Let The Fun Begin! Who wants to go to Pittsburgh?

September 22, 2008 | Nestor Aparicio

For those of you wondering, these are the good days. The ones where you wake up and all of the years of your sports fandom are rewarded with a magical start to a Ravens season where hopelessness was the offseason prediction.

Three weeks ago, Las Vegas had the over/under on wins at six. And business wasn’t booming on betting the over, not even here at WNST where we all live to see the purple team win.

We love ‘em, but who knew that they’d actually be any good, right? This is when the real fun happens when we get a real season when we never expected it.

Look, they’re not the gonna win the Super Bowl every year and with the decade-plus-and-ongoing annual vomit the baseball team has served up for this community, we have to pick our spots.

THIS, most certainly, is one of those spots.

Get excited, yell loud, throw a WACKO 4 FLACCO sign in your car window or cubicle! Talk football at the watercooler and here at WNST.

YOU ARE ALLOWED TO BE EXCITED!!!
(If not now, then when? They could still finish 2-14. Who knows how this is gonna turn out? But I’m having fun!)

The mere notion that this team could have us wake up on the first day of fall undefeated (albeit 2-0) and in sole possession of first place in the AFC North with a pending extra 24 hours of preparation before playing second-place Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football seemed almost unthinkable 15 days ago.

(Apparently, many of the fellas in purple were lobbying HARD post-victory yesterday for a few days off but Coach HardBall had them back at the Bellagio for coffee and breakfast this morning. Another departure from Coach Billick, who most certainly would’ve told the team: “See you Thursday morning!”)

But here we are at 2-0 and in sole possession of first place and headed into the den of the lion in Steel City for a national TV game and if you’re not having fun yet, you should be.

Anyone smell a “coming out” party in Pittsburgh?

And with Ben Roethlisberger apparently on the shelf for next Monday, why not get a tad-bit optimistic, even if not fully delusional?

Think about it: a win on Monday Night and even Tony Kornheiser will have to do the Jim Mora talk on ESPN by the fourth quarter, right?

All the Ravens have done is take the field twice at home – playing each game literally “moment-to-moment” with significant injuries to Chris McAlister, Ed Reed, Willis McGahee, Kelly Gregg and with a rookie head coach and a rookie starting quarterback and a rookie left tackle (we almost FORGET about Jon Ogden, which is ridiculous) — and dominate division opponents.

Not just overwhelm them, but make them freaking quit in a sea of purple!

The Cleveland Browns and the Cinncinati Bengals are both winless and tied for last place, a full 2 ½ games behind the Ravens in the division. They were both manhandled and suffered the indignity of having Coach HardBall go easy on them by taking a knee. Hell, we did it TWICE yesterday!

Who is writing this fantasy script, anyway?

The final score yesterday easily could’ve been 42-10.

(I told you Harbaugh was a nice guy!)

We can X and O regarding the games and the differences we’ve seen in Cam Cameron’s offense – and we will at WNST all week right along with you — but it’s pretty apparent that Joe Flacco is a difference maker.

No matter how he plays or what situation he’s been dealt, the young Jersey lad is showing the poise of a signal caller much more mature than his years or 1-AA experience in Newark.

Just watching him handle the media in the postgame and the answers he’s now giving amidst success are telling.

He said that the reason he isn’t demonstrative on the field is because his siblings would ride him and make fun of him after games when he was a kid. He didn’t want to look like a fool and get laughed at.

“I learned pretty early on to cut that out,” Flacco said. “Being calm is what you’re supposed to be when you’re the quarterback.”

So, after the first interception, Harbaugh said Flacco was over consoling him instead of vice versa.

Joe Cool, indeed.

But it’s not just the WACKO 4 FLACCO show.

There are heros – unsung and otherwise – all over the field.

Let’s start at the top:

Ray Lewis has been sensational, playing like the best 33-year-old future Hall of Famer in the game. It’s not like 1997 when he was flying all over the field and you notice him on every play, but boy is he showing up in the “walk” year of his career and playing like he’s supposed to play. He looks hungry!

Ed Reed, who looks like he’d rather do anything than tackle someone at this point, still not only gets on the field but is a game changer by his mere presence. He can’t tackle and is clearly a different guy on his approach, but you better not throw the ball in his vicinity. He will make you pay! (That said, he still takes more chances and freelances as much as anyone in the game and it almost cost them yesterday!)

Justin Bannan is playing his ass off. With Gregg out, many of the defensive “other guys” have stepped up. Jarret Johnson has made big plays. Jim Leonhard was one of the stars of the game yesterday and no one knew who he was at breakfast. And McAlister, for all of his indiscretions and crankiness, is a machine. He plays with such pride and skill it looks almost effortless. It almost makes you sad when you consider how good he is and how underappreciated he is and how he should’ve been a Hall of Famer. But he should’ve been a better teammate and worker as well over the years. Maybe he sees this a last chance for greatness in his prime?

McAlister is playing through some discomfort for sure and if he leaves the lineup the whole ship starts to sink pretty quickly.

The Dawan Landry situation yesterday was one of those eerie moments that we never forget. We go from having fun at a football game to pondering life’s deeper meaning in an instant. The good-news prognosis is heartening but you realize what a serious game this is between the lines. And Landry is one of the real good guys on the team, soft-spoken, smiling and modest.

Offensively, Todd Heap clearly wanted to redeem himself from the Cincinnati disaster. Le’Ron McClain looks like the second-coming of Christian Okoye. And when Willis McGahee wasn’t getting poked in the eyes and bleeding all over the place, it’s clear this multi-dimensional backfield is going to pay dividends. I’ll also mention Ray Rice, because he’ll be a major factor before this is over in this offense.

In the receiving corps, Derrick Mason has been solid, Mark Clayton has reemerged as a potential threat and everyone in the organization will tell you that Demetrious Williams has the most upside of the whole bunch if he can stay on the field. (And if nothing else, Williams’ new Kid N’Play haircut will get him some positive attention if even when he doesn’t catch a few passes!)

Six weeks ago we didn’t have a quarterback.

Four weeks ago, Joe Flacco was buried in a deep No. 3 seat on the QB depth chart.

Three weeks ago, it was Troy Smith’s team. The name Kyle Boller has now become a distant memory.

This crazy season has gotten off to the kind of start that you can only appreciate after a few 5-11’s and 6-10’s on the backside of playoff appearances. I always called those years the “character building” seasons back in 1996 and 1997 through Teddyball.

I’m actually thinking about running a bus up to Pittsburgh next Monday night.

Anyone interesting in joining me…Drop me a note to nasty@wnst.net

I’m gonna work on some tickets and a bus today.

The price range would be in the mid $200s…at least that’s the early line.

Hopefully we can fill at least one bus!

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

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