This ain’t gonna be pretty.
In a season gone terribly bad, the Ravens will close things out (mercifully) on Sunday at home at 4:15 p.m. against the Pittsburgh Steelers. As ugly as things have been, what could happen Sunday in our taxpayer funded stadium will leave a bad taste in loyal Ravens’ fans mouths for the offseason. Because I fear that M & T Bank Stadium will be awash in black and gold.
There have been plenty of previous games here in Baltimore against "Dem Stillers" that have demonstrated that Pittsburgh fans show up in large numbers. 1996 springs instantly to mind; Memorial Stadium must have had 40,000 Steelers fans there that day. The first game at our new stadium in 1998 was filled with Terrible Towels. And this Sunday’s game, which is really almost an exhibition game for both teams, will present us, as Ravens fans, with a true test of sportsmanship.
Because you know they’re going to be loud and slovenly and drunk. You know you’re going to hear all the worst possible insults hurled at you and your team. You know that everyone likes to kick your team when they’re down. And you know nobody likes to do that more than Steelers fans when given the opportunity.
But perhaps you quit on this year’s Ravens team after the Buffalo loss. Or the Monday Night embarrassment in Heinz Field. Did you sell your tickets to a broker to get back some of the money you plunked down in April? Did you need some extra cash to help with your holiday shopping? Does it matter to you at all, as a fan, that by selling those seats you have contributed to the problem that the "die-hard" Ravens fans will have to endure Sunday? Believe me, I’ve seen this act before; there WILL be some problems in the stands on Sunday. It happens every year, but in this year of most bitter disappointments, the emotions and tensions could be higher than normal (and normal is pretty bad most years at this game anyway).
Maybe it will help that Pittsburgh is starting Charlie Batch and the Ravens are starting Troy Smith. This will honestly feel more like an exhibition in mid-August than a regular season finale. And if there’s one thing Ravens fans have discovered through this tortured march to the finish line, it’s to temper our expectations. So don’t take this thing too seriously or personally when one of them "yins" starts throwing F-bombs and acting like a, well, Steelers fan. Let them have their fun this year. They’re NOT going anywhere in the playoffs, and that’s a fact. And if you’re looking for a snappy comeback, here are two potentials for you:
58 – 7 in 2006!
What goes around, comes around.
So keep your cool, gang. Don’t be discouraged. And remember, this is your final chance to see your football team in a real game until 2008.
I think we can all be thankful for that.