Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why I hate that I love sports...

I love the competition, I love the camaraderie, both as a teammate, and as a fan. I remember vividly living in Fell's Point in 2000, and being there the night the Ravens won the Super Bowl. Thousands of people laughing and hugging and high-fiving each other. Strangers smiling at each other. It was beautiful.

But then you get to the Orioles and their 9 straight (and hopefully not still counting) losing seasons. You get the Terps men's basketball team going from National Championship to a first (or was it second? Either way it sucked) round NIT ouster. You get the Ravens going 13-3 and then losing to the Colts (the Colts) in the divisional round of the playoffs. And from that last blow to the sternum you get a collective malaise that has shrouded this city like a sickening fog. I am just now getting over it. Really. And that is what sports can do to a fan. A game played by people who have no real connection to me or my friends except for the jersey that they wear. And they will leave and others will come to take their place. The time of athletes being a part of the community in the off-season is dead and gone. The bench players are quickly becoming millionaires these days, and they don't live amongst the general population. You cannot buy a washing machine from Jonathen Ogden if you go to Sears in April. They no longer have to be the greeters at a restaurant. They own it now, and they aren't in the office counting receipts at night. That is the way of the world, and I can accept that. And still I care more about the knee of B.J. Sams than I do of my next door neighbor. I know that is disturbing on at least a few levels. It disturbs me too. But it is true. And when Ray Lewis is gone and some rookie out of UCLA is roaming the middle of the field, I will care as much about him as I do Ray right now. I would think that there is something wrong with me if there weren't 70,000+ in the stadium and millions more at home who feel the exact same way that I do. Is it insanity if everyone thinks the same thing that I do?

And here is the thing. I would love to be able to root for the Colts. I think that Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison are really class acts. They play the game the way it is meant to be played. And except for Manning whoring himself out in more commercials than Michael Jordan and William Shatner combined, I have no beefs with them at all. As far as Tony Dungy goes, if there was ever a man who deserved to win a championship it is him. He built the Bucs into a Super Bowl contender and then gets ousted. He keeps his calm, doesn't scream obscenities all over the field and doesn't feel the need to prove to the world that he is the the smartest man in the room at every opportunity (I'm looking at you Brian Billick). The way he handled the tragedy of his son's suicide last year should be in the dictionary as the definition of class and dignity under extreme scrutiny. I have the distinct feeling that if he whispered the words "run through that brick wall" to any of his past or present players, there would soon be rubble on the ground and a nice big hole to walk through.

But they are the COLTS. And they are saying that Harrison broke Berry's career catch team record. And that soon (as early as next year) Manning will do the same to the records of Unitas. And that is not something that I can stomach.

Now I know that the argument about the records and leaving the name has been made to death, and I have been as guilty as anyone of spitting into the wind in regards to this subject. But it still bothers me to no end every time that I think about it. It still kills me inside that Donovan and Unitas and the rest are listed as Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame.

A lot of people say that the man who broke the hearts of a community (and the Baltimore Colts community was much bigger than the city of Baltimore) is dead and gone and we should not blame the son for the faults of the father. And I agree with that, with one caveat. Bob Irsay said that if and when Baltimore got an NFL team we could have back our heritage. Art Modell tried to secure that when he moved the Browns here. Jim Irsay said "no". So he is perpetuating the pain.

Melodramatic? Yes. But it is real.

I guess I am not as over it as I thought.