So today marks another battle in the dirty little civic war between the Charm City and the Steel City.
Obviously, today would be the low ebb for anyone in purple with recent memories. The Steelers are going to the playoffs, we’re going back to the drawing board, and even with Ben Roethlisberger riding the pine, our chances of winning the game today are remote. And to add salt to the wounds, the stadium will be half-empty – no doubt – given the worst weather forecast possible (rainy, mid-30s).
And a large percentage of the half who will show up will be waving yellow snot rags.
Sure, I hate Pittsburgh as much as any man from Baltimore can hate Pittsburgh. It’s a major part of my DNA, I honestly believe.
Maybe it’s from the 1970s, when Terry Bradshaw beat Bert Jones in Pittsburgh in 1975, and then came into Memorial Stadium in 1976 and did it again, even though I remember more about Donald Kroner from that day in the upper deck.
The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates and Omar Moreno and his wife, well, enough said about that. I covered most of it in Chapter 8 of Purple Reign.
So this has been a LIFETIME of disdain for ‘yins from donton.
But today, due to the foul weather conditions and the worthless nature of today’s game, I’m going to do everything in my power to not let it get to me. I’m going to attempt to believe that the Steelers are “just another team” for three hours this afternoon. And I’ll do my best to ignore those in Jack Lambert jerseys.
When the Ravens first came to town, the fan in me saw each one of these "battles" as life and death. Early on, the Steelers beat Vinny Testaverde like a pinata. I remember the drive up and back from a 37-0 pasting on Sunday Night Football. I also remember the Ravens beating the Steelers and screwing them out of homefield advantage in 1996. I also remember the first time the Ravens beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh in 1999, and feeling the joy of watching Three Rivers Stadium empty out early in the fourth quarter.
Over the past decade, these games have always had the most significance and the most passion and energy.
But not today. Today is a somber occasion on our side, a game that when the schedules were printed back in April looked to be a "MAJOR" game.
The biggest question in Baltimore this week was: "Are you even going to bother going?"
Here’s my story:
I’m going to the game today (at least I think I am right now…gimme a few hours) to bid the Ravens adieu for another nine months.
I’m going (like I said, I THINK I’m going…LOL) to be loyal and to remain a good fan, even in the darkest moments of the franchise’s 12-year history.
I’m also going to wish Mike Flynn and Jon Ogden well in their apparent retirements from being anchors during what will be one of the great runs in Ravens’ history over the past decade.
Let’s be honest, we’ve all had a lot of fun with the Ravens since Jon Ogden’s name was read by Paul Tagliabue that day in April 1996 in New York. If J.O. is gone – and I have no sane reason to believe he’s coming back to play football in July in Westminster – I feel like I need to be there today to be supportive as a fan for his farewell.
Flynn, of course, has become a good friend of mine through the years. His parents are a weekend fixture in any city the Ravens are in and, honestly, it’s a tough time for any athlete who is walking onto the field for the final time. I think he’ll remain a visible member of the Ravens’ alumni for years to come, but he’ll only play one “last” game as a Raven and today appears to be that day.
I have more "blood on the bricks" with Mike Flynn than any athlete in Baltimore sports that I’ve covered over 23 years. He’s the one rare "friend" I’ve accumulated from doing this job for so long. And remembering the first time I met him in 1997 when he was a slappy, practice squad guy sitting in the corner, I’m really happy for all he’s over-acheived in his years with the team. He’s truly a throwback to the kind of guy the Baltimore Colts would’ve had.
So, today I’ll trudge off in the rain into my trusty seat in the upper deck and watch what essentially will be a late December, cold, wet exhibition game as a tribute to two guys who have given all of their professional lives to what I love the most – the Ravens.
They both will no doubt come back to be inducted into the Ring of Honor at some point. Ogden will have a day five summers from now in Canton, Ohio. For them, it’s only the beginning of the next part of their lives.
It’s been a pleasure knowing Mike Flynn and Jon Ogden over the years. I will get very wet and cold today simply to honor them.
For the franchise, it’ll be a new beginning when they’re gone, but it’s sports and all things change and players get older and retire.
As for the game itself, I just hope it ends expeditiously and mercifully.
I just need this season to end already, and let’s get ready for 2008.