It has been 20 years since the Baltimore Colts' Jim O'Brien kicked a last-minute field goal that brought the city its last world football championship, in Super Bowl V.
Much has changed since then. Baltimore no longer has a National Football League franchise, and war in the Persian Gulf has removed some of the buildup from the year's biggest game. But the Baltimore area still has legions of football fans, and they gathered in droves in front of television sets in homes and bars to watch Super Bowl XXV yesterday.
At the Hunt Ridge home of Lee and Wes Hoffman, about 45 people watched the game and swapped small talk over baked brie, Trappist morsels and crab with puffed pastry -- a catered meal far removed from stadium staples such as pizza, hot dogs and fries.
Stadium food? The third-quarter snack featured champagne and strawberries.
War in the Persian Gulf was at the forefront of their thoughts, but the partygoers welcomed an evening of football as a happy diversion to the problems of the world.
"Obviously, everyone's attention is on the gulf," John Sabp said just after the opening kickoff. "They're keeping the hoopla to a minimum this year, but I think for the morale of the soldiers over there, it's probably good to go on with the game."
The game scarcely could be heard over the din of conversations in the living room, where about 35 people, mostly women, were talking about schoolwork, their homes and private lives.
Downstairs, however, about 20 sophisticated football watchers were drinking beer, wolfing down food and discussing the game.
"I think it's good that the game is going on," said Dennis Bickerstaff, a neighbor. "The fact that it's being played shows that we're not going to let any terrorist threat ruin our lives."
The game was the same, but the food decidedly different at the Original Sports Bar's third annual Super Bowl bash, where fans were treated to cheap hot dogs, beer, door prizes and a finger-flick football match at halftime.
An estimated 600 people showed up at the 18,000-square-foot bar to watch the game on 50 television monitors and two big screens, and during halftime many of them waved small American flags given out by the bar to honor U.S. servicemen stationed in the Persian Gulf.
"People are positive about the situation," manager Mark Johnson said. "They're thinking about the war in the Persian Gulf, but they're not holding back their emotions about the Super Bowl. People usually go from side to side here, with one part of the bar supporting one team. It gets rather wild and rambunctious in here sometimes."
At one table in the downtown bar, Baltimore Skipjacks defenseman Joel Quenneville and his wife whiled away the hours before the Super Bowl, downing a few beers and watching the New York Islanders-Washington Capitals game.
"I like the Giants," Quenneville said. "I hope we get a good game today; we've had so many blowouts in the past. It should be a low-scoring game. It's not going to be easy for either team today."
And that wasn't far off the mark. If hockey doesn't work out, Quenneville could be a football analyst.
Back in Timonium, after the Bills missed a field-goal attempt and lost in the final seconds, hostess Lee Hoffman said it best: "This was the first year everyone watched the end of the game, because in the past everyone was drunk by the end of the third quarter or it was a blowout.
"This year, it was a more interesting game. But this is our last one. We've had three years of Super Bowl parties, and we're going to pass the baton on to someone else."