Win or go home is the theme tonight in Indianapolis.
For the Ravens, that is.
It’s not quite that simple for the fans who made the 10-hour trek to the “friendly heart of the midwest” as my buddy Merton would say.
The 3,000 or so from Baltimore who are here for the game came west to personally involve themselves in one of the greatest exorcisms in the history of Charm City sports.
A win on Saturday over the Colts won’t give us the name back…or the uniforms back…and it won’t remove John Unitas’ name from their record books. That’s all water under the bridge now.
But a win on Saturday WOULD provide one thing: misery for the people of Indianapolis.
And that – in all reality – is what the folks in Baltimore came to see. In person.
We came to see them cry.
Young, old, grandparents, kids, teachers, nurses — you know, the whole list of people we’d otherwise not see suffer — they can all cry tonight and it would just about make our whole decade (so far).
I know, I know. “Gee, Drew, isn’t that harsh?”. I’m not really speaking for myself that much, because the whole Mayflower-1984 thing doesn’t really bother me like it used to, say, 10-15 years ago. It just doesn’t. But I know it still eats at roughly 90% of the Baltimore football fan base and for that, I hope they get whatever they consider to be their just reward for going all the way to Indy to watch their (now) beloved team play tonight.
If Indianapolis Colts fans are crying when the game ends tonight, that’s a just reward, I’d say.
The result of the game is ultra-significant to the team, obviously: If the Ravens pull off the upset on Saturday night, it will rank as one of the great moments in modern Baltimore sports history. It would certainly be the 2nd most significant win in the history of the Ravens, topped only, of course, by Super Bowl 35 in Tampa Bay. And remember this – and admit it, too – the Ravens weren’t REALLY all that important to Baltimore in 2001 when they captured the title. That was the 2000 season, year five in team history, and the community as a whole was still a tad lukewarm about the franchise. It wasn’t until AFTER the Super Bowl win that the city fully embraced the Ravens. And since that Super Bowl triumph, the Ravens have only won three playoff games, so the locals are ripe for some kind of historic victory…and Saturday offers a great chance for that.
Baltimore’s sports thrills have been football and football only since October, 1997. That’s the last time the Orioles played a meaningful baseball game. Over the last 12+ years, the sports volcano in Charm City has REALLY only erupted a handful of times and they’ve all been purple-related.
We’re not in a drought – the Ravens did advance to the AFC title game a season ago – but in terms of winning a sporting event that connects the community and creates civic pride, there hasn’t been much to crow about over the last 8 years or thereabouts.
Saturday night in Indianapolis changes all of that if Baltimore wins the game.
Beating the Colts.
In their building.
To send them home.
And ruin their season.
What more could any fan in Baltimore want?
They did it to us on January 13, 2007, with Indy winning at M&T Bank Stadium to send us home with our tail between our legs.
Remember the hurt?
It was painful.
If the Football Gods really do exist, they’ll do us a solid tomorrow night and help Baltimore exorcise a 26-year old demon. It’s not about Peyton Manning or Jim Caldwell or Dallas Clark. They just happen to be part of it. It’s about lifting a curse-like weight off of our backs. It’s turn-about-is-fair-play-time. Karma. “Every dog has his day.”
It’s about the fans of Indianapolis.
They might very well be nice people.
But they need to hurt at our expense on Saturday.
They need to walk out of that stadium with 3 minutes to go and have tears rolling down their cheeks as a seemingly magical season comes to an end at the hands of that team from Baltimore.
Baltimore football fans deserve this night on Saturday. The thousands who have converged on Indianapolis would be carrying the flag for all of Charm City when they revel in the streets of Broad Ripple around midnight.
If it comes across as mean, so be it. It’s not intended to be mean at all.
It’s just a fact — the game isn’t about the Ravens and Colts. It’s about Indianapolis and Baltimore.
And because we’ve felt enough pain over the years when the teams meet on the field, the time has come for the tables to be turned.
It’s time for THEM to cry.
A bunch of us came all the way to Indy to see it in person.