The Super Bowl — a guide for Baltimore fans

January 25, 2010|By Peter Schmuck

Wouldn't you know it? Baltimore sports fans finally find a New York team they can get behind, and look what happens.

The Colts at long last avenged their 1969 loss to Joe Namath and the upstart Jets on Sunday, and we're left on the short end of the yard marker both times.

Now what do you do?

Do you go with the ABC theory - Anybody But the Colts - or do you hold your nose and stay loyal to the AFC and hope to take solace in the fact that the Ravens lost in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champion for the third time in the past four years?

I think I know the answer. It's still too much to ask local football fans to root for anybody wearing the hijacked Horseshoe, so you're going to have to spend the next two weeks warming up to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

Should be exciting. The 44th Super Bowl will feature two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, and no one can argue that some pretender just got hot at the right time. The chalk hit the board. The Colts and the Saints will throw down at newly renamed Sun Life Stadium in Miami on Feb. 7.

It's OK to pine for what might have been. The Ravens looked like a Super Bowl team when they trounced the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium two weeks ago, but they couldn't double down on the Colts, who proved to be as good as advertised after winning their first 14 games of 2009 and then sparking controversy by resting up for the postseason.

So there was nothing left to do but adopt the Jets, the other 9-7 wild-card team, which just happened to be coached by former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who became a national media darling a couple of weeks ago when he popped off and said his team ought to be the Super Bowl favorite.

Well, he was almost right. The Jets jumped out to a 17-6 lead Sunday and looked as if they might just make good on his big talk, but Peyton Manning led the Colts back to score a 30-17 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Ryan and Mark Sanchez will have to settle for being the second rookie head coach and rookie quarterback to reach the AFC Championship Game together. John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco did it last year and came to the same end on a chilly night in Pittsburgh.

There was no David and Goliath angle in the NFC title game Sunday night. The Saints were the No. 1 conference seed, and the Minnesota Vikings were No. 2. The oddsmakers gave the Saints the edge, largely based on geography, but both teams were bulging with the kind of human interest that would make for a great Super Bowl media week.

Brett Favre was just one game away from vindication after a summer in which his second decision to come out of retirement left him looking more like a diva than the ultimate NFL gamer. The Saints, who became the new "America's Team" after their strong 2006 season lifted the spirits of the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina, were returning to the NFC title game for the first time since - their presence creating a poignant parallel with the ongoing relief effort in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Of course, this is just football, but Championship Sunday was about creating the ultimate football showdown for the NFL title, and it certainly delivered the kind of matchup that should capture the imagination of a nation of football fans.

It just won't be the matchup we were looking for when the Ravens entered this postseason hoping to take the next step after getting this far last January. And it won't feature our old friend Rex or, for that matter, departed Ravens Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard.

Instead, it'll be the New Orleans Saints against the New Orleans kid who might be the best that ever played the game.

Can't really argue with that.

Listen to Peter Schmuck when he hosts "Sportsline" on WBAL (1090 AM) and check out "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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