An NFL Team Is Smuggled Across State Borders Like a Shipment of Cocaine
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In 1984, Baltimore Colts owner Robert Irsay was considering the unthinkable: voluntarily moving to Indianapolis. For years, Baltimore had refused to build a new stadium, and Indianapolis had pre-emptively built an entire freaking dome in the hopes of attracting an NFL team that wasn't turned off by the stench of desperation. Add in a growing economy and one of the nation's largest populations of bored white people, and the move seemed like a can't-miss business proposition. But it was still Indianapolis, so Irsay decided to field offers from other, warmer, less Indianapol-ish cities, such as Phoenix.
Like an inattentive boyfriend who finds himself on the verge of being dumped, Baltimore saw Irsay making eyes across state lines and promised to think about changing for him. When that didn't work, the city promptly switched into "you can't leave me, bitch, I won't let you" mode.
Foreshadowing the grit and shameless corruption that would one day make The Wire politicians like Clay Davis such compelling TV characters, the Maryland state legislature and the city of Baltimore decided to take control of the Colts by force, using an obscure law called eminent domain (which roughly translates to "Finders keepers, but we're the government so you can't laugh at us for saying that"). As the state legislature prepared to transfer ownership of the Colts to the city, Irsay could only call a press conference to futilely exclaim, "It's my damn team." And then he remembered who the rich white guy was around here and put a plan into action that the con men from The Sting would call "a little much."
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It's amazing he had time for any scheming, what with the daily airbrushing sessions.
First he called Phoenix and told them they could have the Colts if they agreed to his terms immediately because he was planning to move his entire company out of Baltimore that night. Phoenix withdrew from consideration, presumably under the rationale that they didn't make split-second decisions like that, as they weren't cocaine dealers. Indianapolis might have had similar reservations had they not been so focused on not shooting in their pants when they heard Irsay's voice on the other end of the phone.