Early exit sends the wrong message

November 12, 2007 | Drew Forrester

On a day when the Ravens had little to be thankful for, they can at least rejoice in the fact that the people who filed out early on Sunday don’t play for the team. After all, who would want those folks in a foxhole with them?

Yes, today was a day when the true fans stuck it out, showing their appreciation for one of the best defensive performances of the last few years and, at the same time, reminding the boys in purple that Baltimore’s true die-hards will hang in there through thick and thin.

After all, we AREN’T talking about the baseball team here. Their decade of despair and the fact that they’ve intentionally disassociated with the city they play in has directly led to a massive air of discontent. This is a football team one year removed from a record-setting 13-3 season and an organization that has embedded itself in our community in a manner the baseball team couldn’t do if the Ravens turned over the manual to them.

Today, though, a lot of people in the seats quit on the football team. And today, specifically, they were wrong for doing so.

The first “en masse” exit began with 11:50 to go, just seconds after the Bengals’ Shayne Graham booted his 5th field of the game to put Marvin Lewis & Co. up 15-0.

As I sat upstairs in Section 513, I wondered aloud if the Ravens would score at all. But the main discussion among the gang in my section centered on that Ravens defense and how much heart and grit they showed throughout the day, keeping the game close and keeping the Bengals out of the end zone.

By the time the 6th field goal ripped through the uprights with 9:50 to play, the stadium was literally half-empty. Two minutes later, after another turnover by McNair, there were probably only 20,000 people in the stands.

What a disrespectful showing from people who supposedly understand football.

It’s one thing if the score is 34-7 and it’s rainy and your babysitter has just called to say the kids are getting restless.

It’s another thing if you’ve planned a “rally” and walk-out in the 5th inning to show your dislike for the way the baseball team has been run into the ground, but we’ll get back to that issue later.

But when your team is 4-4 — about to be 4-5 — and the defense is playing without its top two All-Pro cornerbacks and midway through the game, has to play a guy who was on the practice squad as of Friday at 3:30 pm … and the other team still can’t score a touchdown … are you that unaware of what’s going on that you figure the best way to show your disapproval is to leave?

The 10,000 or so who stuck it out until the very end are the real winners today. They obviously get it.  They understand that the football team and the organization has provided us all with much more joy than sorrow since 1996. They also understand that it’s one thing to be unhappy with a lack of effort — but there was no quit in the Ravens defense today. And leaving early, which every fan is entitled to do, isn’t the right way to say, “I’m with you guys … through the good and bad.”

Here’s a news flash for those of you thinking about going to next Sunday’s game against Cleveland. The Ravens are probably going to lose. If McAlister and Rolle are both OUT again next Sunday, a very real possibility, the Ravens are likely to lose, in fact. A few weeks later, the Ravens will probably lose at home to the Colts and a week after that, I’m quite certain the Patriots are going to romp here as well. In other words – get ready for more losing, because it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.

But I remind you all, this is NOT the baseball franchise.  Whatever their record is at season’s end (7-9 … maybe?), you can rest assured there will not be a day of peace in the off-season until Ozzie, Brian, Rex, etc. figure out what wrong, who needs to stay, who needs to go and who needs to be brought in to get the team back on track for 2008 and beyond.

Walking out on the team like that today — and in particular, walking out on the defense on a day when they gave a phenomenal performance, shows just how short everyone’s memory is around here.

And I’m quite certain the early exit crowd departed the scene to show Billick, McNair and the rest of the offense just how disgusted they were with the events that transpired until McGahee found the endzone in the final couple of minutes. That’s all well and good, but as bad as our offense was today, our defense was that much better. Sticking around to say “thanks” to Ray Lewis and his gang of battlers would have been the right thing to do.

Instead, 60,000 of you were gone before the two-minute warning hit in the 4th quarter.

Shayne on you. Oops … I meant, SHAME on you.

I heard that name Shayne Graham so much today, it’s still in my head.