For years fans of the Ravens have looked to the team to provide a release, a timeout from the daily grind – a purple oasis nestled in the middle of a concrete jungle.
The Orioles, mired in years of futility and hopelessness were nothing more than a temporary distraction at best and usually just the community’s orange-headed stepchild.
The Ravens were kings and when training camp opened in late July the overwhelming majority of Baltimore area sports fans donned their purple-shaded Maui Jim’s and set their sights upon the gridiron.
Times have changed.
Now with the Orioles holding a comfortable 9 ½ game lead in the AL East (as of this writing), a magic number of 14 and just 3 games off the mark for the best MLB record, the team that was once the court jester is now the team holding court and commanding most of the attention from Charm City sports fans.
Sunday is opening day for the Ravens and this opener is arguably the least discussed Game 1 in the franchise’s 19-season history. And while the Orioles’ success explains away part of the diversion, the Ravens themselves are to blame for suddenly taking a back seat to the town’s other birds.
Who are the 2014 Ravens?
Once defined by a stifling defense and physical play that aligned perfectly with the town’s sports DNA and led by the game’s greatest linebacker of all-time who just so happened to be the quintessential team leader, the Ravens that we know today lack an identity.
Consequently we don’t know what to expect on Sunday against the Bengals.
Last season the Ravens started the 2013 campaign as the defending World Champions. This year, they begin as a team coming off a mediocre 8-8 season.
We think the defense will be improved but we aren’t sure? We don’t know if Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata will ever be the players they once were. We don’t know if the secondary will hold up after so many injuries this summer and such little depth.
We’d like to think that the offensive line has improved and that Rick Wagner can become an upgrade over the departed former first-round pick Michael Oher, yet we aren’t sure.
Can the Ravens run the ball? Can they protect Joe Flacco?
The uncertainty tempers our expectations and quiets our collective swagger.
The 2014 Baltimore Orioles do just the opposite.
For the moment, their feathers shine a little brighter.
Perhaps by 4:30PM on Sunday we’ll learn a bit about the Ravens of 2014 and we’ll all feel a little different.
But for now that oasis is drenched in orange.
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