It was groveling, but it was fun, too


OK, we did it.

We bought tickets in record time. We filled the house.

We cheered. We cheered old Colts cheers. We cheered, "We want a team." We cheered that last one a lot.

We even cheered two teams nobody cared about. About 60,000 of us.

We went to a game the NFL forced on the town as part of the interminable expansion process. Yes, we groveled. But unless I'm wrong, we seemed to enjoy it.

We did it all.

We drank a lot of beer.

We sweated. Boy, did we sweat.

We tailgated. We threw around the football and we ate Polish sausage, sometimes simultaneously.

We drank more beer.

We sweated it all off.

We spotted a lot of old Colts jerseys and T-shirts. And a lot of old Colts fans in old Colts jerseys and T-shirts.

We bought T-shirts (I got one for 10 bucks that had "Late Night With Baltimore Football" on one side and "The Top 10 reasons to Bring Football Back To Baltimore" on the other.

We laughed at reason No. 9: Boogie. And No. 10: Irsay s .

We saw about 10 "Irsay s "banners. Cheered each one.

We occasionally watched football. By the way, who won the game?

We figure someone listened to WMIX, which carried the game -- football from the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s.

We sweated some more.

We drank some more beer.

We saw Johnny U. Grown men rushed to shake his hand. Just shake his hand. He shook the hands and smiled and said whatever it is that Johnny U. says to folks, and people were thrilled.

We saw Johnny U. not throw out the first ball. Wrist surgery.

We shook pompons.

We shook pompons that told us in big bold letters that they were courtesy of the Glazer family. So much for the subtle approach.

We saw Boogie on the field with his buddy Barry Levinson. Boogie on the pompons: "We don't have to go out three days before a football game and try to become part of the community. We are the Baltimore community. We grew up here. We belong here."

We saw Boogie and Levinson sign a roundish man's T-shirt. "Watch out for the sweaty parts," Levinson advised, playing the director's role.

We saw scalpers. A lot of scalpers. Looked like a midweek Orioles game at Camden Yards.

We saw John Mackey get his Hall of Fame ring, saying he wanted to receive it in Baltimore. We gulped. Couldn't help it.

We saw more than 70 old Colts, famous and not so famous, standing shoulder to shoulder across the breadth of the old football field in antiquated-but-still- standing Memorial Stadium.

We saw the Baltimore Colt Marching Band. These guys are your working definition of True Believers. I couldn't tell, though, whether the new tubas they sported said they were courtesy of the Glazer family.

We saw Don Shula working the sidelines. Is it me, or did he look older?

We saw the Wheel.

We heard Bruce sing "Glory Days."

We listened to the guy on the P.A. remind us of the Tom Matte wristband game.

We saw the past. We closed our eyes and imagined we were 17 years old again.

We opened our eyes and saw the corporate tents behind the stadium. Ah, the '90s when there's an announcement that Bobby Hebert is the Jolly Rancher player of the game. Jolly Rancher?

We remembered, watching two teams that don't matter in a game that didn't matter, why it's better to have a football team than not to have one. And the Redskins don't count.

We remembered why it's better to go to the beach in August than play football.

We stayed anyway, although not to the end, even though the scoreboard implored us to as a way to "show your support for NFL football." How much groveling can you do in one night?

We went home (hopefully, with a designated driver at the wheel).

We did it. Sure, any yahoo town can sell out a preseason football game. I think Memphis has had about seven. We didn't prove anything, but, still, we did it because we had to, even though we shouldn't have had to.

We submitted to NFL blackmail.

We now must await the verdict of an obscure trial in Minneapolis and then, if the NFL expands, count on the votes of owners who wouldn't know Lenny Moore from Roger Moore.

We played their game. We played it their way. You think they'll ever let us play ours?

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