I’ve been a football fan for a long time. I’m old enough, barely, to remember Baltimore Colts’ Sundays. Of course, I will admit that the only Colt football I actually saw, was pretty bad. The early 80’s Colts were brutal to watch on most days. But you get the point. Over the years, I carried a torch for our World Champion USFL Baltimore Stars. Although I don’t think they ever played a game in Baltimore…but I digress. I was also a die hard Buffalo Bills fan, thank you Jim Kelly. He is, and always will be, my favorite football player of all time. Say what you will about those 4 Super Bowl losses, but mark these words: There will never be another team to go to four straight Super Bowls. And even though they lost, imagine how great it would be to have your team in the big dance four straight years. I know, I lived it, and it was pretty sweet. I cheered on the CFL’s Baltimore Stallions. I remember that they wanted to call them the CFL Colts, but the powers that be in the NFL wouldn’t let that happen. Yet another slap at Baltimore. They became the first non-Canadian team to win the Grey Cup, and I celebrated.
Then came November of 1995. I believe it was the 5th. I saw for the first time that Art Modell had plans to move his Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. The Stallions saw the hand writing on the wall and fled to Montreal where Don Matthews continued his run of success. And thus, was born our beloved Baltimore Ravens. Which brings me to my point, I think.
I have seen a lot of football and I have to say, I chuckle a little in reading some of the blogs and listening to some that represent this fan base. Because I have never seen a season end for a 4-4 team in early November. I grant the premise that this team has issues. We have an defensive line that can’t pressure the opposing quarterback with just a four man rush. Start earning you money T-Sizzle. We have a secondary that can’t cover opposing wide receivers without drawing a yellow flag. We lack a true deep threat at wide out. And we have a quarterback, as good as he is, that takes wayyyyyyyy too many sacks. Sorry, not a cheap shot, but Joe needs to learn how to throw the ball away if the play isn’t there. However…….the season is not over. Ok, so Ravens aren’t among the elite teams. They weren’t last year either. They were a sixth seed in the playoffs last year. They are who they’re record shows them to be. A good team that feasts on mediocre teams, but comes up short against the top flight. There’s a league full of those teams in this year’s NFL. It doesn’t mean we give up on the season. These aren’t the Orioles for God’s sake. Next up for our boys in purple are the Cleveland Browns. You can already pencil the Ravens in for their 5th win. The only way this game is a disappointment is if the Ravens don’t score 30. They WILL beat the Browns, and improve to 5-4. And if memory serves, they were 5-4 at this point during their 2000 Super Bowl season. I hate drawing comparisons a decade later, but I think some of our fans need a history lesson every now and then.
Next up after the Browns, is that team in Indianapolis. A lot of people have that penciled in as a loss. Ok, and I’m sure a lot of people in Philly had the Raiders game as a W too…until they took the field. And that’s my point. In the NFL, anything can happen. Was the loss to the Bengals a bad loss. Absolutely, especially the way they lost. They got smacked in the mouth and NEVER smacked back. That’s not “Playing like a Raven”. Although the defense was better in the second half, thank you Lardarius Webb. But who’s to say they can’t reel off 8 wins in a row and finish 12-4? Look what happened last year. And truth be told, they could lose 5 of the next 8 (they aren’t losing to Cleveland, Detroit, or Oakland) and finish 7-9. That’s the beauty, and sometimes frustration, of the NFL. Every given Sunday. I’ve watched enough football, and been a fan long enough to know, that if you are .500 at the midway part of your season, you are in the hunt. Is the schedule a daunting one? Yes it is. Is there a chance our Ravens could get skull-thumped in a few of these games? Absolutely. But here is where real football fans are separated. Real football fans know that the last game is in the rear view mirror. It’s on to Cleveland. One game at a time.
The road to the playoffs for the Ravens is paved with the good teams. This team, like last year, will have to earn the right to play in the January tournament. And that’s how I want it. That’s how any football fan would want it. Beat the good teams to earn the right to dance. And if you can’t beat the Pittsburghs or Indianapolis’ of the world, then you don’t belong in the playoffs. That’s not a low blow….it’s just a fact.
Go Ravens!!! Step off the ledge fans and please don’t jump, the season isn’t over quite yet.