Tom Brady and the Patriots used to play the role for Peyton Manning and the Colts.
The Celtics used to play the role for Lebron James.
And until September 11, 2011, Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers played the role for Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh.
The role of the monkey on their respective backs.
No one around Baltimore would admit it. Everyone wanted to believe that the Ravens would win their season opening game against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers.
But until we actually saw it play out in front of our eyes on a glorious afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium, was there any reason to expect the Ravens to clear their biggest hurdle since John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco arrived in town some four seasons ago?
Think about it. The Ravens were 2-6 against the Steelers coming into Sunday. Their two wins, one in 2009 and one in 2010, were against Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch led Steelers teams.
And as all Ravens fans know, Big Ben and his Steelers have sent the Ravens home from the playoffs two of the past three seasons.
In those eight games, Joe Flacco has struggled mightily. Harbaugh has been out-coached. Cam Cameron went vanilla. The defense gave up big plays at the worst times.
Yes, the Steelers were the monkey on the backs of everyone in the Ravens organization.
All of that is erased with Sunday’s win. Long gone is the pain of those heartbreaking playoff losses in 2008 and 2010. Say goodbye to the notion that Joe Flacco can’t perform well against the Steel Curtain, or the thought that Cam Cameron is afraid to open it up against Dick LeBeau’s defense.
That’s all in the past.
What an afternoon this was for Ravens fans. Rather than a competitive football game, Baltimore football fans were treated to a 60 minute party filled with both relief and joy. It’s as though the monkey was placed in the middle of M&T Bank Stadium while 70 thousand passionate purple fans took turns bashing its head in with a bat.
Yes, it was that good. It almost had to be this good. If this current group of players and coaches were going to erase the demons that the Steelers have created over the past three seasons, this win had to be extraordinary.
If this organization was going to fully move on from their complete meltdown last January, this couldn’t have been just a mellow, 20-17 statement. It had to be a smackdown of epic proportions.
And the Baltimore Ravens delivered.