First, I wanted my hometown Ravens to stomp on the Colts, elude Bob Sanders, score on at least one interception return, and win by a touchdown or two, no close calls, no chance for the Vinatieri magic.
Then I wanted to invite the AFC bullies to M&T Bank Stadium and have Steve McNair go all Tom Brady on the Pats defense, with a last-minute, game-winning drive to the end zone.
The capper? A Ravens-Bears showdown in Miami, a bare-knuckle Super Bowl, a defensive battle for the ages.
Would have been nice, right?
Though my ego is bruised and my spirits are dampened, I have taken my love for the Ravens and my sadness at their loss and turned them both into something worthwhile, something edifying:
An intense hatred of the Colts.
For the next ten days, I'm a raving Bears fan.
At the end of the day on February 4th, I'm back to purple and black, to a firm belief in the innocence of Ray Lewis, and a grateful reverence for the renaissance of Steve McNair. Until then, though, I'm living and dying with Da Bears, which may be the best thing about loving the game of football apart from any particular team:
No matter who's playing in the Super Bowl, you can't help but get psyched about it.
For those unfamiliar with the Colts, history in Baltimore, the team has not won a Super Bowl since owner Bob Irsay snuck them out of Charm City in 1984. At the Hall of Fame, Johnny Unitas, plaque is tragically announced by a sign that reads Indianapolis Colts...even though Unitas was Baltimore's hero. Though asked on numerous occasions, Irsay refused to sell the rights to the Colts' name and logo to Ravens owner Art Modell, ignoring the obvious connection between the name and Baltimore's legacy as the home of the Preakness Stakes.
For Ravens fans, then, the choice to root for Chicago is as clear as their memories of the Colts are painful. But what about everybody else? Though most viewers don't have such pathological motives for their Super Bowl loyalties, there are plenty of reasons for football-heads around the country to choose sides for the big game:
New England: You hate Peyton Manning like you hate the Yankees, and not even the 1986 loss to the Bears in Super Bowl XX could change your allegiance. Your vote? Chicago.
New Orleans: The Bears beat you in the NFC title game, and you love Archie Manning. Nothing would please you more than to see him smiling with glee in a Miami skybox. Your vote? Indy.
Chevrolet Factory Workers: Despite watching your stock cars win 14 of the last 20 Daytona 500 races, you haven't been so lucky in Indianapolis. Your reign of Indy 500 supremacy in the early 90s is but a memory, and you've had only one winning car in the last ten years. Your vote? Chicago.
Democrats: You saw a Republican administration totally screw up Katrina relief, and you wanted to see the Saints become America's team. The Bears killed those hopes, and now, as in the midterm elections, you want revenge. Your vote? Indy.
Republicans: Florida gave us President George W. Bush, and the University of Florida gave us Quarterback Rex Grossman. Your vote? Chicago.
Basketball Fans in Los Angeles, Portland, Phoenix, Seattle and Utah: Between 1990 and 1998, the Chicago Bulls beat all of your teams in the NBA Finals. Sure, it's a different sport, and it was a decade ago, but championship wounds heal slowly. Your vote? Indy.
Aspiring Midwestern Rappers: In a genre dominated by the East Coast, the West Coast, and the Dirty South, Kanye West put Chi-town on the map...and officially made pastel polo shirts manly. Your vote? Chicago.
Mini-marathon runners: You know Indianapolis as the home of the largest mini-marathon in America, which includes a lap around the famous track at the Motor Speedway. Your vote? Indy.
And yes, okay, I know: There's nothing better than watching your hometown team win the big game, no substitute for a victory parade in your own backyard...but the point here is that that's not the only reason we watch. We watch for the drama, for the Jets upsetting the Colts in Super Bowl III, for Joe Montana playing the hero in Super Bowl XXIII, for Kevin Dyson coming up one yard short in Super Bowl XXXIV. The Super Bowl can be thrilling and heartbreaking in the same instant, and viewers are never more than a snap away from witnessing one of the most memorable moments in the history of the game.