For Irsay, Second Super Bowl Shot Is Icing on the Cake
"This is really big for us. But at the same time I can definitely say this, from a personal point of view, having won one, you're somewhat playing with the house's money," Irsay said during the Colts' Media Day session at Sun Life Stadium. "Because you know that you have that world championship, that no one can ever take that away from you."
Irsay's team will get its second shot at an NFL world championship on Sunday in Super Bowl XLIV against the New Orleans Saints, at the same stadium that played host to the Colts' first title victory: Super Bowl XLI over the Chicago Bears at the former Joe Robbie Stadium/Pro Player Park/Pro Player Stadium/Dolphins Park/Dolphins Stadium/Dolphin Stadium and -- most recently -- Land Shark Stadium.
Irsay, 50, is one of the NFL's most charismatic and interesting owners. He owns 100 percent of the franchise, a rarity in a league now filled with multiple minority owners within clubs. His father, the late Robert Irsay, bought the Baltimore Colts when Jim was 12 and he was part of the controversial move to Indianapolis a dozen years later. At that time, Robert Irsay named his son the Indianapolis Colts general manager at the age of 24.
Jim Irsay became the NFL's youngest owner in 1997 at age 37, when his father died, but not without a fight -- he prevailed in a court battle with his stepmother over Robert Irsay's assets and control of the Colts' franchise.
He's also revealed a weakness. In 2002, Irsay admitted publicly that he had sought treatment for an addiction to prescription painkillers. He also admitted in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine that his father's addiction of choice -- alcohol -- affected the Colts' franchise and may have even influenced the sudden, now infamous, nighttime move from Baltimore to Indianapolis.
Irsay told Rolling Stone, "I love the game and the team, and I was always trying to win it, but dad was a wild card."
With his eclectic tastes -- Irsay owns original guitars played by Elvis Presley, Jerry Garcia and George Harrison, as well as the original, taped manuscript scroll of Jack Kerouac's On the Road -- the Colts owner is one of the NFL's most influential voices.
Passionate about winning and about his players, Irsay is keenly aware of what a second Super Bowl championship would mean to the Indianapolis Colts' legacy as one of the NFL's great franchises.
"There is no question the importance of what this means to us. The legacy, in terms of getting a second one and being able to be a two-time world champion and separate yourself from some other franchises that have won one," Irsay said. "It's a big thing, and also for some of your players who are going to be considered for the Hall of Fame when their careers are done. The Robert Mathis's, the Reggie Wayne's, when you're a two-time winner, it's something that means a lot.
"I felt the crush and the intensity of playing in that Bears game (Feb. 4, 2007 at then-Dolphin Stadium) for that three-and-a-half-hour period, about how tough that would have been not winning that game. And knowing for people like (general manager) Bill Polian, Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy, guys who had so much success in this league but hadn't won one, that meant a lot to me, for them.
"At the time, being a 47-year-old owner, God willing, I figured if I live as long as (Buffalo Bills owner) Ralph Wilson, I'd have another 45 years at it. But at the same time, no question that you want to take advantage of the opportunity while you have it.
Just getting to the Super Bowl stage is so difficult, Irsay said, that if a team reaches this pinnacle, anything short of a victory is unbearable.
"Winning the world championship is what it's about and I've said it before, you scratch and claw to 100 feet from the top of Mount Everest, and you know only one person is going to make it and the other is going to fall down to the bottom," Irsay said. "It's something for us, that means a lot to get that second world championship, no doubt about it.
"But having that first one in the bank, that takes some pressure off, I guarantee that."