Better than the Monday paper: Ravens draw line in the sand

January 24, 2011 | Drew Forrester

with a nearby Philly fan and asked, “Everyone over the Eagles choke at home?” and he said, “Uh, yeah, the next day it was over and done with.  We have the Flyers here. Villanova basketball.  The 76’ers aren’t great but they still draw OK crowds.  The lacrosse team does 16,000 a game here.  And everyone is already buying playoff tickets for the Phillies.”

In Baltimore when the football season ends, that’s it.  There’s the Ravens…and nothing else.

There’s no hockey to watch at a downtown arena.  No pro basketball.  The local college hoops teams are THRILLED to draw 3,000 to a game.  I love the local D-1’s like UMBC, Towson, Morgan State, Loyola and Coppin State.  But it’s me and about 1,000 other diehards.  With all due respect to the state school, people in Baltimore “follow” the Terps but there’s no real passion for Gary’s team.  I almost never get a call from someone talking about the upcoming ACC game — and I talk a lot of Terps basketball on the show.  Folks in Baltimore follow Maryland Terps football and basketball, but let’s face it:  those teams don’t really “belong” to our community here…they belong to Washington DC.

The Ravens belong to our community.  And they’re really all we have.

If the Ravens lost at Pittsburgh on a Saturday night and the following Tuesday the Detroit Red Wings were in town for a big mid-season showdown with the Baltimore NHL team…or on Wednesday evening LeBron and the Heat strolled in to take on the Baltimore NBA team…it might make the pain of a Steelers loss go away a little more quickly.  If Baltimore had a major D-1 college team to call our own — let’s just say the University of BALTIMORE played in the Big East — and Georgetown or UConn were in town for a conference showdown the weekend after the football season ended…well, you get the idea.

There’s no need for any snarky comments like “it’s Orioles season now, let’s get excited about spring training.”  On a 1-to-10 in Baltimore, the Ravens are a “10” and the Orioles are about a “4.5”.  That’s not Drew saying that.  That’s the community saying that, based mainly on the attendance at their respective home stadiums.

So when the Ravens cruise through the regular season at 12-4 and blow away Kansas City in the first round of the playoffs, everyone in town buys in and says, “OK, I’ll put my heart into this game at Pittsburgh and get ready for either a mammoth moment of delight or an epic case of heartache.”

No such buy-in ever, ever occurs en masse in Baltimore with the Orioles, the Terps or any of the local college teams.

That’s why everyone flipped out last week in the aftermath of the loss in Pittsburgh.

We don’t have anything else except the Ravens.  We’re Birmingham, Alabama with a nice Inner Harbor and a football team.

And that’s why we had the city-wide-flip-out last week.

If anyone starts blabbing about how much money they spend on tickets, parking, beer and food and tries to use that level of obligation to the team as a way of saying “you owe me a championship”, I’ll be the one to say, “you’re a fool for thinking that way.”

A sports franchise owes you their best effort to be competitive and contend for a playoff spot.  That doesn’t happen every year – unless you’re the Yankees or Patriots or Lakers – but it’s the benchmark of any successful organization.  Put your team together to be