FOOTBALL is fast eclipsing baseball as the talk of this town. In elevators, at water coolers, at bus stops and on talk radio, the Ravens, not the Orioles, are the rage.
And why not? This afternoon, our Ravens play host at PSINet Stadium to the first National Football League playoff in this town since Dec. 24, 1977.
It's been a l-o-n-g wait.
The Baltimore Colts lost that playoff game 23 years ago to the Oakland Raiders in a heartbreaking sudden-death finish.
An even worse blow came on a snowy night in March, 1984 when owner Robert Irsay made an unseemly midnight moving-van exit with the team's belongings, stripping the city of its beloved Colts.
For 13 years, Baltimore fans could not root for its own NFL team. Powerful forces in the NFL tried to keep Baltimore from ever returning to the league, but thanks to the Modells of Cleveland and a strong push by state officials the Ravens were born five years ago.
Now years of hard work, a keen eye for young talent and exceptional coaching by Brian Billick's staff have brought Baltimore's new heroes to what the coach calls "festivus" -- playoff time limited to only the best 12 teams.
Today's foe is the Denver Broncos, an offensive powerhouse. But can that be any match for the Raven's record-setting defense? It could be the best game of the year for the 69,000 fanatics at the Camden Yards stadium.
Baltimore's faithful fans have earned the right to host just such a football game. This is a proud city with a long pro football tradition. Here's hoping that the Ravens' festivus lasts another month -- all the way to "festivus maximus," the Super Bowl.