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Sweet visions of payback get sidelined

The Baltimore Sun

Yesterday was supposed to be the first day of the rest of our lives, the day Baltimore would finally get over that Colts thing by watching Ray Lewis and the Ravens stomp Peyton Manning into the SportGrass in a game that really mattered.

That wasn't your run-of-the-mill NFL playoff game the Ravens lost under the lights at M&T; Bank Stadium yesterday evening.

That was a massive group-therapy session, arranged by the gods of postseason football for the first time since Baltimore got a new, beloved football team to replace its old, beloved one.

Vanquishing the blue-and-white impostors from Indianapolis was critical for an entire metropolitan area's spiritual well-being. Sometimes, revenge is good for the soul, and a part of Baltimore evidently still needs revenge for the late Robert Irsay's acts of mental cruelty.

Of course, we all knew the reality. The Ravens could win, or the Ravens could lose. But we didn't want to think about the latter.

"We can't lose to the Colts!" I heard a few dozen Ravens fans say during the past week.

But here we are, sour with Sunday-morning sickness. Some of us may be slow getting out of bed. Some may stay in bed for the rest of the day, or the rest of the week.

Despite support from thousands of screaming fans, the Ravens squandered an opportunity for complete and total payback in one of the dreariest football games we've ever seen around here.

There, I said it.

The Colts didn't even score a touchdown.

Of course, the Ravens didn't score a touchdown, either, which has a lot to do with why we feel so rotten today.

There are a lot of other negative things that can be said -- and will be said -- by people who like to analyze the X's and O's.

But spare us. Please.

We don't want to hear it. It's too hard. The whole nation is going to rub this in -- let's not do it to ourselves.

Maybe there was just too much pressure -- not just to win, but to WIN!

Losing really hurts when losing is not an option.

Didn't matter that Irsay's deeds -- ruining the Baltimore Colts, then moving them to Indiana -- occurred 23 years ago.

We needed some payback.

No amount of burning Bob Irsay effigies has been able to give us what this game could have given us. A regular-season win over Indianapolis is nice, but a playoff win could have provided satisfaction for years to come; it might have been even sweeter than another Super Bowl trophy.

We've been honest with ourselves this past week; many of us acknowledged lingering bitterness about this Colts thing.

We're over it, but we're not OVER it.

This team from Indianapolis continues to haunt us, appall us and infuriate us by wearing Johnny Unitas' uniform. After checking out of Baltimore in the middle of a March night in 1984, the Colts added insult to injury by keeping the name, the colors and the horseshoe. They hijacked Baltimore's brilliant legends, and the state of Indiana had the nerve to produce commemorative license plates bearing Unitas' number!

We needed a win last night for No. 19 and all honorable ancestors from the days of the Baltimore Colts.

If Baltimore had repressed its feelings about losing the Colts in 1984, then the buildup to yesterday's game provided an opportunity for grown men and women to vent.

And the venting was healthy. But we needed the Ravens to take this civic purge to the next level.

We needed the Ravens to add another layer to Indianapolis' postseason failures.

For years, other teams have been having all the fun knocking the Colts out of the NFL playoff picture. Here in Baltimore, we experienced schadenfreude -- that's German for "pleasure taken in the misfortune of others" -- as we watched the Colts stumble in January.

To paraphrase Gore Vidal: It wasn't enough for the Ravens to succeed; the Colts had to fail.

And, before this year, the Indianapolis Colts had entered the postseason eight times without getting to the Super Bowl. We wanted a piece of that. We needed a piece of that.

We still need a piece of that.

But we'll have to wait until next time to get it -- and, trust me, there's going to be a next time. Oh, yeah.

This is too good of a story not to have a sequel. There's going to be a next time with the Colts, and next time the Ravens are going to score a touchdown. Maybe even two. Oh, yeah.

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