Sometimes the grandest and most thought out of plans just don’t work out the way we expect. The desire and the effort are there but for some reason, the stars don’t align properly and the results can be disappointing.
Expectations can also add to our disappointment. Think back to a party or event that you looked forward to for quite awhile. The anticipation of the event captured you, it excited you and the hopeful fulfillment of a promise riveted you. Yet when the event finally arrived, the reality of your vision fell far short of what you expected. Perhaps your level of expectation was skewed by desire and wantonness.
Then there are those obligatory events that you looked forward to just a little less than a root canal yet when the time arrived for you to fulfill your obligation, you were pleasantly surprised, got your groove on and a splendid time was had by all. But was your level of satisfaction influenced by your low levels of expectation?
Think back to the Ravens 2000 season. The team was coming off its first ever non-losing season by finishing 1999 at .500. It was Brian Billick’s second year as a head coach and his team had shown down the stretch in ’99 that it had the makings of one very solid defense. But even in your wildest of expectations, did you really believe that the 2000 team was capable of winning Super Bowl XXXV? C’mon, be honest!
Yet when the Ravens did bring home the Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Giants on January 28, 2001, the spoils of victory were enhanced by the element of surprise. No one thought that such an offensively challenged team could win a championship. Sure we thought the defense was good – even very good but who could have predicted the magnificence of that record setting defense? No one expected the Ravens to pitch four shutouts and limit four playoff opponents to 23 points – TOTAL!
No matter what happens from this point forward in Ravens history, it will be hard to imagine a more rewarding season as a fan than the 2000 season. Expectation levels weren’t exceedingly high yet the results were. Here’s a team that didn’t score a touchdown for 21 consecutive quarters; a team whose coach wouldn’t allow them to even say the “P” word until a playoff berth was within reach. As years go by, the folklore of that 2000 season will grow exponentially and its place in our collective hearts will be untouchable regardless of how the team performs in the future.
Now compare the feeling of the 2000 season to that of last year. Last year’s team was filled with promise and ego. In contrast to the 2000 team, not only did the 2004 team talk playoffs, they viewed the playoffs as a foregone conclusion. It was as though the playoffs in 2004 were the team’s birthright. They didn’t talk playoffs – they talked Jacksonville – they talked Super Bowl XXXIX and most of us bought in and sipped the Kool-Aid.
In the end, the Ravens failed to make the playoffs. They fell far short of their expectations and ours. All the talk, the hoopla, the chest pounding and the pageantry – it all amounted to nothing more than a slightly better than .500 season and a trip to the living room recliner to watch other less talented teams battle it out for the right to go to Jacksonville. It was much like that party that didn’t pan out the way we hoped only for the Ravens, they weren’t even invited.
The frustration of falling so far short of expectations can challenge a team’s chemistry. It leads to finger pointing and with the finger pointing comes strained relationships, bickering and stories of locker room dissension.
We’ve all been in similarly frustrating places. One thing goes wrong, then another and before you know it, your life is ruined because your dog yacked up his puppy chow on your wife’s brand new kitchen throw rug. But then somewhere along the way, something happens that changes your mood. Maybe it was something pleasant or maybe it was just the realization that feeling sorry for yourself won’t change a thing and that the only thing that can make things right again is you. And when that realization strikes, you reset, dial in again and re-focus.
The 2004 season was a reality check for the Ravens. This team is simmering beneath the surface. They were burned and embarrassed by their performance last year and the embarrassment is like a wound. Wounded animals fight with more vigor, determination and focus. Expect the same for the 2005 season from your Baltimore Ravens.
But just to be on the safe side, keep those expectations in check.