When the Mayflower vans rolled out of town in the middle of a snowy night in late March of 1984, Baltimore lost a piece of its sporting soul.
The Colts were gone and on their way to Indianapolis. But what happened next?
Where did fans turn to get their football fix after having their team ripped away from them? How did the Colts players feel about the move? Many were fixtures in the local community. They had other jobs. How did their lives change? How did those players and fans feel when the Browns rolled into town in 1996 and later became the Ravens?
In the upcoming documentary, "Ghosts of 33rd Street," Maryland filmmaker Troy Lowman hopes to answer those questions, bridging the 12-year gap between the Colts' departure and the Ravens' arrival.
"If we do it the correct way, if we do it the way I want to do it, it will be cathartic to those people that had that gap [in their lives] and were desperate for a team," Lowman said.
The film is still in the early stages of production. If all goes according to plan, it will be approximately 90 minutes and released sometime in the spring.
"It's the journey of losing a team and the final redemption of getting a new team," Lowman said. "I think Baltimore loves the Ravens a little more than some cities love their football teams because of that. They had a team ripped out, and one eventually came back. So, they hold them a little dearer to their heart."
The 55-year-old Lowman, who grew up as a Washington Redskins fan on the Eastern Shore, has long wanted to dive into what he described as a prolonged purgatory for Baltimore sports. But the idea for this project didn't really gain traction until he started chatting with former Ravens offensive lineman Wally Williams at a Super Bowl party in early February.
Williams, who will narrate the documentary, provided a treasure trove of stories and connections to the past as a former Browns player who moved with the team from Cleveland to Baltimore.
"It was chaos every day -- in practice, before you went to practice, chaos before games," Williams said. "[In Cleveland], you saw a city that was very upset. I would say that a lot of players were very upset, as well."
The documentary will draw parallels between the Browns' move to Baltimore and the Colts' move to Indianapolis. It will feature stories and testimonials from former Colts players, such as Tom Matte, Lenny Moore and Bruce Laird, and fans of the team. Lowman is also hoping to interview original Ravens, like Vinny Testaverde and Tony Jones, for the project.
"Ghosts of 33rd Street" will also take a hard look at the role the city of Baltimore played in the Colts' departure.
"The Colts could have stayed 10 different ways," Lowman said. "It was the combination of a volatile owner [Robert Irsay] and a city that sleepwalked through negotiations."
The film will also ask and attempt to answer questions: What if John Elway had decided to play for the Colts? Would the team have still moved? What if Baltimore had been awarded an expansion franchise by the NFL in 1993? What would have become of the Cleveland Browns? Would they have still moved?
"It's a Baltimore story, but I think it will resonate with anybody who lives in a city where a team was ripped out," Lowman said. "The Rams in L.A. and St. Louis, the Raiders, the Sonics in Seattle. We are going to talk about the economics of it and how the psyche of the town changes."
Lowman is a former stockbroker who has gotten into filmmaking during the past four years. He is the CEO of the Miami-based media and entertainment company, SNM Global Holdings, and the owner of a spinoff company,
BullittPoint Productions, which produces documentaries, shorts and feature-length films.
"Ghosts of 33rd Street" is one of three Maryland-themed documentaries that BullittPoint currently has in production. There is one on the Eastern Shore and another on online dating.
Lowman feels the football film will resonate with audiences young and old.
"It's an important story to be told," he said.
"If I do this right, old Colts fans will say, 'Yeah, he got that right.' And newer Ravens fans will be like, 'Wow! I did not know that. Now I know that we had a legacy before 1996.' If those two things happen, I will feel like I have done my job."
Note: BullittPoint Productions is looking to speak with Baltimore Colts fans for its "Ghosts of 33rd Street" documentary. Anyone interested in participating or with something of interest to share should leave a direct message on the "Ghosts of 33rd Street" Facebook page at facebook.com/GhostsOf33rdStreet.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Troy Lowman/BullittPoint Productions
Issue 249: November 2018
Originally published Nov. 15, 2018