Allegany Communications Sports­­

When you’re not a Dallas Cowboys fan, whenever you have to root for the Cowboys, they lose, as they did on Sunday when Baltimore Ravens fans were rooting for them to beat the Miami Dolphins, which, of course, they did not do.

The Dolphins’ 22-20 win over Dallas, coupled with the Ravens’ Monday night win over San Francisco, set up a showdown in Baltimore on Sunday between the Ravens, the top team in the AFC, and the Dolphins, the No. 2 team in the AFC, with Baltimore currently holding a one-game advantage for the top seed with one game to follow.

Sunday will mark the first time since Dec. 14, 1975 for a Baltimore team to host a regular-season game against the Dolphins with so much on the line, as a 31‐yard field goal by former Austrian soccer star Toni Linhart, at 12:44 into the overtime, lifted the Miracle Baltimore Colts to a 10-7 win and into a tie with the Dolphins for first place of the AFC East, which the Colts clinched the following week with a win over the New England Patriots.

The Colts-Dolphins rivalry in those days was real, as former Colts head coach Don Shula had left Baltimore one season after the 1969 Super Bowl III debacle to build his long-running empire in Miami with the Dolphins.

Baltimore, of course, holds a grudge, and it took decades for Charm City and Shula to kiss and finally make up; though, in fairness, Shula didn’t leave because of Baltimore — he loved Baltimore. Shula left Baltimore because then-Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom hated Shula’s guts (as did John Unitas) for losing to the Jets in Super Bowl III, on which Rosenbloom, a known high-stakes gambler, had lost a ton of money wagering on his Colts.

(Unitas didn’t hate Shula because of Super Bowl III, by the way. He just never liked him.)

During Shula’s second season in Miami, on Dec. 11, 1971, the defending Super Bowl champion Colts hosted the Dolphins at Memorial Stadium for first place of the AFC East.

In the middle of the game, which the Colts would win, 14-3, an inebriated fan (a least we hoped he was inebriated) ran onto the field and picked up the football that had been placed on the line of scrimmage by officials, and then ran around the field with it, laughing, waving and just having the time of this life until his life very nearly came to an end.

Not one of the young man’s ambitions that December late afternoon played particularly well with the Colts’ great middle linebacker Mike Curtis, who, upon viewing what was taking place on his “place of business,” dashed toward the fan and leveled him with his chest, separating the drunken fan from his hat, his glasses and the football, before he was pulled from the ground and led from the field by Baltimore City Police.

Curtis would explain after the game that he had no intention of knocking the guy out, which he did not, but that he was merely enforcing “a city ordinance,” adding that he doesn’t invade the interloper’s “place of business” while he’s trying to do his job, so why should he intrude upon Curtis’ place of business while he’s trying to do his job?

Video clips of the incident live on, endearing Curtis to generations of fans who never saw him play, and it’s a pity they didn’t. Mike Curtis, nicknamed “Mad Dog,” used power, speed, intensity and toughness to make four Pro Bowls in 11 seasons for the Colts. His interception with a little more than a minute remaining in Super Bowl V set up Jim O’Brien’s 32-yard-field goal to beat the Cowboys on the final play of the game.

Curtis was just so great and should have been in the Hall of Fame right there with his peers, Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke, long ago.

He graduated from Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, and then Duke University, where he earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors as a fullback in 1962 and 1964 and threw the javelin, earning Academic All-American honors, majoring in history.

The Colts drafted him in the first round, 14th overall in 1965, and he was moved by head coach Shula after a year at fullback to outside linebacker, before moving to middle linebacker and becoming one of the greatest of all time, taking his job very seriously every step along the way.

Several years ago, friends and I attended a 1975-77 Baltimore Colts reunion at Martin’s West, and Mike Curtis was one of the many former Colts who attended. While it was wonderful to see him and all of his Colts teammates, he didn’t seem like his old self that day and, as it turned out, he had struggled with memory loss in his later life. Upon his death in 2020, his family donated his brain to the Brain Injury Research Institute to aid doctors investigating chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

It was so great, so exhilarating, so bittersweet being a Baltimore Colts fan in the day. Every one of us in the state of Maryland loved those Colts and those Colts players; and every one of those Colts players loved us, too.

Mike Curtis was one of the greatest football players who ever lived. Shame on the Pro Football Hall of Fame for having never accorded him the recognition he deserved.

I believe the inebriated interloper, who continues to receive his 15 minutes of fame all of these years later because of Mike Curtis, would agree with that as well.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT