Overcoming Ravens' loss starts with rooting for Colts

January 21, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

So, are you over it yet?

If you're immediate reaction was -- "Over what?" -- that's probably progress. If it was more along the lines of, "I'll never get over it and stop asking me to, you obnoxious transplanted Californian who would never understand anyway," then today probably isn't going to be a good day for you no matter what happens when the Indianapolis Colts host the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at the RCA Dome.

More than a week has passed since the Ravens' road to the Super Bowl ended at M&T Bank Stadium instead of Miami, enough time to rub some dirt on that huge psychological bruise and refocus your inner football fan on the big picture.

In other words, the statute of lamentations has just about run out. Now you have a decision to make:

Do you root for the New England Patriots, who already have enough Super Bowl rings to make a set of brass knuckles, or the team that broke your heart again last week?

I doubt this is going to make me a lot of friends, but I'm going with the Colts, even if it means that I may have to start checking under my car before I start it.

Nobody has to tell me how deeply Baltimore was wounded by the departure of its first NFL team. I've seen the pictures and heard the stories. But I've also heard from a surprising number of e-mailers and talk show callers who are willing to separate the current on-field personnel of the Colts from the ownership that slinked out of town with the team and its history in 1984.

Peyton Manning, regardless of how you feel about the late Bob Irsay, is a class act who will go down in history among the greatest quarterbacks to call an audible. I was particularly impressed with his response when someone called his attention to the banner at M&T that read "19 will always be greater than 18."

"I didn't see it, but I can't say I disagree with that," Manning said. "I hold Unitas in high regard."

By all accounts, the feeling was mutual, and who am I do argue with Johnny U? I like Manning. I like his game. I even like his commercials, though he might be getting a bit overexposed.

I've got no gripe with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, except I keep wondering the same thing every time I see him without his helmet: If this guy plays his home games at Gillette Stadium, how come he never seems to get a good shave?

The choice is even easier when it comes to the coaches. Tony Dungy is a terrific guy who endured the ultimate personal tragedy last season when his 18-year-old son committed suicide.

He is a fine coach who has never won the big one, and it is impossible to attach to him the organizational stain that the Colts bear for skipping town almost 23 years ago.

Bill Belichick is one of those military-style coaches who stands on the sidelines with the grim look of a World War II general directing tanks in North Africa.

He'd probably carry around a riding crop if it didn't violate the NFL's game-day dress code.

There is no disputing that he's a great coach. He might be the best game planner ever. But he's also the guy who put the freeze on former Patriots assistant Eric Mangini this year after Mangini went against his advice and accepted the New York Jets' coaching job. I sometimes wonder if he learned that grim look from Bob Dole.

The Colts are favored by a field goal at home, which means that the oddsmakers totally copped out when they set the line, or these two teams are pretty much equal. Probably the latter. Both teams went 12-4 during the regular season. The Colts were 8-0 at home and the Patriots were 7-1 on the road. The Colts probably are more talented this season. The Patriots are more experienced in the postseason.

It's tough to pick between them even without the extra layer of Mid-Atlantic angst. If I had to bet the farm, I'd take the points, but I'm rooting for the Colts.

I realize that makes me a transplanted traitor, but I hope we can still be friends.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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