For Donovan, emotional ties are long gone

So, the moment is at hand. The Colts at Baltimore. The great grudge match, hon. Our past against our present. The horseshoe against, well, a logo under pending litigation.

When the Ravens play the Colts on Sunday at Camden Yards, will it be a wrenching experience for the largest ex-Colt and continued unofficial soul of Baltimore pro football?

"Are you kidding?" Art Donovan said yesterday. "What do I care?"

Come on, Artie. You're going to root for your old uniform, right? Out of habit?

"I'm going to cheer for the Ravens," he said. "I root for the home team. It was a long time ago that the Colts left town."

Won't it be weird to cheer against them?

"That's not my team anymore," he said. "And anyway, Mr. Modell has invited me to watch from his box."

So you're going?

"Free ticket," he said. "They're going to pick me up and take me down there. Wouldn't you go?"

First trip to the new stadium?

"I went to the exhibition game against the Eagles," he said. "Me and [Ordell] Braase and [Jim] Mutscheller. We were going to leave at halftime, but then we got to one of those mezzanines or whatever they're called, and someone started buying the beer. We never left. It cost me $150."

Did you like the stadium?

"It's some place," he said. "It makes the baseball field look like a junior high field. I didn't like the music so much. That's not my music. But they have to make the young people happy, I guess. All the old Colt fans are dying off."

Does that mean the crowd won't be so angry Sunday?

"People ask me, 'What's the crowd going to do?' That's not hard to figure out. They're going to boo the Colts, that's what they're going to do. Other than that, I can't guess what'll happen."

There's still a lot of bitterness. We waited 12 years for another team after Robert Irsay moved the Colts to Indianapolis.

"People act like that's a tragedy," Donovan said. "A tragedy is going to a hospital and seeing a sick kid. Kids with cancer, that's a tragedy. You can always get a lousy football team back."

And that's just what we did, right? We got a lousy football team back?

"My wife says, 'You have to tell everyone how good the Ravens are.' I said, 'I can't fool anyone. They're 4-7.' But they're going to get better. They should win a few more games this season. They have some players. I like this [ Michael] McCrary. He can rush the passer. And the other defensive end [ Rob Burnett] can play, too. [The Ravens] aren't bad. They're going to improve. I think they'll beat the Colts."

They looked pretty good against the Bengals on Sunday, that's for sure.

"I saw the game," Donovan said. "They blocked this time, and that made a difference. But the Bengals, boy, are they terrible. I think the 1950 Colts could beat the Bengals. [Y. A.] Tittle was better than that guy was who played [quarterback] for the Bengals."

Paul Justin?

"Justin, yeah. It's too bad the Ravens can't play him every week."

But the Ravens played well enough to win, right?

"Oh, yeah, they played hard," he said. "That's one thing about them. They give everything every week. They could have pulled the plug, like I think the Bengals did, but they fight and hang in there to the end. [Ravens coach Ted] Marchibroda gets them to do that."

So you don't think Ted should get fired?

"Who am I? I don't pay that money for tickets. The people who buy tickets, they should have more of a say. I'll say this: I watch Marchibroda on the sidelines, and sometimes it looks like he's crying or something. That's a tough racket, boy. People are on your butt telling you what to do after you've been in the business for 33 years."

Getting old is hard.

"You're telling me. I'm 74 and it's all catching up with me now. My eyesight is getting bad. I had a shoulder operation in January. I should have had my head operated on years ago, with the way I am."

But you're still hot, right? Still appearing on David Letterman's show?

"I'm going to be on [Thanksgiving] night. I'm taking my whole family up there [to New York]. [ CBS] is picking up five rooms for two nights, plus dinner. So I guess someone's still buying my bull."

What a holiday weekend. Letterman and Ravens-Colts.

"I tell you what, I like having a team [in town] again. People said they'd come up with other things to do on Sunday. Well, that's baloney. There's 70,000 people at that stadium who haven't come up with anything else to do on Sunday besides go to a game."

The stadium will be full Sunday, that's for sure. It should be quite a day.

"People loved the Colts, I know that. I went to that reunion [of the 1958 team] last week and the Colt band started playing and people were crying. I thought, 'Jeez, how can people love a team so much that isn't even here anymore?' That was a great night. I took 30 meatballs home in a box and ate 'em like peanuts. I was a little hungry."

Enjoy yourself Sunday, Artie. And don't let the emotion of the day overwhelm you.

"Don't worry."

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