At long last, welcome back to the Unassisted Triple Play. You may have noticed my absence over the past several weeks. Probably you didn’t, but I’ll pretend that you did. Anyway, my inactivity has been largely the result of moving from Baltimore to Hartford, CT, where I now work in the sports information department at the University of Hartford, covering the men’s basketball team among other sports.
While I await my triumphant return to Baltimore to take on UMBC in an America East tilt on January 14, I’ve been keeping up with all the action from afar.
OUT NUMBER ONE
There was a moment last night when I thought to myself “a team that loses to a third-string quarterback has no business being in the playoffs. At least I won’t have to work myself up into an ulcer the rest of the season.”
Well, my health insurance at the new job just kicked in, so bring on the gastric acid!
I think any Ravens fan holding out hope for this season probably has a frame of mind similar to mine – the team hasn’t lost any games it shouldn’t have, and with the possible exception of the second Cincinnati game, they have been right in every game all year. Give me a second chance at the Patriots, the Colts, the Vikings…give me a third shot at the Bengals…I’ll take my chances.
That said, despite the fact that many fans and experts anticipated a Ravens blowout with Dennis Dixon in there, the Ravens needed a game like last night. They needed a do-or-die situation against the team they simply seemed incapable of getting over the hump against. They needed to prove that they aren’t seemingly the most snakebitten team in the history and get over the hump in one of those games. And they did it.
Now we know that Joe Flacco can win a game in the last five minutes if he has to. For all the greatness of his first 29 NFL games, he had yet to do that. A blowout would have been nice for our collective psyche, but going into last night, it didn’t matter if they won in overtime on a field goal or were resting the starters by halftime – it would just be one win, and they might very well need another one in Pittsburgh in late December to shore up a playoff berth.
That game will likely feature Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and Chris Kemoetu, which has to be the hardest-to-spell trio on any inactive list in NFL history. The chances of the Ravens going into Pittsburgh and blowing the doors off the place are slim, but it is a strong bet that they will be in the game. If the Ravens find themselves down late in the game, they can look back at last night and know that they have a quarterback (and a running back) capable of moving the ball and getting them what they need to extend drives and seasons. If that hadn’t happened yesterday – even if the Ravens had won handily – that knowledge would not be in the back of their heads going up against the Super Bowl champs in a hostile environment. Now it is, and that will prove invaluable down the stretch for a team desperate to win and move on.
At least that’s what I’m going to tell myself for the sake of my health. In the meantime, Dennis is no Juan. And thank God we got the better half of the dynamic surveying duo.
OUT NUMBER TWO
With the Patriots and Saints underway tonight in one of the most hyped games of the season, and the Ravens and Steelers extending the best rivalry in the NFL right now with another classic last night, this week’s prime time games may end up bailing out the NFL for an embarrassment of a Thanksgiving opening course. Now, I won’t blame them for the clunker that Giants-Broncos ended up being. No one could have known that Eli was still more serious about his squash career than the Giants’ playoff hopes. But to pair the Cowboys with the Raiders, especially when the laughingstock that is the Detroit Lions had to be featured somewhere, was inexcusable.
The league has two teams locked into Thanksgiving every year. No one in their right mind could have counted on the Lions for a decent showing, even in a storied rivalry game. There’s only so much you can do with them, but that should have left the schedule makers pouring over the Cowboys’ home schedule trying to set up one of the best possible games for Thanksgiving.
So they look at who might be good coming into the season. in addition to their star-studded NFC East rivals, the Cowboys play Golden Boy Matt Ryan (who is no Chris Redman, mind you) and Philip, LT, and the Chargers in the Taj Mahal of football this season. So naturally, in the search for a marquee matchup, the NFL picked……..the Oakland Raiders?!
If the game on the field featured Jerry vs. Al in a tete-a-tete, then I could see it as fantastic holiday viewing. But that football game was more of a snorer than the tryptophan. Congratulations NFL, you’ve ruined Thanksgiving.
Of course, just like every other problem the NFL has experienced over the past 15 years, I’m sure they will find a way to Blame Baltimore. If the Ravens hadn’t ruined Jerry’s finale for Texas Stadium, maybe he wouldn’t have had to push for such a patsy on Thanksgiving. We knew that Le’Ron McClain was a power back. We didn’t know his footsteps would still be causing ripples eleven months later.
OUT NUMBER THREE
Normally I use this space for something irreverent and funny. Not today. Today I have something very serious to talk about with all of you. That, of course, was the mysterious disappearance of my Orioles and Ravens car magnets from my back bumper over the weekend. To whoever took them – assuming a Connecticut hoodlum reads random Baltimore sports blogs – I want them back. Put them back where you found them (the dirt outline of the “O” and the Ravens oval sticker are still there, so you should be able to do that no problem), and all will be forgiven. Otherwise, I will have you traced, and will send members of the UConn basketball team to steal your computer.
In the meantime, if any of my loyal readers have extra “O’s,” Ravens stickers, or any of the other things I’ve been missing from back home (Natty Boh, Berger cookies, Utz crab chips, Barry Glazer commercials, etc.), I would be forever in your debt.
No bigtime musicians born today, so today’s Happy Birthday goes to Simonetta Stefanelli, a.k.a. Apollonia from the Godfather. No one mastered the days of the week quite like her, and she still ranks in the top 50% of women drivers. And much like this blog, when she hit you with the thunderbolt, you were not going to forget it anytime soon.
Glad to be back everyone, talk to you all again soon.