But the driving force behind the shift has been the Colts. The Super Bowl trophy and those 14-win seasons don't hurt. But more than anything, it's the values the team expresses. It's the stable roster. It's the absence of much off-field drama. (Bear in mind, the Bengals are barely 100 miles down the road.) It's the unheralded touches, such as the team's hiring of Josh Bleill, an Indiana native who lost his legs fighting in Iraq, to be a community liaison. "People here really respond to the quality of the organization," says Peterson, the former mayor. "Quality doesn't just mean wins and losses."
Straitlaced Indiana has even come to appreciate the owner's idiosyncrasies. When the Colts won Super Bowl XLI, Irsay wanted to reward fans for their loyalty. He seized on an idea. He had five additional rings made, then dressed up as a benevolent despot—"a combination of Willie Wonka and Elton John," Irsay says—and led an elaborate treasure hunt, the Quest for the Ring, around downtown Indianapolis. There's your innocence and magic. The fans ate it up. "I knew the reputation of the father, so I didn't necessarily think it would be this way. But I admire Jim and respect him, and I also like him," says Peterson, "and I think most people feel that way."
Even in Baltimore the scars have started to heal, at least in some precincts. "I think there's still resentment," says Stan White, now a Maryland lawyer and Ravens radio broadcaster. "We feel like our heritage was taken. Johnny Unitas listed under Indianapolis? Come on. But at the same time, we root for Jimmy to be successful. Jimmy didn't move the team. There's a lot of respect and love there."
If nothing else, Irsay no longer needs to keep that gun in his desk drawer. "But I do have these," he says. With that, the owner of the best team in the NFL reaches around the surface of his desk and gathers an array of candles. "They're very relaxing, you know."
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For more on Colts owner Jim Irsay from L. Jon Wertheim, go to SI.com/nfl