Saturday, February 10, 2007

America's Game: The 1970 Baltimore Colts

The NFL Network premiered a new one-hour installment of it's continuing series "America's Game", which tells the story of Super Bowl Championship teams. Last night focused on the 1970 Baltimore Colts. Obviously, it's a story that's been told before, by NFL films, no less. This was by far the best film I've seen about that season, though. If you missed it and get a chance to see a rerun, do watch it. Clear your schedule, finally learn how to program that VCR, whatever it takes. :)

The footage itself was very well selected. It was sharper and had better color than even the half hour 1970 Super Bowl video aired after the game (I wasn't around to watch that when it first aired, but thanks to the NFL Network, I've actually seen it). Impressive, especially considering the years that have past. It also went into great depth, almost covering the season game by game.

Where this piece of television really stood out, though, is the storytelling angles. The way it weaved together the loss to the Jets in 1968 and Don Shula's departure with the move to the AFC after the merger with the Super Bowl victory in 1970 was a real strong suit of this show. One could feel the sense of the tragedy with the players years later talking about how they still just can't over losing the Namath's Jets in Super Bowl III, despite the ring in '70, despite some of them winning championships in years since, despite the passage of almost fourty years. It really gives those of us who didn't have the chance to live through it a sense of just how big Super Bowl III was, and an AFL team defeating an NFL team for the first time.

In a way, it strikes me that the whole Baltimore Colts franchise was a franchise that history will remember in a sense a tragic way, with that loss and the horrible surprise move to Indianapolis in the middle of the night. That's not to say it was all a tragedy by any means -- there was Johnny Unitas, the greatest QB ever to live, many great Hall of Famers, the greatest game ever played (the 1958 championship victory over the Giants), and just an incredible fan base and tradition. The NFL would not be what it is today without the Baltimore Colts. But there is that sense of a flame that burnt out before it's time. Like a beautiful love affair and a young marriage that ends in early renewed bachelorhood or widowhood. The memories are incredible, but tinged by a sense of bittersweet regret -- even for the next generation, that didn't live it, but wished they had been around for those glory, and not so glory, days.

The other thing about this film that was neat was the focus on Mike Curtis. He's a guy that my generation doesn't hear much about, because he isn't really a presence in Baltimore in the same way some of the other guys are. Before John Unitas' death, he lived in Maryland and attended Ravens home games. Tom Matte did color commentary on radio for the Baltimore Stallions (Canadian football) and then the Baltimore Ravens for ten years, and is still a radio talk show presence. Bruce Liard is doing color commentary today on the radio. Artie Donovan is, well, Artie Donovan. But Mike Curtis is a character we don't hear much about, and I give NFL Films all the credit in the world for tracking this guy down.

This film is worth watching to hear Curtis alone. He was a great character. From tackling a fan who ran out onto the field, to his feud with Johnny Unitas (Curtis still is talking trash about him) to a million other things. I think NFL films had the right angle there, too. Kudos.

1 comment:

triv said...

I liked the 1970 Colts because they seemed to be the team that won the Super Bowl and lost at the same time. Very fascinating. I felt like as if it was the Missing Rings of the 1968 Baltimore Colts.