There are stories about young Jimmy having a good deal of fun with his football friends on road trips once he was old enough to drive, stories of a young man experiencing the world. "I can't tell you the stories," Laird says. "But just safely say that he was like any young man living the dream and getting out there. He wasn't an angel by any stretch of the imagination, but he was just a great guy who hung around and tried to be part of us, and we accepted him as that."
Dallas County records show that while Irsay was in Texas as SMU, he was charged with driving while intoxicated in 1979 but was found not guilty by a judge. He became the Colts general manager at 24, following orders from a dad who'd often change them midstream.
Jim Irsay would later joke that his father fired him numerous times. A common belief in the Colts organization was that if you needed something done, you had to get Bob Irsay before noon, before the cocktails started. Laird tells the story of a player who knew this, so during his contract negotiations, he and his agent kept stalling long into the afternoon. After the third day, Laird says, Irsay relented and said something to the effect of, "Just give him what he wants!"
If Bob was doing business in the afternoon, he was usually surly. And he often wouldn't remember what happened by the next day.
"Jim didn't like to talk about his father's shortcomings," says Ken Murray, a longtime football writer for The Baltimore Sun. "There were things like that that he regretted, and he definitely had a different way of approaching the business than Bob did.
"We never saw Jim conduct himself in public that way. Jim never went out on a drunken binge that people would see in public."
Possibly Bob's most well-documented drunken tirade came in January 1984, during an impromptu news conference at Baltimore-Washington International airport. The elder Irsay was shopping the team, and the media knew it. When confronted, Irsay angrily said, "I have no intentions of moving the god damn team."
He slurred his words and could barely open a door on his way to the news conference.
Gene Bednarz, Bob Irsay's old colleague, suspects that Bob's drinking escalated in the early 1950s, when he was negotiating a big contract with Caterpillar Inc. The folks he was trying to woo were heavy drinkers, Bednarz says.
Bob Irsay's son apparently drank heavily at one point too. He used to joke to friends that he'd spilled more alcohol than they'd ever drank. But he didn't want to be his father, and people close to him believe he hasn't had a drink in more than a decade.
He told this to his Twitter followers on Oct. 21, posting that he hadn't had a drink in 15 years. The time stamp on his tweet was 3:39 a.m., and he told his "naysayers" that he was working at the late hour. He also posted: "I do pray for you unhappy,s--- slingers...who wants to live on a planet with those who don't like themselves...we want happy, kind people"
Twitter, Irsay's critics say, is a way for the owner to gratify his ego. There's a picture on his page of Irsay in a white-and-blue suit with matching top hat and cane, arms stretched, standing on the 50-yard-line surrounded by his massive guitar collection.