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Fans' passion for purple shaded

January 13, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

They suffer from Purple Passion.

It's not a disease. Nor is it a plant or a drink.

The weakness for a large number of people in this area is football specifically Baltimore Ravens football.

The fever has increased over the course of the season as the Ravens marched to a 13-3 record and the second seed in the AFC half of the NFL Playoffs. They all will be swept up in the throws of Passion starting today when the Ravens face the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional playoffs, hoping for a full-fledged Purple epidemic on Feb. 4 at Super Bowl XLI in Miami.

There are pockets of purple people all over Hagers-town, like the group of 60 who gathered Thursday at Tony's Restaurant for a Ravens Nest No. 12 meeting. Purple pride was treated like royalty as team jerseys, sweatshirts and hats were worn proudly to profess their support for their favorite local team.

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And yet, as the possibility of a second Super Bowl title looms, this group of avid followers has chosen to temper their excitement with a dose of reality.

"The playoffs are one game at a time," said Bill Johnson of Hagerstown. "Anything can happen but if we don't turn the ball over, we'll win."

There was a wide range of emotions about the playoffs. Everyone was excited about the prospects, but for different reasons and with different concerns. For example:

Mike Vaughn, of Williamsport, is impressed with the way that the Ravens have turned around from a 6-10 season in 2005 to be at this point. He points to Baltimore's dominant defense and the acquisition of quarterback Steve McNair from Tennessee as the main keys.

Johnson believes trading for McNair rejuvenated Baltimore coach Brian Billick ("Billick was like a dead man walking"), but he's still concerned because the Ravens still have a problem scoring touchdowns. That could be a problem against a high-powered offense like the Colts.

Bob Miller said the Ravens addressed "team chemistry problems in the clubhouse," which has made a huge difference. And, given Baltimore's defense, the Ravens have a good chance to advance to the championship game, but he still thinks the New England Patriots are the team to beat to reach that final game.

Joanne Zimmerman is giddy with excitement over the prospects of today's game. Not just because the Ravens are in the playoffs but because they are playing the Colts - the team that left Baltimore so many years ago.

"Me and my husband, we used to have season tickets for the Colts," Zimmerman said, wearing a team sweatshirt along with a blinking Ravens logo necklace around her neck. "I want them to beat them. I have nothing against (Indianapolis quarterback Peyton) Manning or any of the players. I want to beat Irsay, the owner."

Many fans in the Baltimore area have added the revenge factor into this game. Then-owner Robert Irsay packed up the franchise on Mayflower moving vans on a snowy night and moved it to Indiana. Many still suffer separation anxiety from the loss of the Colts.

And now that the Colts are coming back to Baltimore for this game, those fans feel like they have present owner Jim Irsay right where they want him.

"It's not hard to get excited for this game because it is the Colts," Zimmerman said. "When they left, they took all the team records with them. Johnny Unitas set all of his records in Baltimore, not Indianapolis. They should give all those records back. If we can get past the Colts, it will be a slam dunk to the Super Bowl. There are too many weak teams out there in the playoffs, but it is still one game at a time."

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