Each and every year, 32 NFL teams have their minds set on making a deep run through the playoffs and achieving Super Bowl glory. The franchises are not alone, as each city and fan base also has dreams of being able to call their team world champions. But as we are all too painfully aware, only one team is able to hoist the Lombardi trophy.
As great of a feeling it is for a team and city to win the Super Bowl, the feeling of being eliminated from contention triggers a completely opposite and demoralizing feeling.
Most NFL fans can anticipate that feeling and that day coming, knowing their season will be over at some point and that their team will not win the big game. Saturday was that dark day for Baltimore and that day for me, is the worst day of the year.
Only once has it ended happily, so I have grown accustomed to dealing with my displeasure. Some years it easier to deal with, but others are much more troubling.
The 2003 regular season was one fun ride. The Ravens defense was back to its swarming ways thanks in part to the emergence of Ed Reed. It was so thrilling to watch Jamal Lewis trample Cleveland defenders, run to the sideline for oxygen, and then do it again on his way to rushing for 2,000 yards and being named Offensive Player of the Year.
I had a rec league basketball game the night of the playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, but I was able to catch Will Demp’s defensive touchdown before I left for the gym. There was no way I thought we would lose once we scored on defense. My team scored 88 points that night, but my heart sank when all the parents listening to their portable radios screamed in disgust as they heard the result of the Ravens game.
The 2006 season ending may have been the most demoralizing of them all. Going 13-3 with a reinvigorated Jamal Lewis and earning the #1 seed in the AFC playoff picture was arguably the best regular season in franchise history. It all went for naught, though, as Peyton Manning and his Colts came into town and stifled the Ravens. It was mind boggling how we kept Manning’s offense from scoring a touchdown and still lost. I stayed up all night sacking Peyton Manning on my PlayStation to flush out the pent up anger.
Manning and the Indianapolis Colts saw the Ravens again in the 2009 playoffs and even with an entirely different looking offensive roster, the results were embarrassingly similar. Ed Reed tried his hardest to bring the Ravens back, but when Ed Reed fumbled after picking off Peyton Manning it became clear – it just wasn’t our year.
I was at a birthday party watching that game, and the whole room cleared out when Reed’s second interception was nullified by a penalty. What an empty feeling it was to be staring at the television in a room by yourself, knowing that there would be no more football in Baltimore for awhile.
And this brings me to Saturday night…
At halftime it felt like the biggest celebration Baltimore had seen in awhile was 30 football minutes away. The Ravens finally were able to get to Ben Roethlisberger and bring him down for 6 sacks. Terrell Suggs was even able to force a fumble on Big Ben, a fumble which was returned for a touchdown by Corey Redding in one of the flukiest plays ever.
It just seemed to be our day, the day that the Ravens would finally defeat Ben Roethlisberger in the last 7 tries and inch closer to getting Ray Lewis his second Super Bowl ring.
Then all of the sudden, it just wasn’t.
After the game, I was at a loss for words.
I just had no idea how to explain what happened and just laid on my bed in agony. Reality had just set in. The NFL season in Baltimore was over.
And the worst day of the year had officially arrived.