Super Bowl XLVII and the legacy of Baltimore football

By Claire Tamberino

It’s a good time to be in Baltimore. It’s an even better time to be in New Orleans, where the Baltimore Ravens will face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl whatever (sorry, I never did get the hang of Roman numerals). I can imagine that the French Quarter is teeming with die-hard fans of both teams (I’d bet there’s more purple and black on the streets, though, than red and gold). Celebrities and corporate execs are jetting in to the Big Easy for all of the pre-game festivities, and television networks and sports journalists are busy playing up what has got to be one of the more heavily story-lined Super Bowls: brother vs. brother in The Harbowl; the retirement of Ray Lewis, arguably the best linebacker to play the game; and the outstanding play of rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick (Sunday’s game will be only his tenth NFL start).

Back in Baltimore, where we bleed purple, the city is buzzing with excitement. We erupted from bars and restaurants and living rooms to celebrate on the streets when the Ravens beat the New York Giants in the Super Bowl back in 2000, and we’re primed to do it again on Sunday. And on this purplest of Purple Fridays, Baltimoreans are proudly sporting their best Ravens garb, gearing up for a party weekend only to be rivaled by the one raging right now in NOLA.

But we have to remember that the Ravens aren’t Baltimore’s only football team. Before the recently deceased Art Modell brought his then Cleveland Browns to town in 1996, Baltimore was still mourning the loss of the Colts to Indianapolis. Many are still not over that fateful night when Colts owner Robert Irsay spirited the team away from Baltimore and its legions of faithful and loyal fans, who were left heartbroken by the move. It was the end of an era. But what an era it was: cheerleaders and marching bands and Johnny Unitas. While there are many great Colts legends, they will always be remembered for The Greatest Game Ever Played, when they defeated the New York Giants in the championship game in 1958 in suddenolesker death overtime. It was a magical game, a magical team, and a magical time in Baltimore. And one that you can read more about in Michael Olesker’s nostalgic reminiscence, The Colts’ Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s, published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

For more on the Ravens, just tune in to the Super Bowl on Sunday.