Irsay Set for Colts' Return to Baltimore

The Associated Press
Monday, January 8, 2007; 7:50 PM

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jim Irsay has almost everything an NFL owner could want.

The Indianapolis Colts' All-Pro quarterback is still in his prime, two receivers are headed to the Pro Bowl and there's a budding star at running back. They've reached the playoffs seven times in eight years. The financial future looks equally bright: There's a new stadium under construction and an expanding season-ticket list.

Yes, Irsay has grown comfy in his Indianapolis digs.

But Irsay has one other wish _ that 23 years after the Colts' bitter move from Baltimore to Indy, some of the hard feelings it created would finally heal.

"We're talking about a long time ago, really a quarter-century ago," Irsay told The Associated Press on Monday. "That was another time, another place and another era."

Some Baltimore Colts fans may never forgive the Irsay family. And now they'll get another chance to vent their frustration with the Colts coming back to Baltimore to play the Ravens in a divisional playoff game Saturday.

The Irsay name has been hated and cursed for more than two decades by Baltimore fans.

They're still angry at the images of the infamous "midnight move," Mayflower vans pulling away from the team complex under the cover of darkness in March 1984.

At the time, Jim Irsay was a 20-something recent college graduate in the Colts front office who had little influence on his father, the team owner. Irsay called his dad his "own man," and acknowledged he only learned of the impending move the morning the Colts left town.

Why did it happen?

Irsay explains his late father didn't think the Colts could be competitive with an outdated stadium, and when the city refused to build a new one it threatened to keep the Colts by using eminent domain, potentially stripping Robert Irsay of ownership.

From Jim Irsay's perspective, if the city or state made any effort to extend an olive branch, he believes his father would have kept the team in Baltimore. Instead, Robert Irsay wouldn't risk losing his team.

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