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Case Number 10607: Small Claims Court

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NFL Films: Colts: The Complete History

Warner Bros. // 2006 // 341 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // January 11th, 2007

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger has experienced Colts love firsthand.

The Charge

With the first pick of the 1983 draft, the Baltimore Colts select…John Elway.

The Case

Philly fans love to boo. Oakland fans love to dress up like G.W.A.R. roadies and make lots (I mean lots) of noise in other team's stadiums. And Baltimore Colts fans love to whine about the night when their team left for the blue skies and yellow cornfields of Indiana.

Sure, it's traumatic to have your team pack up and head out like ghosts into the night. But seriously, don't you think Baltimore shoulders a little of the blame by playing hardball and threatening to seize the Colt's physical assets under the guise of eminent domain? Irsay didn't want to hastily accept an offer and pack up in the dead of night. And shouldn't Indianapolis fans be rightly proud of their team, which scraped through years of failure to build the NFL's most dominant offense? There are two sides to every story…and this DVD set by NFL Films has two DVDs in it, not one.

If you're unfamiliar with these DVD sets, you're in for a treat. Made by NFL Films and distributed by Warner Bros., these exhaustive documentaries cover the storied past of each franchise from endzone to endzone. Each team has its own dramas and traumas to highlight, but the Colts arguably have the most interesting history in the NFL. Let's look at a little of the history covered (and not covered) in this set.

Beginning with the Miami Seahawks (how's that for irony?) and ending with the Peyton Manning era, Colts: The Complete History steps us through the coaches and players that made up the team (or teams, if you're a Baltimore fan) over the years. The key games are highlighted with enough care to build excitement for what was on the line and why the games were special. The old school era gives us "The Greatest Game Ever Played" (1958 NFL Championship), a dead heat between the Colts and Giants that ended in Colts triumph when Johnny Unitas engineered an 80-yard touchdown drive in the NFL's first overtime game.
Recent exciting games are featured too, such as "The Monday Night Miracle" in 2003. When Ronde Barber's interception and touchdown put Indy in a 35-14 hole with 5 minutes left, they came back to win in overtime. This is Colts football, captured with piercing intensity in a documentary that will be fan nirvana for Colts followers.

Older footage brings home just how much the game has changed over the years. Those ancient games were raw; slower but more brutal. Today's fast-paced, strategic gameplans create a more dizzying spectacle, but we're shielded from the guts that got the NFL to this point. Football is the star, of course, but these documentaries also delve deep into the social, emotional, and personal stories. The six hours worth of footage and features on these two discs bring home Colts football in all its majesty and pain.

If you are a fan, either of the Baltimore Colts or the Indianapolis Colts, you're going to find a lot to like and a lot that will make you mad. With that in mind, I'd like to spare some words in support of the Indianapolis Colts, which seem to be getting the short end of the stick in the reviews I've read of this set.

When I moved to Indiana in 1997, I worked 3rd shift in the Subaru-Isuzu plant on the maintenance crew. At that time, despite Marshall Faulk's dominance on the turf, the Colts were the doormat of the NFL. They had back-to-back 3-13 seasons. Faulk wanted out, and they let him go for a song in one of the most lopsided trades in the history of the NFL.

As a Miami Dolphins fan by heritage (hey, we got some of the Shula magic too!) I was neutral towards the Colts. But during those years of shame and frustrated talent, Indiana was nothing but positive about their team. The Colts radio network waxed enthusiastic about Irsay, Polian, and the team. Despite those dismal seasons, Indiana never gave up on the Colts. The Colts never gave up, either.

When the Dolphins came to town late in the 1997 season, my wife and I were there. I asked one of the maintenance crew (a guy who had painted his white hardhat to resemble a Colts helmet) for tips on where to sit and how to park. He enthusiastically gave me his best advice, including an admonition to drink a Blue Cup. Out of mild guilt, I confessed that I was a Miami fan. "F-ing fish fan!" he said, and the conversation was over. I thought he was going to beat me down right there.

Now Miami was a shoe-in for the playoffs, while the Colts were already eliminated. They had nothing but pride to play for. I didn't care about that. I only cared that I was finally going to see Dan Marino live.

What happened next was indescribable. The beleaguered Colts throttled Miami 41-0. It was Dan's second worst game of his career and one of the NFL's biggest all-time point deficits. That's when I got a clue that the Colts were not to be underestimated. The next day, Horseshoe Hardhat Guy and I met amid showers of sparks from the welding robots. "Nice game," I said. He smirked and asked if I wanted to play a game of Euchre. We were cool.

What happened later is history. The Colts stunned the world by passing up Ricky Williams for Edgerrin James, then went on to dominate their conference for years (in regular season play, that is.) Manning and Harrison are still putting on a clinic years later. So Baltimore fans, rest easy. Your beloved Colts are still great, and Indiana loves them.

But is Colts: The Complete History really a complete history? Well, it makes no mention of this little incident, culled from Judge Keefer's review of the Broncos DVD:
Now, this next part is where I lose a fair portion of my objectivity. In 1983, a guy named John Elway, who was being closely mentored by his father, was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Baltimore Colts. The Colts to that point (like the Broncos) had been dealing with futile circumstances, the Colts more so. So for whatever reason, Elway chose to refuse to sign a contract with the Colts if he was picked by them, and started to drop the possibility of playing for the New York Yankees, as he was an accomplished baseball player. So the Colts caved, and traded the crybaby, er, prospect, to Denver for some players and future draft picks. I mean seriously, if we're going to vilify today's athlete for wanting to play for a different team other than the one he was chosen to play for initially, let's not forget that ole' horseface did the same frickin' thing 20 years ago, and no one seems to give him the grief that others get.

Omissions aside, between the two discs of Colts documentaries and the copious extras, Colts: The Complete History is an exciting, history-packed set featuring some of the best players to ever play the game. It is highly recommended for Colts fans of any era.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 91

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 341 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Sports

Distinguishing Marks

• NFL's Greatest Games: 1958 championship
• Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, Mike Curtis, 1967 Colts, Memorial Stadium, John Mackey, "Big Daddy" Lipscomb, Jim Parker, Jimmy Orr
• The Monday Night Miracle
• Peyton Manning: In Their Own Words
• Jim Mora
• Dwight Freeney's Football Lesson
• 2005 Colts vs. Rams: Manning and Harrison break the all-time touchdown record

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