What it means to love the home team

It was a Sunday in 1961 when I truly felt what it means to love the home team. My father and I were sitting in Section 5 of Memorial Stadium. It was 12:30 pm; we were early (as we always were) for a Colts game scheduled for 2 p.m. Practically no one was around: just a few vendors, the press and the grounds crew. Occasionally Raymond Berry would walk both sidelines, looking for divots to tamp down to make his signature shoestring catches possible.

It was really, really cold, but it was almost always cold in Section 5 of the mezzanine. This was the only section in the stadium that was open at the back, so the wind whistled through like a category 5 hurricane. No matter the month, we were always bundled up, but more layers were in order in December. It was not unusual to not feel my ears for many hours after the game; first they got really hot, then they slowly returned to normal, although I was sure a good flick would snap them off.

We had two thermoses; one with hot cocoa, the other with coffee. Both were gone in the first quarter. Our seats were considered end-zone area, but because of the shape of the horseshoe, we were right over the goal line and often saw Jimmy Orr or Raymond Berry catch a perfect pass to score a winning touchdown right below us.

Bringing the Sunday paper was a requirement — not to have reading material, but to provide a little insulation for our feet against the blue cold concrete of the floor. It was rarely effective. Double-gloved, I had difficulty holding the newspaper snippet of the opponent’s roster, cut from the morning’s Sun. We didn’t need the Colts’ roster; we had it memorized both by position and by number. Much of it I remember today, as there were only 40 members to the team and five coaches then.

We rose multiple times during that game, starting with the national anthem and later to catch the occasional play in our end zone. On this Sunday decades ago, it was a close game that we won by only three points. No one left. But even if a Colts loss was inevitable as early as the third quarter, Dad and I stayed until the last play. Often we were almost alone as the final gun sounded. But that’s what you do when you really love the home team. The Colts went 8-6 that season.

I recall all this as I sit in a recliner in my father’s apartment at a retirement community. We are watching the Orioles, 30 games into a dismal season. Players are injured, pitchers have no “stuff,” bats wave ineffectively at strikes. In this particular game, the Orioles are losing 10-0 in the very first inning.

But there we sit, not bundled up in multiple layers of warmth, but comfy in matching La-Z-Boys, sipping iced tea and enjoying popcorn. We watch the fans in the stadium, many of whom are leaving even in this early stage of the game. Not us. We know what it really means to love the home team, even from the comfort of our living room, almost 60 years later.

Margaret Collier is a retired human resources professional. Her email address is mlcinoh@aol.com.

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