990s, how they got so close to landing an NFL expansion franchise in 1993, with a plan for a new stadium. How they landed the Baltimore Stallions of the CFL in 1994 and won the Eastern Conference Championship in 1994 and the Grey Cup in 1995. And how they landed the Cleveland Browns in 1995 over to Baltimore for the start of the 1996 season and of course they became the Ravens.
If you want something bad enough, you basically have to do anything (you know that’s legal and perhaps within in other limits) to get what you want, to show whoever you have to prove to, that you are not only willing, but able to support whatever transaction you are trying to land. Thats how Baltimore and the State of Maryland felt about pro football, they were pissed off over losing the Colts and decided to use that anger to get the Ravens.
ESPN Films: The Band That Wouldn’t Die