In the words of Vince Lombardi: "What the hell is going on around here?" I direct this to the fans of my two favorite sports teams the Baltimore Ravens and Maryland Terps Basketball.
Sunday, like most of you, I headed down to M & T Bank for a little tailgating and football and the start of a 36-hour sports experience that left me scratching my head about my hometown. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the crowd at the Ravens game, especially after that debacle in Pittsburgh six days prior. I felt good and thought we might actually win the game.
Then the Ravens took the field, and despite a gritty effort by the defense, they basically were humiliated by the Cincinnati Bengals, failing to score for 57+ minutes against a defense that gave up 51 to Cleveland and was ranked 28th vs. the pass and run. The Ravens lost 21-7 and the crowd made them feel like an 0-9 team rather than a 4-5 team.
Although filled to capacity, the crowd booed and showed their frustration to the home side especially at halftime, when Steve McNair threw an interception in the end zone and Billick’s troops went into the half down 6-0. As the game progressed and fans grew more frustrated with the Ravens offense, fans left early and booed a little louder. With 12 minutes left in the game the stadium resembled Oriole Park on a Tuesday vs. Tampa Bay (10,000 at best).
I have to admit I have mixed feelings about my fellow fans. Look I am as frustrated as anyone, but leaving with 11 or 12 minutes left in the game and only down 12-0 is inexcusable. That’s two plays away from us taking the lead. I know we probably wouldn’t of scored 21 points if we had played for two days, but come on folks. If you want to leave, then leave with 1:40 left in the game, when you know that all the Bengals have to do is take a knee and the game is over. After the Ravens failed to get the onside kick, you knew the game was over. That is acceptable, but it is not at the beginning of the fourth quarter when the game is still going on and the defense is giving you everything they have.
As far the booing, that’s our right as fans. I’m not sure it really helps, but you pay big money for the seats. As long as you keep it clean and don’t turn violent, I’m okay with booing or voicing your displeasure when the team deserves it.
But remember Ravens fans, we aren’t a team that has had 10 straight losing years or the Arizona Cardinals who haven’t been to the playoffs in forever. This team has been to the playoffs four times since 2000 and has had two more non-losing season. In an age of salary cap, that’s pretty good. The Steelers have had two or three rough seasons in the this decade as well. Don’t bail at the first sign of trouble. I don’t think Bears fans are bailing after a 4-5 start.
The people who left early are the same people who will be selling their seats to the Steelers fans, Browns fans and whoever else will give them cash. So I guess that begs the question: are they real fans or just fair weather fans? We will all find out the answer as the season progresses.
Part II– "GARYLAND"
Monday night, I was fortunate to score some free tickets to the Maryland-Hampton basketball game at Comcast Center. I am not a season ticket holder for the Terps, but usually find a way to make it to two or three games a year or whenever tickets are available.
I was thrilled especially for these seventh row mid-court tickets (no cheap seats on this night). Any chance to see the Terps is great. When I got to the game I was shocked the place was 2/3 empty. That’s right the beautiful arena that seats 17,500 could not of had more than 7,000 people in it (4,000 students and 3,000 regular fans). Don’t get me wrong, the seats are paid for and the game is technically a sellout. Just one question, where on earth was everyone?
I know it was a Monday night, a federal holiday, a 9:00 p.m. start, and they are playing Hampton. Hampton–who are they? For your information they are the MEAC champions, and my pick to pull a first round shocker in the NCAA tournament.
But 2/3 empty? Maryland with its storied tradition in a mecca of basketball? There is only one word for this–disgraceful! If you own Terps season tickets, shame on you. If you can’t go, sell your tickets, give them to someone, or donate them to charity. Do you people not know how many people would love a chance to see a Terps game.
If you are a real fan, support your team, not just when the ACC season starts. What, you don’t want anybody to know you went to the Hampton game? Have Terps fans become that big of snobs that it is only important when Duke or Carolina come to town?
Props to Steve Bisciotti, Ravens owner. He was there in his seat; the man is a real Terps fans. This team is young and hungry, coming off an NCAA berth, and picked in the middle to top half of the conference. They have exciting players in James Gist and Greivis Vasquez and lots of local products on the floor. This the support they get?
All this gives me worry that the Terps hoops program is becoming a wine and cheese crowd like Oriole Park, were people go just to be seen. Did the price increase when the team moved to Comcast put too many real fans out on the sideline? Has College Park just become another corporate, high society board room?
Say it ain’t so Joe (Smith). Cole Field House was one of the most electric atmospheres in sports; the place rocked and fans knew the history and tradition. They made it miserable for the opponent. Comcast on the other hand is just another new arena. Other than the students (keep it up kids!), the place has been dead the handful of times I have been to Comcast. It was exactly that way on Monday night as well as empty.
Sporting events are about local and civic pride, a fun and lively atmosphere, not fair weather fans who leave early and go only when it’s big-time. So Ravens and Terps fans, support your team in good times and bad, versus ranked teams and unranked teams.
Ravens fans start this Sunday vs. the Browns and let your voice be heard. Terps season ticket holders, try hard to make it for these non-conference games.