The Town of Bel Air Film Festival literally and figuratively ‘kicked off’ Friday night with the showing of Barry Levinson’s documentary “The Band That Wouldn’t Die” playing to a half-filled Reckord Armory.
The film deals with the Baltimore Colts’ Marching Band and how they continued to March and play and perform throughout the NFL despite the loss of our beloved Colts, and ultimately played a key role in Baltimore getting another NFL team.
As the film begins the aching hearts among the faithful in the audience was evident. The Mayflower moving vans creeping through the snowy night, the ‘estimator’ for the moving company being told to maintain secrecy as he determined how many vans it would take to clear every speck of the Colts out of Owings Mills.
As luck would have it only the marching bands uniforms were spared since they were not at the Colts’ complex but at the dry-cleaners nearby.
Without getting into the details of the film, which are handled deftly by the Academy Award winning Levinson, suffice it to say the Irsays come off as the total assholes they always have been. The drunken owner, Bob Irsay, boozed up and obnoxious as a dead mule that’s been baking in the sun for a week, bullies then governor William Donald Schaefer at a press conference as he lies about moving the team.
His son, Jim Irsay is just as repulsive, in his comments about the situation and its outcome.
As the film unfolds there are many clips of the facade of the home of the Colts glory days, Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street, and that’s a sore subject as well, because when the stadium was demolished, which was progress, the facade honoring those who defended and died for our country was torn down too, making the death of a team final in Baltimore.
The film chronicles the Colts’ band continuing to play and remain united even after the team they loved so much was long gone. They played the famed Dundalk Fourth of July parade and other events wherever they could, just to keep the memory of the Colts and the unity of the band.
They asked other teams if they needed a band and so it came to be that the Modell’s who owned the Cleveland Browns took themn up on the offer….‘Because they were cheap!’ commented Art Modell.
So it was that the team who put the NFL on the map, with the ‘Greatest Game Ever Played’ in 1958 was the team stolen away in the night by a lying bastard. Governor Schaefer and the Modells come in the film as well they should, as decent men of honor.
Sadly, for me, the entire Colts theme song was not in the film, albeit snippets are laced throughout. For me, those many Sundays in Section 41 Upper Deck were never without that rousing opening from the Colts band at every game, bringing everyone in that old, concrete and steel stadium to their feet. The wins and loses and devotion of the team and fans has not been equalled yet, even with the great devotion the city has for the Ravens.
The Colts band transitioned to the Ravens band in a seamless effort that endures to this day.
“The Colts left by the cover of darkness…The Colts Band proceeded by the light of day.” is the motto and creed of the band that wouldn’t die according to John Ziemann, the longtime band director, who fielded questions following the showing.
The film depicts the story of a group of ordinary citizens, volunteers in the Baltimore Colts’ Marching Band, who kept the spirit of professional football alive in Baltimore after the franchise moved to Indianapolis in 1984. Perhaps even more extraordinary, when owner Art Modell created the Baltimore Ravens franchise in 1996, the Modell family fully embraced the city’s great football tradition. To this day, under new owner Steve Bisciotti, the team and M&T Bank finance the renewed Baltimore’s Marching Ravens.
“We have always been grateful that the Ravens’ ownership and management understand our passion and have made it possible for us to support our team,” said longtime band director John Ziemann. “To have Barry Levinson chose to make this film – a great filmmaker and a fellow fan – is a dream come true. The fact that he is taking the time to host this premiere in person is beyond wonderful.”