This season hasn’t been fun.
Not for the Ravens, not for their fans, and — believe it or not — not even for reporters, who don’t particularly enjoy asking John Harbaugh and his players the same questions week after week about why they continue losing close games.
With the Ravens returning home at 1-6 and with their once-lofty expectations dashed, many have wondered what that will mean for Baltimore’s six remaining home games. Established as one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL over the last 15 years, M&T Bank Stadium has rarely hosted games at less than full capacity, but the Ravens are off to the worst start in franchise history.
Virtually all tickets were sold long ago, but will the fans still come?
“This is a great city, and I haven’t had any other experience than that while being here,” eighth-year quarterback Joe Flacco said. “Obviously, throughout the course of games when you’re not playing well and things like that, you can feel people get upset. It’s just part of how it is. But in terms of a consistent basis and a game-to-game basis, I don’t know anything else but Baltimore coming out and supporting their teams.
“I would definitely be surprised. But at the end of the day, these people and this city are entitled to good football. And when they’re not getting it, you can understand.”
Yes, you can understand fans not showing up, but one hopes there is some perspective beginning with Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers, the same team that recently confirmed its intentions to apply for relocation to Los Angeles next season. It will be 20 years ago this week that Art Modell announced his intentions to move the Cleveland Browns, returning the NFL to Baltimore after a 12-year absence.
Remember the feeling 20-plus years ago when the thought of having even a 1-6 NFL team sounded great?
Those in our 30s remember a childhood without the NFL and with only stories of the old Colts from our parents and grandparents. Baltimore deserves winning football, but that idea need not be defined as a God-given right to playoff football every single year or else.
The Ravens are down in 2015 and need to make improvements in a variety of ways, but the city has an opportunity to prove just how special its fan base really is. Let’s face it, earning a reputation for providing a great home-field advantage isn’t difficult when your team owns just three losing seasons in 15 years and none since 2007.
But what message would 20,000 empty seats send on Sunday? The Ravens are already aware that 1-6 is unacceptable compared to the lofty standards they’ve established over their 20 years in Baltimore, so there’s no need to “protest” to owner Steve Bisciotti. If the losing were to continue in 2016 and beyond, that would be a different story.
To be clear, this isn’t a plea for fans to willingly spend hard-earned money on a substandard product. But if you already have tickets for Sunday’s game as well as the remaining schedule, make sure they’re put to use.
Go to the games, have fun, and forget about the big picture of a disappointing 2015 season for a few hours.
Try to sell your tickets to Ravens fans who might still be willing to spend some money and don’t have season tickets.
Or just give them to a neighbor, relative, or friend if you can’t stomach the thought of watching a losing team in person. Years later, I remain grateful to family friends such as Tom Potteiger, Ed Cook, and Ken Mistovich for those times when they offered Ravens tickets to my father and me as we couldn’t always afford such luxuries when I was growing up.
Large swaths of empty purple seats on Sunday won’t make Baltimore any worse than other cities that won’t support a loser.
But the idea is to be better than that, right?
With two Super Bowl championships, four division titles, and 10 playoff appearances since 2000, the Ravens have brought plenty of joy to Baltimore over the last 15 years.
It would be heartwarming to see the city pick them up when they’re down with a loud and full house on Sunday and once again remind the NFL how great Baltimore really is.