Lets’ face it, when it comes to generating bad PR, the Orioles haven’t needed any help for a long time; but whether deserved or not, with a helping hand from NBC, Steve Bisciotti, the Ravens and Roger Goodell, the O’s are unfairly taking the brunt of the criticism for the fallout from Schedule-Gate 2013.
It’s a topic that’s been discussed ad nauseum for the better part of the last couple of weeks, and now that it’s been resolved (or at least decided) I’m going to take one last lick at this dead horse before we put it to bed…until the beginning of September that is, when we’re sure to dig it back up and beat it to death all over again.
For now, it’s time for Ravens fans to let go of the “woe is us” and realize that this couldn’t have worked out any better for the team.
In the Harbaugh era, and to some degree before it, there are two giant hammers that the Ravens have wielded consistently. The Ravens have been near impossible to beat at home, and are undefeated when they’ve had extra rest or opportunity to prepare for an opponent. There’s no need to swing both of those hammers at the same time, and all Schedule-Gate has done is prevented the Ravens from having to.
I get that fans want to celebrate the team’s Super Bowl win with the whole world watching; but what’s best for the team? It’s kind of laughable that those who consider themselves fans of the Ravens suddenly seem to be more interested in having center stage for themselves for one night in September, than they are in giving the Ravens their best opportunity at winning enough games to possibly make another Super Bowl run.
The Harbaugh era Ravens are 5-0 in opening games and 14-0 when having 10 or more days to prepare for an opponent (including openers). It’s probably also worth mentioning that 4 of those 5 opening game wins have been at home (so much for the “NFL is out to get us” angle). Now that it’s decided that the Ravens will open on the road, there are only 3 games that should be up for consideration for the NFL’s showcase. Not coincidentally, those games happen to be the Ravens 3 toughest looking road games as well (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or Denver). Since there’s no avoiding having to play those games anyway, doing it in the first week of the season is ideal.
It’s better to get Peyton Manning and Wes Welker in the first game of the year, when they’re still trying to figure one another out, and probably more ideal to get in and out of Denver before the frost settles in. While it by no means insures the Ravens will win; it seems to give them their best chance to win. In fact, if we can get over our hurt feelings for long enough to think about the good of the team, ideally the Ravens would open in Denver, and then on the back of 10 days rest head to either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati, and then return to Baltimore for the home opener.
It’s also worth mentioning that opening on Thursday night has not always precluded teams from having to play another Thursday game in the same season. Given that the Ravens are defending Super Bowl champions, it would seem likely that they’ll get their maximum 5 prime time games, and that there’s a real possibility that they’ll have another Thursday game. Opening on Thursday, on the road would not only prevent the Ravens from having to be ready for Thursday night on 3 days rest, but would also virtually insure that if they did get a 2nd Thursday game it would be in Baltimore, with another (likely tough) opponent having to prepare and travel on short rest.
So if we’re keeping score at home, the NFL played the role of bully on behalf of NBC, and tried to impose themselves on the Orioles. The Orioles held their ground and as a result are stuck with a September 5th game that is sure to be a dog attendance-wise because it’s going up against the Ravens opener. The Ravens by opening on the road against a tough opponent will have a likely better chance to win a tough road game than they would otherwise, and may still get a Thursday home game with significant, inherent advantages built in. Someone remind me again why everyone is so mad at the Orioles over this. Oh yeah…it’s because we miss out on the chance to scream “look at us” to the football world while pounding our chests, right?
Sign me up, 10 times out of 10, for the schedule formula that gives the Ravens the best shot at being a playoff team, or a division winner, or a home playoff game host, or a bye week possessor. Frankly I’m shocked that Ravens fans are having such trouble grasping this one. I thought better of most of you.
Lastly, if the locker room somehow sees this as a slight, as fans clearly have, then it facilitates the mentality that has seemed to serve them so well lately. It’s Baltimore against the world as usual. If that works, so be it. But the Ravens are the winners in this mess; it’s just that some folks’ sensitivity won’t allow them to see it.