Like many of you on Monday night I had a a major case of trepidation about the game. It was going to be cold and very windy, and the thought of another national humiliation on ESPN came to the forefront of my mind. Did I really want to see a 42-10 score? But like so many other fans I piled on the layers and trudged my way down to M&T Bank Stadium for tailgating with hope, however unrealistic it seemed.
What I and 71,000 others got was a reaffirmation on why we love sports and why we wanted an NFL team back all those years ago. You want to tell me that despite the final score you didn’t have a good time and that you didn’t leave feeling a little more pride in your team and the city it represents?
My hat’s off to the players and coaches; they played their hearts out. They left it all out on the field and in defeat were more valiant than in some victories. Yes, I know there was some questionable behavior at the end and after the game. That’s another blog.
The ball isn’t bouncing our way in 2007; everything seems to go the other way. Such is life in the NFL. One year’s studs are next years bums. Ask the Chicago Bears fans among others.
What the Ravens gave us Monday was three and half hours of pure joy and proved once again why sports is the greatest theater there is. I often wonder about people who love theater and yet hate sports. Jealousy, I guess, is the only rationale I can come up with. Sports is live, unpredictable and, in Monday night’s case, dramatic and heart wrenching. It’s never repeated. If you have seen the play West Side Story once you know that Tony dies at the end. He does again two years later when the production comes back to town. Play Monday’s game again and I don’t know what the outcome is or how it will end.
There is one other thing sports, especially NFL football, does–it brings together an entire community of strangers. My section was electric from the time Hank Williams started on the big screen to the final whistle. People up in there seats, rooting, hollering almost willing the Ravens to victory. Ten times a year people from Essex, Timonium, Hagerstown, Ellicott City, Pasadena and other locales come together. Black, white, blue collar, white collar, they come together for a common cause to root against a common foe, the other teams. They slap hands, high five, and they yell and cheer as one voice. They leave behind their worlds and throw themselves into the spectacle. Some come to get away from what the world is doing to them, to forget about problems they might have.
Monday morning I learned that a good friend of mine had a stroke and was in the hospital. On the way to tailgate, I spent several minutes talking to a college friend of mine who is battling breast cancer. My friend who is battling cancer told me to enjoy the game. How unselffish I though,she was battling the greatest fight of her life and telling me to enjoy myself at a game. I almost felt guilty. Like others I forgot about anything that bothered me and sat and enjoyed. For that period, time did seem to stand still, and it was almost perfect.
Tuesday we all went back to work and everyone was talking about the game. Why did Boller throw the ball? Why did Rex call timeout? What was up with the referees? Trivial, yes, when compared with life, but important to a community at large. Bonding us together. Making us feel connected.
This is why we wanted the NFL back so much and why it hurt so bad when Paul Tagliabue and Jack Kent Cooke conspired to keep us out.
Be honest. Isn’t it better to have a team and feel what we felt on Monday night, than to have sat at home and just watched any two teams. Even in a bad year, the city is alive with passion for this team. Sure, we are not happy about the outcome of the game and the season, but it still feels good to have a team to complain about.
Here’s hoping this feeling never ends and that the wins come back. But no matter how poor, this season still beats not having a team. Another Sunday approaches and we have another game to get ready for.