Two days later — The Cleat of Reality visits the fans, too

September 20, 2011 | Drew Forrester

I opened Monday morning’s radio post-mortem with a snarky segment on how the Ravens received a visit from our old pal, “The Cleat of Reality” on Sunday in Nashville.

The Cleat was quite busy on the NFL’s second weekend.  He also made an appearance in Atlanta, New Orleans and The Meadowlands — to see the Eagles, Bears and Jaguars.

The Ravens got their dose of reality in the form of a 26-13 whipping at the hands of the Titans, a team we all expected our purple-feathered-friends to handle with relative ease.

Instead, John Harbaugh’s team was the one that was handled — with ease.

And so it goes in the NFL, where week-by-week it seems someone goes sky high only to be crushed back to earth seven days down the road.

You’d think by now we – the fans – would have it all figured out.

Based on the reaction in Baltimore over the last 36 hours or so (as I write this), the majority of the Ravens fan base doesn’t have it figured out at all.

How else can you explain some of the crazy comments and critiques we’ve heard or read since the final whistle blew on Sunday afternoon just after 4pm?

I should note from the outset that these morning-after explosions of bad logic are actually GOOD for me and what I do for a living.  So, in that regard — keep ’em coming.  It’s kind of like the auto insurance companies stressing to you, the consumer, that you should wear your seat belt, obey the speed limit and refrain from driving and texting at the same time.  Hell, if you do all that stuff, the insurance industry might go under, right?  But they do it anyway, more as a service of common courtesy than anything else.

So consider this a gentleman’s gesture when I ask you to take a good listen to yourself following a loss.  The things you all come up with to try and explain the how-and-why it happened are amazing.

I mean, it seriously forces me to bring out the great line from Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High when he was passing out test papers with D’s and E’s on viritually every single one of them.

“What are you people…on dope?”

I get it.  Fans are reactionaries.  I try not to be one of those when I take to the air on Monday mornings after a loss.  I was once the GM of a sports franchise.  We lost games.  We won games…more than we lost, in fact.  And that was a good thing, because winning is always better than losing.  But losing is part of sports, unfortunately.  I learned a long time ago there are days when you play well and lose, there are days you don’t play well and lose and there are just days you put it behind you and say, “It wasn’t our day today.”

Ravens fans can’t handle losing.

It’s that simple.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying you have to LIKE losing.  That would make you a loser, in fact, if you actually enjoyed losing.

But the reaction in this town after a loss has gotten comical.

It’s as if people can no longer enjoy the games for what they are.  When the Ravens win, the euphoria lasts for about 12 hours or so — or just long enough to call WNST the next day or hop on the internet and whine about how the team botched a 3rd and 3 and only won 34-10 instead of 41-10.

And six days later if there’s a loss?  Holy schnikee, it’s like the world has come to an end.

Maybe The Cleat of Reality has to make an appointment with you — and you over there — and you, too — and remind each of you that no one in the league has a divine right to winning and, in fact, no one is going to win every time they take the field.

Some of the comments I heard over and over and over and over and over and over (get it?) about Sunday’s game were so goofy I couldn’t stop laughing.

“The Ravens just weren’t ready for the game, plain and simple.”  (Dumb comment)

“It’s John Harbaugh’s job to make sure they were fired up and they weren’t.”  (Dumb comment)

“They just took the Titans too lightly and figured they’d just walk all over them.”  (Dumb comment)

Those things happen in high school football, where kids who play the game have other stuff on their mind like girls, pot, pimples, schoolwork, music, more girls, sex and how they desperately need to get someone of legal age to buy beer for them after the homecoming game.

Here’s why the Titans won on Sunday.

It’s simple, really.

Their quarterback had a terrific afternoon.  Their #1 wide receiver had a great game.  Their defense forced three turnovers from the Ravens offense.

There you go.

Of course there were other mitigating factors in the game and lots of small but important elements on both sides of the ball that led to the Ravens poor play, but to not simply acknowledge that on that given Sunday, the Titans were the better team by A LOT is just ignoring the truth.

The players who played the game and the coaches who schemed the game WON the game and LOST the game for their respective sides.

Fact:  Matt Hasselbeck was WAY better than Joe Flacco on Sunday.

Fact:  Kenny Britt was WAY better than Anquan Boldin on Sunday.

Fact:  Their defense was WAY better than the Ravens defense on Sunday.


Now, the reasons why Hasselbeck was better and Britt was better and their defense was better are all discussion-worthy for sure.  But Matt Hasselbeck didn’t read the 7-yard underneath route any better on Sunday because Ed Reed thought the game was won because the Ravens were good and the Titans weren’t.  Kenny Britt didn’t manhandle the Ravens secondary because Chuck Pagano or John Harbaugh didn’t properly “fire up” Cary Williams.

It’s funny how the Ravens blasted the snot out of the Steelers two weeks ago 35-7 and jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, yet I didn’t hear one caller on Monday say, “Did you see how flat the Steelers looked in that first quarter yesterday?”.  Not once did I hear someone in Baltimore remark, “Boy, Tomlin sure stunk up the joint.  He didn’t have them ready to play at all.”

No, what you heard was, “We sure did take it to them right out of the gate.”

In other words, it’s always about the GOOD things you do when your team wins and the BAD things your team does when it loses.

It’s an long-standing axiom but if you ever played a minute of competitive sports, you know it’s true:  THE OTHER TEAM TRIES TOO.

I think the Ravens will go into St. Louis and win on Sunday.  I’d be surprised if, in fact, they didn’t.

But I also know it’s the NFL.

And, like we saw in Nashville, I know there are days when the other team puts their best foot forward and beats you.

I doubt that happens in St. Louis.  But I doubted it would happen in Nashville and it did.

One thing for sure.

If the Ravens DO lose on Sunday, it won’t be because “they weren’t ready” or “they were overconfident” or “Harbaugh didn’t have them ready to play”.

Please be smarter when you evaluate these results in the future.

I know you can do it.

Or, at least, I think you can.

The reaction after Sunday’s loss has me wondering about some of you.

“Paging The Cleat of Reality…Paging The Cleat of Reality…”