I parted ways amicably from BSR on January 1 to pursue other endeavors. We didn’t make a big announcement because honestly, who cares? However, the guys were gracious enough to ask for guest post on the occasion of the Baltimore Ravens being in the Super Bowl. It is longish and might make you angry and not at all surprised that in addition to football I love soccer. So, in other words, it’s pretty much like everything else I wrote for this site. Enjoy!
I was lucky enough to be alive and lucid for the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV victory in Tampa. I remember repeatedly simulating every playoff game on my Sega Dreamcast. I remember every girl in my high school going nutty over a 24 year-old Brandon Stokley. I remember a boon in the sale of car flags. Most of all, I remember caring so very deeply about the Baltimore Ravens winning the Super Bowl.
Last month, as it became evident that the Ravens were either intentionally or absentmindedly pulling a New York Giants and easing into the playoffs at near full strength, one thought dominated my mind that was a admittedly less ambitious than 12 years earlier: I just want to give a crap about the Super Bowl one more time.
Like everything I write, this alienates me from many sports fans, but I usually don’t care that much about the Super Bowl. I have an excruciatingly vivid memory of the last twenty-two Super Bowls, and I’ve had to gamble on the last seven just to feel any excitement about them.
I love a good football game, but each year the Baltimore Ravens are not a part of it, it begins to feel more like the Olympics. “One game deciding it all” should have high drama to it, but the preceding bye week and the usually awkward pairing of teams always leaves the occasion a little flat in my opinion. So, even though I love the sport, if I am not emotionally invested in the Super Bowl I don’t believe the game itself to be all that compelling. Like all self-absorbed Gen-Yers, if it doesn’t involve me personally it’s hard to muster enthusiasm for it.
The way I view the Ravens’ success has changed somewhat recently. I used to think of the latter-Billck/early-Harbaugh Ravens like that couple who have been together forever that just can’t manage to tie the knot. They always appeared primed for the big one, but were hindered by having the same argument (the Pittsburgh Steelers) over and over again, or a bizarre life event (the 2011 AFC Championship) stopped them just short. As each holiday season passed by without any congratulatory phone calls, things seem less and less “destined” to be. A decade blew by, and it was no longer cute or amusing to ask when it was going to finally happen.
Objectively, I now realize this thinking was pretty flawed. If you’re my age (almost 30) and you happened to be born a Miami Dolphins fan, you “saw” one Super Bowl when you were an infant and have seen none since the Ravens have existed. That’s a plausible scenario! There are a lot of Miami Dolphins fans, and that’s a perfectly reasonable team to support! If your parents liked hot and loud places more, that could’ve been YOU, Ravens Fan!
I won’t even pull the straw man out and cite a notoriously crappy team as another example of how un-Super Bowlish your life could be. Let’s say your parents loved perfect weather and (ironically) lightning bolts. You were born a San Diego Chargers fan. An admirable path. You cared about exactly one Super Bowl when you were 11, and your team got annihilated by the Niners. You have now seen fewer Super Bowls than a Ravens fan born on the day the team moved from Cleveland. If you happen to be a 30 year-old Vikings, Chiefs, Jets, Lions, Browns, Jaguars or Texans fan, congratulations: you’ve never even seen your team play in the Super Bowl. I’m sure it kind of sucks.
The problem with the relationship analogy, of course, is that it implies a type of entitlement and fairness that doesn’t exist in pro sports. It’s never “your year,” even when every sign points to the fact that it’s probably your year. There are too many variables in football. Too much can go wrong. There is no team of destiny. There is only a combination of skill and preparation and good fortune. If you’re lucky enough, for a few glorious moments, a team you enjoy will have those ingredients in spades.
So why do we deserve another Super Bowl? Well, “we” don’t. Having the privilege of being emotionally invested in two Super Bowls is pretty darn special, and perhaps even greedy. I’m at peace with that greed, however. While I have all those specific memories of Super Bowl XXXV, I also don’t completely remember really being able to appreciate it properly. I certainly had not yet calculated what it would be like to be a Chiefs or Vikings fan, and I was also in high school so I knew next to nothing about anything. Maybe I thought this was going to be a regular thing, these miracle Super Bowl runs? Did anyone think that? Please tell me we didn’t think that.
Either way, I have wanted a second chance at it for some time now. I want to be able to really soak it in. I want to be able to appreciate all the “almost” years and the couple that were downright bad. I want to experience and comprehend something so fleeting that it is agonized upon for years and only present for a couple spare moments on a Sunday. There are no guarantees that I’ll ever get to see a team I care about play for a championship again (being a localist and a sports monogamist, this reduces my odds considerably). I really want to make this one count.
Perhaps it is short-selling the Ravens’ “grit,” “heart,” “toughness” or other banged-out descriptors that sportswriters trot out at times like these, but to borrow another cliche’, I’m really “just happy to be here.” Sure, I’ll be super bummed if Colin Kaepernick’s playmaking befuddles Baltimore’s aging defense. It will partially ruin my evening if the San Francisco linebacking corps does what it usually does to people. I will be really disappointed if Joe Flacco can’t finally rub this in everyone’s faces.
But, I can’t really help whether the Ravens win on Sunday. What else can I do but just enjoy the moment and hope for the best? My pro-football-reference.com bio still remains woefully devoid of any snaps taken at the NFL level. In fact, I didn’t tangibly contribute to the team’s success this year in any way (unless you count the two games I attended and the hoodie I purchased). The team and the organization, of course, worked very hard to get to New Orleans and will be devastated on some level if they return with only an AFC title to show for it. I find it impossible to ask for anything more, but I’m glad to support a team that certainly does so of themselves.
The Baltimore Ravens are in the Super Bowl, and for at least one more time, I get to care about it again.