Some thoughts on the second "30 for 30" film coming up just as soon as I take your truck for a walk...
Of the four "30 for 30"s I got to see in advance, "The Band That Wouldn't Die" was either my favorite or second favorite (after "Muhammad and Larry"). If you've watched "Diner," or ESPN's recent documentary about the legendary Giants-Colts NFL championship game, you know that the Baltimore Colts are very near and dear to the heart of Barry Levinson(*), and that passion was palpable throughout this movie.
(*) Also, an episode of the Levinson-produced "Homicide: Life on the Street" once opened with the characters being introduced on the field at a game for Baltimore's ignominious CFL franchise. As I recall, Stan Bolander had some choice words to say about Canadian football that several figures in this film would agree with.
As I wrote in my column about the series last week, there are certain bits of footage that remain astonishing no matter how many times you see them, and images of those Mayflower trucks trying to sneak out under cover of snow and darkness certainly qualify. But moving beyond the team's exit, and the general loathing that everyone in Baltimore felt for Robert Irsay - when even your son can only say that you had a hard life and drank too much because of it, you are not a warm and cuddly figure - we have this wonderful, insane, sweet, possibly uplifting story of the Colts band staying together for over a decade after the Irsays skipped town, hoping they could in some way contribute to the arrival of a new team.
I have two issues with the film, neither of which may have been able to be helped. One is that, because it's told primarily from the point of view of the band and its members, it's never really clear how much they actually impacted the chain of events that led to the arrival of the Browns-cum-Ravens, or if this was just some noble tilting at windmills that had an unexpectedly good outcome(*). I'd like to think they really influenced the vote on the stadium funding, but the film doesn't really have any evidence of that, which leads to unfortunate issue #2: because Levinson has no footage of the band on the steps on that pivotal night, the emotional climax of the movie is accompanied by shots of empty streets leading up to the empty steps of the state legislature building. It couldn't be helped if there was no footage (did no news crews come to film the run-up or aftermath of the vote?), but what should have been the film's high point instead felt a little flat.
NOTE: Several readers pointed out that there was news footage of the vote, which means my note-taking wasn't as thorough as it should have been. Mea culpa.
(*) When I wrote in that column that this is the only one of the first four films with a happy ending, some Cleveland Browns rightfully called me on that, and even some Baltimore fans said that this wasn't the ending the city would have preferred - they'd have rather gotten an expansion team instead of stealing another town's team the way theirs was stolen. And that's fair. But Baltimore got a team - one that turned out to be pretty great - Cleveland got a version of the Browns, if not the continuity, and compared to what's going to come in "Muhammad and Larry," this is damn uplifting.
What did everybody else think?