The Ravens season and ‘It’s Academic’

December 23, 2007 | Nestor Aparicio

I’m sitting around on a Saturday morning watching “It’s Academic.” I gotta be honest, I didn’t know the show still existed, but it’s a real treasure. It still has all the cheesy graphics and kitschy-ness that it did in 1978. Today’s it’s Boonsboro, Bryn Mawr and Middletown. It could be the 1967 or 2007, and “It’s Academic” still works. And the questions haven’t changed at all, either!

Makes me wanna take the S.A.T. all over again!

Anyway, the Ravens are on my mind today.

Many people have commented on my blogs this week and sent me emails wondering why I didn’t write anything about the Miami loss. Well, first, it’s Christmas week, I’m going through a myriad of work-related issues and I’ve been at a loss for what to say. And the beauty of writing blogs vs. doing radio is this: I get time to think things through and, perhaps, in my older age, try to find some wisdom that goes beyond Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

So, today, I feel inspired to write something cogent, and no doubt, controversial.

I should be in Seattle today.

No, strike that: Vancouver.

I had a Thursday night flight to Seattle that I booked back in April. The plan was simple: fly to Seattle, drive to Vancouver (one of the most beautiful cities in the world) and see the Seahawks stadium on Sunday, fly back to New England for my wife’s family Christmas celebration and come home on Christmas Day.

Well, Alaska Airlines cancelled my flight to New England back in October, and given the state of the Ravens, we figured it must’ve been some kind of omen. So, I just stayed at home. Our promotion for the game at the Gold Club has also been cancelled, so I’ll be watching on my couch.

So instead of seeing the only NFL stadium I’ve never seen, going to Vancouver, eating salmon in Seattle and hanging for the holiday at Pike Place, I’m staying on my couch watching a lousy 4-10 team probably lose again while its third string, Heisman-winning quarterback runs for his life?

Merry F-ing Christmas, huh?

Good luck, Troy Smith! I’m not holding my breath, especially after watching that poor kid from the Carolina Panthers make mistake after mistake last night. I think Smith might be a fine quarterback in the future, but I’d be royally surprised is he makes it four quarters today without making serious mistakes while avoiding a stingy Seahawks defense.

Finally to the point of this rambling, holiday blog: I got a letter today from a kid in Joppatowne (his name is withheld by request). Here’s how it went…

NESTER,
 
my name is XXXX. I would like to keep my last name private. I am 19 years old and live in Joppatowne Maryland..
 
I am writing to tell you that I was in the FREE THE BIRDS thing, and I enjoyed every bit of it…..I know this is going to sound crazy bro. but I think we should start planning something for Steve Bisciotti , the owner of the Ravens, we need to do something before he turns into another Jackass like Peter Angelos AKA the Greek a**-hole.
 
It is ridiculous that the fans of Baltimore are getting screwed by both the Orioles and now the Ravens….
 
I was thinking of doing something like the first home game in January…..I think we the fans should show Bisciotti that we dont accept Peter Angelos and we wont put up with this either….
 
Hit me up bro,
 
XXXXX, 19 , Joppa-MD

My reply….

I think your ire toward Steve Bisciotti is more than a little misguided…

Call me in 2016 — and if the Ravens are 4-12 every year between now and then, I’ll have a reason to walkout on the Ravens and protest Bisciotti…

Until then, relax, enjoy the holidays and wait for the draft and free agency…

The Ravens will be just fine…

And Steve Bisciotti knows exactly what he’s doing…

What I really meant to say was this:

“Are you people nuts? What are you teaching your children?”

The Ravens have had 10 bad weeks (amidst injuries to virtually every key player on the team – Steve McNair, Todd Heap, Trevor Pryce, Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, Jon Ogden, B.J. Sams, etc). Willis McGahee has fumbled. Matt Stover missed a game-winning field goal against a winless team. Kyle Boller has run for his life. The team is aging, banged up and demoralized, but they actually started the season 4-2!

The Orioles, need I remind you, are working on their 11th bad YEAR IN A ROW!!! Their last meaningful game was played when this kid was 9 years old!

How dare ANYONE in this community compare the accomplishments of Steve Bisciotti, Art Modell, Brian Billick, Ozzie Newsome, Eric Decosta or ANYONE in the Ravens’ organization with the freaking Orioles.

And all I keep hearing about is: “FIRE BRIAN BILLICK!”

As Daffy Duck once said, “Are you people nuts?”

If I would have told you in July about all of the injuries – specifically the two you really can’t afford, quarterback and cornerback – there’s no way you could have predicted the Ravens would be a playoff team. (And with the way New England has played and the health they’ve maintained, no one was going to beat them anyway, but that remains to be seen.)

And as for Brian Billick and loyalty and who should coach the team: I would have no problem tossing Billick and his entire coaching staff into the Chesapeake except for this little “detail” that many here in the land of pleasant living seem to be willing to overlook: THE TEAM WAS 13-3 LAST YEAR! That was NOT an accident. He’s won a LOT more games than he’s lost and he was the central figure in turning this franchise around nine years ago.

If you’re going to give Billick all of the blame for 4-10 – and certainly there is plenty of organizational blame to go around in addition to his transgressions with the offense – then you better give him at least MOST of the credit for 13-3.

Marvin Lewis once said to me after one of the many, many head coaching firings in the NFL – and this was before he ever got his job in Cincinnati, and I’ve never forgotten it: “Players in the NFL get older, coaches don’t get dumber.”

But somehow – in the minds of the fans who want to hit the eject button at the first sign of a sub-.500 season — it’s always the coach that somehow gets struck with the “dummy stick” when their team underachieves or gets old or gets injured or gets penalized.

(My personal "favorite" is when fans yell at the coach when a player jumps before the snap, screaming about discipline and such, like it’s the coach’s fault Player X can’t follow the snap count, or it’s Billick’s fault when Bart Scott or Chris McAlister go "Texas Tower" on the refs using the flag for a javelin!)

But, in the words of Bob Haynie, I digress…

Sure the quarterbacking thing is a major problem, and the offense has been inept many times over his tenure, but you don’t fire qualified head coaches and excellent staffs and eschew stability within the franchise because of 10 weeks with an aging team riddled with injuries.

You simply replace the players, like Pittsburgh did with Cowher, like Denver does with Shanahan and like Tennessee does with Fisher.

Brian Billick and his staff get better every time the team loses, believe it or not. They learn more, make adjustments, prepare for the offseason and next year. They are evaluating players, which is partly what the Troy Smith experiment is about today.

(And I wonder who the purple fans will call for tomorrow if Smith stinks today. And my prediction is that he’ll stink because he’s young, he’s untested, he’s in a furious road environment and his offensive line won’t be any better than it was for Boller or McNair.)

The Ravens stink in 2007. There’s no denying it, getting around it or arguing it.

They’re painfully hard to watch, which is why I’m on my couch instead of sitting in the rain in Seattle today. (By the way, I HATE watching Ravens games on television. This will be the fourth one I’ve watched on TV this century, and I hate it every time I do.)

But as bad as 4-10 is, it’s also easy to play out a scenario where Todd Heap doesn’t get the pass interference call in Cincinnati, where the Cleveland call doesn’t get reversed, where they hold on against the Patriots and the flags stay in the officials’ pockets, and where Matt Stover hits that field goal in Miami.

All of a sudden, the Ravens are an 8-6 team and in the playoff hunt.

And in no way do I want to endorse that an 8-6 record would somehow make Billick a genius or the team any good at all. They just would be luckier than they’ve been, not a better team. But it’s a plausible and realistic scenario, this 8-6 fantasy of mine.

Of course, you could also argue against ANY of the four relatively flimsy wins (especially the late comebacks by the Jets and Cardinals), and say they could BE the Dolphins. Not to mention having San Francisco miss a game-winner at Candlestick in the waning minutes. And St. Louis barely qualified as an NFL team. (Man, these are ALL some crappy excuses for NFL teams, huh?)

I’m not going to lie to you: 4-10 blows, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone outside of Pittsburgh, Washington and Indianapolis. And maybe, Duke!

But I’m also not gonna apologize for being a Ravens fan/apologist/optimist/fill in insult of choice.

I love the Ravens. I love the fun they bring to my life. I like rooting for them even when they blow (like today). I hate when they lose. And I hate NOT being in Seattle with the team this morning.

I’d MUCH rather be in Seattle this morning waking up to a latte and a great football game. And a chance of a playoff berth.

I’d rather have the purple rope lights blinking out my windows for a Festivus celebration.

But, I do have my little purple tree out, waiting for the next season when Christmas brings football joy back into my life.

And you know what? I’m not losing any sleep over the 2007 Ravens. It wasn’t meant to be.

But I have FULL confidence that it won’t be too long before they’ll be hanging purple lights all around the Inner Harbor come Christmas 2008 or 2009 or 2010.

The purple represents hope for next year. And with the Ravens, there’s ALWAYS hope. They ALWAYS bounce back.

My 12 years of watching Ozzie Newsome and Eric Decosta and the nine of watching Brian Billick has taught me to remain patient: the Ravens will return to fun and potential glory.

In the meantime, I’m gonna remain loyal amidst the tough times and be a good fan and give the people who’ve EARNED the benefit of the doubt (from Bisciotti, Newsome and Billick right on down the line) that luxury. It’s the NFL. They’re NOT gonna be 13-3 every year. But if they put up a series of turds like 2007, changes are gonna be made.

The Orioles, however, continue to spit in the face of the fans for the holidays with ticket price increases, a Mickey Mouse TV network that is a local punchline (except to Angelos, who is PRINTING MONEY at your expense) and a team riddled with drug allegations and a culture of losing and anguish that is reinforced by an ownership that has again spent an entire offseason without marketing to its former customers (unless you consider Aubrey Huff’s vodka-soaked "appearance" with a porn star on the internet calling Baltimore a "horseshit" town as an "official" Orioles marketing endeavor).

Please refrain from comparing what is a “blip on the radar” with the Ravens this season to anything the Orioles have done over the past 15 years.

It’s an insult to my intelligence and anyone else who considers all of the data and information.

(I sorta feel like Lewis Black this morning!)

Oh, and Marry Christmas to you and your family.

Pass the egg nog…

Peace on earth…

One day soon there’ll be a Festivus for the rest of us.