I AM a recovering football fan, and I live in the recovering football town of Baltimore. I have no idea who won the last Super Bowl. On Sundays, I don't even turn on the TV.
But there was a time when football was everything. Then, I was a scrawny kid in need of heroes, and the Baltimore Colts had plenty of them. There is a part of me that believes that if ex-Colt quarterback John Unitas wanted to, he could walk out on any field in the National Football League today with two minutes left and drive a team to victory. Except that I don't think there's any team worthy of him.
Of course, this is sour grapes. In 1984 the Colts left town, and with them went a part of our soul. We had considered them ours. We supported them; we idolized them; we followed them with the dedication of monks. In the end we learned that the Colts were not ours at all. They were a collection of assets that could be rearranged and reconfigured to generate additional revenue.
When I was little, my dad took us to the Colts training camp for picture day. He got pictures of Unitas and fullback Alan Ameche holding my brother and me under their arms like two footballs.
Later that year, a handoff from Unitas to Ameche would win the game that has come to be called the "Greatest Game Ever Played," the 1958 sudden-death victory over the New York Giants, a game many say made the NFL a viable financial enterprise.
None of that mattered in '84, when the team left town in the middle of the night, and it matters even less in '93 as the NFL anoints two cities, Charlotte and Jacksonville, to receive expansion teams. Despite an all-out local civic effort here, there will be no new team in Baltimore.
It's just as well. We've gotten over football. We've moved beyond it. Don't need it. Don't want it. Haven't thought about football since . . .
Well, there was that Fourth of July parade last summer. All of a sudden I hear this familiar music, and my spirits lift immediately even before I realize that it's the Baltimore Colts Marching Band -- still together -- and they're playing the Colts' fight song.
Everybody cheers. And for just a quick second I am transported through time and space, to Memorial Stadium. There is Unitas throwing a bullet to Raymond Berry . . .
It lasts just an instant and passes as the band does, and I am left standing on the sidewalk of a town with a great pro football . . . band.
Dick George wrote this for National Public Radio.