Let's be honest: The title of this book should be 100 Things INDIANAPOLIS Colts Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.
See, anytime a writer tries to structure a list, he'll hear arguments. Ranking this thing ahead of that person or marking one event as more important than another will leave some readers howling — especially if said howler is a sports fan.
And believe me, I know: When it comes to the Colts, ranking anyone named Irsay ahead of anyone named Unitas is going to have partisans of the Baltimore iteration of this team hopping mad. John Unitas winds up third, Peyton Manning is second and Jim Irsay takes the top spot in Indy Star reporter Phillip B. Wilson's nearly-complete take on what a fan should know about the hometown Horseshoes.
Like Wilson, I'm a Baltimore native. Unlike Wilson, I was still a Baltimore resident when a power struggle between Robert Irsay and the entire state of Maryland ended when a fleet of Mayflower trucks moved the Colts from Charm City to the Circle City in March of 1984.
I know people in my old hometown who can't stand the Colts to this very day. I know people who had parties when Robert Irsay died.
But for a fan of the Indy version of the Blue and White, the book is satisfying. It's all here: the Harbaugh-at-QB era, Bill Polian and Company drafting Manning over Ryan Leaf, the AFC title game comeback against the hated New England Patriots, the Super Bowl win and Manning's legacy leading to the structure named Lucas Oil Stadium.
The grim bits are included, too — everything from Coach Jim Mora's "Playoffs?" post-game press conference meltdown to the tragic passing of Tony Dungy's son. But what a true fan of the franchise will ultimately enjoy the most is when Wilson's able to dig a little deeper.
Some prime examples:
Peyton Manning 's practical jokes are the stuff of legend. Only a guy with Manning's stature could pull off stealing a teammate's vehicle, parking it at midfield at the Colts' camp facility in Anderson and covering it in Saran Wrap without fear of reprisal.
Marshall Faulk was soundly disliked by his offensive line. Running back Faulk and player-turned-radio-personality Joe Staysniak had a confrontation in the middle of a game — one that Staynsiak refused to apologize for.
Bill Belichick, before becoming the NFL's version of a Sith Lord in a dirty hoodie as head coach of the Pats, started out on the Baltimore Colts' staff scouting opponents for the princely salary of 25 bucks a week and a free room at Howard Johnson's.
Although the Baltimore era gets its due, there are some omissions:
The ESPN documentary called The Band That Wouldn't Die (about the Colts' pep band that stayed together even when Baltimore was without a team) has its mentions but the story therein is left aside.
The rabidity of Colts fans in Maryland is best summed up in a scene in Barry Levinson's film Diner, in which a groom-to-be quizzes his potential spouse on her knowledge of the team before agreeing to the wedding.
The most fascinating takeaway here, however, is that despite all his Tweeting weirdness, current owner Jim Irsay comes off as an eccentric genius and all-around good guy. Jim, simply put, took the Colts from punchline to powerhouse. His dad will ever remain the true villain of the piece — a temperamental tycoon prone to alcohol-induced ravings and little desire to learn about the sport itself.
Bob Irsay put a terrible product on the field for the fans that came to a Hoosier Dome that was so silent it felt like a library in the 1980s. The younger Irsay — who often had to apologize for his father's behavior — worked his way from ball-boy to the front office, ultimately creating one the most successful sports franchises of the first decade of the 21st century.