“Of all the people that email me, the Ravens fans are the most irrational, which is strange in itself because they just got the team like what, 13, 14 years ago? . . . I get these emails like ‘you hate the Ravens, you intentionally pick against against us’ . . . but they’re very sensitive about Flacco. They don’t like any inference that he’s not good.”
-ESPN’s Bill Simmons on The B.S. Report podcast, October 31st, 2011
When a Raven fan reads the above statement from the most prominent voice in the sports world, how can one not look within one’s self and see if the Sports Guy’s jibes ring true?
To cross over some classical literature on you, doth the Raven protest too much?
The statement Simmons makes speaks to a few points, all of which stem from an underlying notion that the Ravens of the Flacco era are pretenders. Sheep in wolves’ clothing. Poseurs in purple.
I can’t completely fault Simmons for feeling this way. Assuming the veracity of his statement about the amount of emails he receives from self-identified Baltimore fans, how could he not find the fan base a little sensitive? There might be a legitimate slant to how often Simmons picks for or against Baltimore historically in his Friday NFL picks column, but I have neither the time nor interest in digging through those tomes. We can look at Simmons’ ESPN Pick’Em entry to examine a small and recent sample size. The upshot of those records is that Simmons has picked (with the spread) for the Ravens 4 times and against them 3 times in 2011. He’s been right on them 3 times and wrong 4. In other words, at least as far as 2011 is concerned, Simmons would be better off if he had a worse opinion of the Ravens (as would many NFL pickers). It seems as though in recent history, the tin foil hat-wearing emails Simmons has purportedly received from Raven fans have been unwarranted.
The second point he makes in his podcast centers around quarterback Joe Flacco. This is the more specific and damning evidence that something may be rotten at 1 Winning Drive. If the Ravens, and their fans, were so content with no. 5 under center, why is there such a rush to apologize and leap to his defense when four and a half of his seven games so far have been terrible? Deep down, are Ravens fans (at least the ones who email Bill Simmons’ AOL account) afraid that Flacco will be exposed as a mediocre quarterback and thus, one who can’t lead a team to a Super Bowl?
As someone who was born and raised in Baltimore, I’ve noticed a culture of provinciality that exists among many Baltimore sports fans. I get the sense, and this isn’t meant to be an insult, that a lot of Ravens fans don’t pay attention to non-local media. If you fall into this category, let me assure you that it isn’t just Bill Simmons who thinks that Flacco is a pretty average (at best) signal-caller. This opinion is the norm outside of 410 and 443 area codes, not the exception.
I guess I point this out to let you Flacco apologists off the hook a little bit. There’s no need to email The Sports Guy or any other media personality and protect your quarterback. Whether it’s true or not, the popular notion is out there that Flacco is a problematic solution to the essential question befalling every Super Bowl contender. Fervent defense of Flacco only raises further questions, and reinforces the point of those who suspect that Flacco might be closer to Kerry Collins in his prime than say, Ben Roethlisberger*.
It should go without saying that there is now a healthy segment of Raven fans who might be starting to agree with Simmons. It should also go without saying that Simmons” observations are from the emails he receives and the people he talks to (though, to my knowledge, none of his regular cronies are Ravens fans). There’s an old saying in sports talk radio that the calls you get represent 1% of the listeners, that is, there will always be a vocal minority. Maybe the sensitive Flacco defenders don’t represent the larger fan base. However, they do represent some portion of it, and by so aggressively defending a person they’ve never met, it’s a pretty decent bet that there’s some fire behind that smoke.
The Sports Guy might poking a sore spot, but it’s sore for a reason.
*I know, I know. I’m just comparing 6’5″ quarterbacks here. Save your comments about the Steelers for later in the week.
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