Notes from the field

Editorial Notebook

January 13, 2007|By Peter Jensen

Patient's name: Baltimore

Date of birth: July 30, 1729

Date of injury: On March 29, 1984, subject was psychologically assaulted when a series of Mayflower moving vans transported beloved NFL football team, the Colts, to second-tier Midwestern city noted for its car racing.

Diagnosis: Severe anxiety and sense of insurmountable loss followed by anger, then denial, then anger again, then displays of elaborate groveling to the NFL, followed by rejection by a majority of NFL owners, and more anger. Subject had been coping well since 1996 when a new team, the Ravens, moved in from Cleveland after a whirlwind romance. A 2001 Super Bowl victory over the New York Giants appeared to bring closure to the Colts episode. However, Baltimore has been recently observed to have suffered a significant setback, complaining of extreme agitation and nervousness brought on by a preoccupation with today's playoff game between the two teams.

Patient interview: Baltimore presents as upbeat and enthusiastic and generally has a positive outlook about the Colts-Ravens contest at M&T Bank Stadium. Notes that team has had a terrific year on offense, defense and special teams, perhaps even better overall than Super Bowl lineup. Subject will witness game today wearing elaborate purple attire with many references to favorite Ravens players. Expects everyone to scream very loudly at opposing team in order to disrupt Peyton Manning's "signals" and anticipates many "turnovers," an apparent reference to football and not pastry.

When topic of Colts is broached, subject is initially dismissive and says it doesn't matter one iota. Notes that nobody under the age of 30 has a memory of the team, nobody under the age of 40 would likely recall the Johnny Unitas era and the Colts' last Super Bowl appearance was 36 years ago. Says only old folks "stuck in the past" would remember Jan. 17, 1971, when the team won on a Jim O'Brien field goal in the last five seconds. "The Ravens have been with me for more than a decade. The Colts thing is so over. I honestly can't even recall much aside from stuff like how Jerry Logan returned two interceptions for touchdowns that season."

As a test, subject is exposed to the two words that have triggered multiple anxiety attacks in the past: Robert Irsay. Baltimore retains composure but effort is evident in body language and facial expression. Appears to have donned purple face a bit early. Asks that the name of the deceased Colts owner not be mentioned again. Ever.

As for recent dreams, subject recalls the same one repeated over and over: Ravens running backs stampede past Colts linebackers, Mr. Manning is corralled by Adalius Thomas, and Ravens emerge victorious. Any nightmares? Subject admits Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison is one. Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney is the other.

Subject says a Colts victory would represent a worst-case scenario. Remains appalled that Indianapolis Colts history - as chronicled in the team's own Web site - includes many references to the franchise's glory days in Baltimore, including the sudden-death overtime win against the New York Giants in 1958. Points out that the Ravens don't claim their Cleveland past but do rightly list the Baltimore Colts accomplishments as part of the city's glorious football history.

Treatment: Subject is reminded that today's contest is only a game and that life goes on no matter the outcome. Also advised of the cathartic benefit of staying focused on the here and now and not drifting back to the glory days of the Baltimore Colts of the 1950s, '60s or even '70s. Putting an end to all those years of radio talk-show therapy would be helpful, too.

Nevertheless, this observer can't deny that the best possible relief would be for the Baltimore Ravens to absolutely beat the living cornstalks out of a flashy but chronically underachieving Colts team from that hayseed town with delusions of grandeur. A solid (and it doesn't even have to be overwhelming) victory would do nicely. And then maybe Baltimore could do its best Ray Lewis-style dance in angst-free celebration.

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