"I don't want the Ravens to lose because of the Ray Lewis thing. I'd just hate for him to go out that way," said Zarbos, a production manager at a Catonsville printing company. "This is Ray Lewis' last year. The Colts have Andrew Luck, so I have a lot more years to make the playoffs."

That's what his head says. But his heart? "If the Colts do well, I'll give a 'Yeah!' in my head," Zarbos said.

Colts fans can feel mighty lonely in Baltimore. This, after all, is a town of long-held grudges, where some fans can't even choke out the words "Indianapolis" and "Colts" in the same breath. Even the stadium scoreboard operator apparently can't bear to call them the Colts, opting instead for "Indy."

Jeremy Conn, who hosts a sports talk show with Scott Garceau on 105.7 The Fan, is accustomed to being surrounded at home and on air by Ravens fans.

"Part of me wishes I was part of that scene, pulling for who everyone else is pulling for," he said. "I'm the outsider looking in."

Conn, 33, didn't have a football team growing up in Baltimore, being part of that post-Colts, pre-Ravens generation. He started watching college football and became a Peyton Manning fan and decided to follow him to whatever NFL team drafted him.

Still, when the Ravens arrived, and especially during the 2000 Super Bowl season, he became a fan of the local team.

"I was all in," Conn said. "I'd never seen anything like it, the city all lit up."

Now, however, he's pulled in a number of directions. He'd like to see Lewis play more than one playoff game. He remains true to the Colts, feeling it would be hypocritical to have dumped them when they dumped Manning.

"It really has been an uncomfortable week," Conn said.

Local Colts fans have been here before, of course: The 2006 season brought the Indianapolis team to town for an emotionally fraught playoff game in which they beat the Ravens, 15-6, en route to winning Super Bowl XLI.

That was the year Lawler had her cake and balloon troubles, eventually straightened out by a "very nice" manager.

"We ate the cake. We don't know if any of the employees spit in it," she said with a laugh.

Lawler grew up the daughter of a Colts fan and has bonded with the team for life. She and her family have put up with enough abuse at M&T — beers thrown, Colts pennants trashed — that they've started going "incognito" or just watching on TV. One of her fondest memories is of a trip two years ago to Indianapolis, where they watched what turned out to be Manning's final game with the Colts, who lost to the Jets by a single point.

"When they found out we had come from Baltimore, they let us go down on the actual field," Lawler said dreamily. "We stood on the Colts helmet and took pictures."

The Lawlers and their 28-year-old daughter will have their own little party at home on Sunday, with steamed shrimp and oysters and, yes, a Colts cake, for the playoff game.

"My daughter's boyfriend is a die-hard Ravens fan; they're not going to attempt to watch the game together," Lawler said.

Lawler feels no pull to the Ravens, so she'll watch with no mixed feelings or competing loyalties. That would only come if the Colts win and ultimately face Manning's new team, the Denver Broncos.

"That," Lawler said with a shudder, "would tear my heart apart."



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