Dear Ravens,

Sorry to bother you. I know you/ve got a lot going on. But you should think about something that could help you in Saturday's playoof game against the Indianapolis Colts.

January 09, 2007|By JOHN EISENBERG

I get it when you say, as a lot of you have, that the game has no additional meaning to you because of the Colts' history here. I know all that stuff happened a long time ago, before your time. I understand that it's not your fight.

But if you're willing to think about it for a couple of minutes and make it your fight, at least temporarily, you won't be sorry.

Please understand something: The crowd at M&T Bank Stadium is going to be over-the-top intense Saturday. All previous standards for noise will be shattered. "Colts at Baltimore" will create a vibe that picks you up and carries you.

You should make the most of it. And understand it.

It will occur partly because this is the biggest home game in Baltimore since 1977, but also because, for a lot of the people who buy tickets and support you, this is more than just another big game. This is personal.

Some of the people who buy tickets and support you don't care, but a lot of them, probably more of them, do care passionately. They rooted hard for the Colts once upon a time, but then Robert Irsay moved the franchise and broke their hearts.

They're over it now, long past wailing about something that happened in 1984. You live here during the season, so you know that. It really doesn't come up anymore.

But bringing the Colts back to town, especially in these circumstances, stirs up those old feelings. The response is almost reflexive, involuntary, out of the fans' control. The sight of that lovely horseshoe on the Colts' helmet makes them angry all over again.

They start thinking about what was lost, and about the fact that Baltimore's Johnny Unitas is listed as an Indianapolis Colt at the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- an utter disgrace. They start thinking about all of the Hall of Fame Baltimore Colts -- including iconic figures such as Raymond Berry, Jim Parker and Gino Marchetti -- being listed as having played in Indianapolis.

They start thinking about the fact that the Colts used to be every bit as popular and beloved as the Ravens are now, playing before crowds so famously rowdy that a Chicago sportswriter once nicknamed Memorial Stadium "the world's largest outdoor insane asylum." You would have loved playing here then.

But then Irsay, a man whose own mother called him "a devil on earth," took control of the team and ran it into the ground, another disgrace. Then Irsay got mad because no one here would build him the new stadium he wanted but didn't begin to deserve, so he looked around for some place that would oblige him. Indianapolis stepped up. The franchise packed up and moved in the middle of the night, like cowards.

That's why "Colts at Baltimore" makes people's heads spin around here, especially with a trip to the AFC championship game on the line. It can't be just another game.

The fans of Indianapolis are good people who just wanted a team; it's not their war, either. And today's Colts players don't even know the team used to play in Baltimore.

The history is relevant only to Ravens fans old enough to remember. But if you think their remembering won't matter Saturday, you're mistaken. They're going to want to win so badly it almost hurts. Dispatching the Colts on the way to a conference title game would be their ultimate fantasy.

Passion and noise have swirled at every home game this year; Ravens coach Brian Billick says he has never heard the fans so loud. But rest assured, they're going to take it past 10 and go all the way to 11 Saturday. They're going to burn the place down.

You have a choice. You can say it's not your war and pay no attention. Or you can use it. Aren't players always looking for an excuse to wield an emotional edge? Isn't that the silver lining of a Pro Bowl snub? Isn't that why "us against the world" gets deployed even when it's baloney?

Well, here's an edge that's real, not baloney. You should use it. You should run out of that tunnel Saturday and look at those horseshoes across the field and hear the roar and feel the energy and think about what "Colts at Baltimore" means to the people who are cheering for you.

Then you should go out and find someone on the other team to hit.

john.eisenberg@baltsun.com

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