The Baltimore Ravens have played on Christmas Eve twice before in their history. In 2006 they went to Heinz Field and left a big lump of coal, trouncing the Steelers 31-7. In 2000, in a game I was lucky enough to attend, the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens would outlast the Jets 34-20. I will never forget that game because a) it was Christmas Eve and it seemed weird to be at a football game, and b) I watched Vinny Testaverde attempt 69 passes for the Jets. You read that correctly.
Over a decade later I’m heading back to M&T for my second Christmas Eve with the Ravens, thanks to the generosity of my wonderful aunt. Given the history, am I expecting a weird game? Absolutely. Here’s what I’d like to see on Saturday.
Winning out obviously gives Baltimore the best chance at keeping their two seed in the AFC playoffs instead of a five seed, but playing well against Cleveland is crucial for many reasons. This game, even without Anquan Boldin and Billy Cundiff, should be as convincing a win as it was just three weeks ago on December 4th. Ray Rice ran absolutely wild over Cleveland, and it’d be great to see him get going in the first half again. Plus, if they start running the clock early in the second half, I could get home in time for some Nog and a power nap before finish gift-wrapping.
Santa, Drunker Than Usual
I don’t know what it is about a guy at a football game in a Santa outfit that makes me happy, but it just does. It’s even better when the guy wearing it is sporting a major gin blossom like the real Santa is always depicted as having. You can’t tell me Santa’s not a lush now that he’s been largely replaced by Amazon.com and those prepaid Visa cards. I don’t have kids yet, but when I do, I look forward to taking them to football games in December and explaining why the Santa there is alternatively sleepy and rage-y toward the officials.
Gingers Under Pressure
It’s no secret that I’m one of the Chosen Ones. I feel a need to keep close tabs on anyone in the public eye who shares my hair color and support them to a fault. With Shayne Graham taking over kicking duties this week, I’m really hoping this go smoothly for the field goal unit. If he misses a potential game-winner, I’m clearing out of that stadium in a hurry just to be safe. I don’t want to be the victim of some sort of cathartic beating. There’s a great Dave Chappelle bit where he talks about the obligation he feels to defend black celebrities to a fault. I feel the same way towards my red brothers. I have to buy every Eve 6 album! Do you know how much Eve 6 blows?!
The Receiving Corps Of Misfit Toys
Without Boldin in the lineup, the pass-catching burden will fall more heavily on Lee Evans, Torrey Smith, Laquan Williams, and Tandon Doss. Williams made two big catches in the first Pittsburgh game, but other than that has just two receptions in two other games, both of which he fumbled. So, as it stands, the local Poly product’s NFL receptions to fumbles ratio is holding at 2:1. Let’s improve that Saturday, eh, Quan? Lee Evans, who not too long ago was the Bills’ no. 1 option will get a chance to serve as Joe Flacco’s safety blanket with Boldin out.
My Developing Dennis Pitta Mancrush
The other game I attended live this season was two weeks ago against Indianapolis, with my four buddies from high school. Dennis Pitta, whilst sporting the fu manchu, had one of this best NFL games to date and scored a touchdown. Allegedly, I kept saying out loud, “Man, Pitta’s awesome!” every time he was targeted. My friends deemed this hilarious, but I’m just embracing it. Put a #88 jersey under my tree.
This item is strategically placed to counterweight the Dennis Pitta talk. If I remember correctly, this is the time of the year the Ravens cheerleaders bust out the purple santa outfits. Like the NFL cheerleaders’ Halloween outfit routine, it’s predictable, lowest-common-denominator, but it totally works. I assume this relates directly to my love of all things “Community”/Alison Brie.
To Our Health!
Not just a toast, but a motto for the final two games. Winning out would be excellent. Winning out and not suffering any more casualties would be divine. I’m not going to jinx it by naming anybody in particular. In fact, I shouldn’t even be talking about it at all. Why can’t I stop. Ahh! Save me from myself.
The Reason For The Season
The Ravens players do an excellent job of giving back to the community, especially around the holidays. You can bag on professional athletes all you want for being egotistical, self-involved, and materialistic, but it is pretty cool that there is a culture giving back instilled in most teams around the league. Lindsey does a great job of finding these moments and posting them on our Tumblr, and there are so many more that we never hear about.
So, let’s take home a win on Christmas Eve and remember that the world is not an evil place (not even Pittsburgh). Happiest of holidays to you and yours.
Dave Gilmore lives in Baltimore and writes “The Win Column” for Baltimore Sports Report. He is currently working on a novel about college football. Find him on Twitter @dave_gilmore or visit his web site at davegilmorejr.com