Lawsuits, court appearances, bloated salaries and constant threat of serious injury puts the game we love in a less than favorable light. I understand we can’t have the good without the bad. I understand that frustration and joy comes as a package deal when viewing pro football. When you factor in the gambling and fantasy football aspects, it’s easy to see how people get so invested in the NFL brand.
Speaking of which, commissioner Roger Goodell made $44.2 million in 2012. If that doesn’t boggle your mind, during a 2010 owners meeting, Goodell mentioned the goal of boosting league revenue to $25 billion by 2027. If Goodell is still commissioner 13 years from now, he keeps earning at his current rate and assuming that goal is reached, his 2027 salary would come to approximately $110.5 million.
Ready for more?
The NFL is considered a nonprofit organization.
It’s a circular contradiction. People are displeased with the commissioner and the owners for making so much money while not playing a single snap, even though those same people are charged with structuring the very league and game we’ve come to know and love.
There’s a lot not to like about the NFL. The off-season reminds us of those things. For fans, the idle time in the spring and summer breeds impatience and criticism. But there’s a reason fans won’t walk away.
We trade in memories of putrid seasons past, infuriating calls made by officials, bad draft picks, critical turnovers and heartbreaking losses for renewed hope at the advent of each new season, because each new season represents a fresh start. A fresh start is something 31 teams and fan bases (97 percent of the league) have been yearning for since early February.
Fresh starts are invigorating. They excite you. They give you a renewed sense of purpose.
Speaking of fresh starts, the Ravens get a much-needed one in 2014.
Here are five reasons why I’m excited about the Ravens this year.
1. A new (and healthy) offense
Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak brings an impressive resume to Baltimore. He will have the luxury (we hope) that Jim Caldwell did not have last year: working with a healthy offense.
Kelechi Osemele, Marhsal Yanda, Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce and Dennis Pitta are all key players that were hampered by some injury in 2013. This year they all look to be 100 percent ready for training camp.
2. Week 4
My most anticipated home game of the season is the Week 4 match-up between the Ravens and the Panthers in Baltimore. If you aren’t familiar with the phrase “Ice up, son. Ice up,” by now, you will be.
Steve Smith played in 182 games during his first 13 NFL seasons as a Carolina Panther. He brings excitement, aggression and leadership to the Ravens. Think Hines Ward…with more talent.
Baltimore will have to deal with a Carolina offense led by quarterback Cam Newton (6’5″, 245 pounds) and rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (6’5″, 240 pounds). The Ravens will also have to game plan for a Panthers defense that features the 2013 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly (156 tackles, 4 interceptions) and Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy (15 sacks).
There’s no doubt M&T Bank Stadium will be rocking on September 28.
3. Two young safeties
Matt Elam (Florida) and Terrence Brooks (Florida State) spent their Saturdays playing for two big-time programs whose campuses are roughly 150 miles apart. Now they’ll likely be starters together on Sundays, lining up in the same defensive backfield.
These two young men are very athletic, instinctual football players. Of course it’ll take Brooks some time to get up to NFL game speed, but there’s nothing to suggest he won’t do so quickly. Brooks is coming off of an undefeated season in which he helped the Seminoles win a national championship and lead the country in interceptions (26).
Elam (22) is actually one year younger than Brooks, but will able to impart some knowledge to the rookie. Elam made a lot of plays for the Ravens last year, and now that he’s back at his best position (strong safety), expect a better year from the 2nd-year pro.
4. Ravens return to the Big Easy
Following their bye week, the Ravens will play the Saints in New Orleans in Week 12 (11/24) on Monday Night Football. It will be the Ravens’ first game in New Orleans since winning Super Bowl XLVII, 659 days prior.
Like their Week 4 match-up, Baltimore will have to balance emotional story lines with having to play an excellent football team.
5. Ray Lewis’ statue
No. 52 will have his statue unveiled outside M&T Bank Stadium, hopefully before this season begins. Not much needs to be said about what that atmosphere will be like.
Imagine walking into “The Bank” and passing statues of John Unitas and Ray Lewis.
So as we sit here on the eve of the unofficial start of summer – Memorial Day weekend – football fans everywhere are nonetheless eyeing up those fall dates on our calendars.