When Tony [Lombardi] asked me to contribute a 20-for-20 piece for RSR, I had to take a few days to think about the subject matter of my proposed piece.
Unlike most of the guys (gals, too?) who write here at RSR, I’ve been a media member more than I’ve been a fan, per-se. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the team, no doubt, but since 2002, I’ve looked at the team and organization from a media member’s eyes rather than through the eyes of ticket buying customer.
About a month ago, I started to re-visit the 20-for-20 piece and said to myself, “By the end of the weekend, I’ll have a topic.”
That weekend came and went. No topic came to mind.
Then, out of nowhere, it hit me, which usually happens when you just let something happen rather than try and force it.
What came to me was simple. Through all the years, from the arrival in 1996, to the Super Bowl in 2000, to the occasionally-lean-years while Kyle Boller stumbled around, to the arrival of Harbaugh and Flacco and their subsequent triumph in New Orleans in February, 2013, one thing stands out: We’ve been incredibly blessed in Baltimore to have this Ravens organization.
Make that INCREDIBLY in all caps.
We put such emphasis on winning when it comes to evaluating our sports teams that we tend to forget the most important element of the organization’s bloodline. The fact that we have a team in the first place is more critical than any win they could ever record on the field of play.
Just ask anyone who was in Baltimore from 1984 through 1995. Those were some sad, drab, dreary Sunday afternoons in the Land of Pleasant Living. What we once had, was gone, and there was little hope for a new franchise of any kind once NFL expansion came and went.
Those of us who experienced the departure of the Colts are gratified to just have a team these days, knowing any game, no matter the score, is better than what we had in, say, the winter of 1988. Or 1990. Or 1992.
Not that the juxtaposition of the Orioles and Ravens is worthy of emphasis when discussing our city’s good sports fortune, but it’s certainly something that has to be mentioned to provide any sort of proper perspective on what the Ravens have done for us since 1996.
The Orioles were good in 1996 and 1997, then went through a fourteen year downward spiral that included the franchise disassociating themselves with the Baltimore market while they french-kissed Washington D.C. and the Northern Virginia market in the mid 2000’s.
The team stunk, Yankees and Red Sox fans took over the ballpark in Baltimore eighteen times a year, and fans basically stopped going unless the team was giving away a t-shirt or a bobblehead of a player who probably wasn’t going to be around in two years.
None of that has ever happened with the Ravens.
Sure, there were some bad teams in the late 1990’s while the franchise secured itself after moving from Cleveland. But once Brian Billick showed up in 1999, things quickly improved and “real” football was back in Baltimore.
The Billick era ended and John Harbaugh took over, bringing with him an elite (yep, I said it) young quarterback from the University of Delaware who propelled the team to five straight playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title in the 2012 campaign.
We’ve had a couple of bad years along the way, but never once has there been a three or four year stretch where the franchise just lost their way and went 26-38 over that span of games. When the Ravens have laid a one-season-egg, they’ve quickly rebounded and put themselves right back in the thick of things.
It’s truly been a blessing to have the Ravens organization in Baltimore. Whether that’s because they’ve embedded themselves in OUR community or because they’ve made Sundays in the fall and winter enjoyable for our seaside state, the Ravens have improved our quality of life since 1996. That’s probably the greatest compliment a sports team can receive, no matter the city. “You’ve improved the city’s quality of life…”
Sometimes we forget those things when we’re busy barking about Harbaugh not challenging a third-down-catch-that-wasn’t or Flacco throwing an interception across the middle on a play he woefully misread. Every couple of years the team raises ticket prices and we howl at the moon about how shameful that $5.00 per-game ticket hike is, yet we think nothing of forking over $10.00 for a beer at the stadium that you’d pay $3.00 for at your local watering hole.
I’ve enjoyed the 20-for-20 series here at RSR and appreciate everyone’ passion for the team, the players, the wins, the championships and so on. I just thought it would be appropriate to remind everyone of just how important it is to have a team and to cherish those days you spend with family and friends at the game, no matter the final score.
Because I’ve never purchased a Ravens season ticket, my tolerance for mistakes, losses and failures is probably much lighter than those of you who fork over your hard earned money to watch the team play in person at M&T Bank Stadium. I understand that, completely. I’ve traveled all over the country to cover the team and watch games from the luxury of the press box. There have been MANY days when I’ve walked into a football stadium to watch the Ravens play and said to myself, “There’s no friggin’ way I’d sit outside today to watch ANY sporting event…”
Yet there you are, and 70,000 others, not only enduring the weather, but doing your best to be a great fan, too.
So, while I’ve never been a ticket-paying Ravens customer, I’m just as engaged as you and equally as proud when they’re successful and represent our city in a positive fashion. I’m a Baltimore sports guy. I own an Orioles 29-game ticket plan and enjoy taking my children to the games.
Frankly, the “adult-oriented” environment of football games is the chief reason I don’t invest in Ravens tickets at this point. It’s just not a place to take your 8-year old son…not yet, anyway. That day is coming, though, and I look forward to sharing football Sundays with him at the stadium in downtown Baltimore.
I’m proud of the Ravens, much like my Dad was proud of HIS Colts, and try to always remember that these are now MY Ravens and will be my son’s and daughter’s Ravens as well. I know they won’t be successful every year, but I’m confident we’ll always be proud to call them the BALTIMORE Ravens.
Drew Forrester is a lifelong Baltimore sports fan, a 12-year veteran of the Charm City sports talk radio scene and currently publishes “Drew’s Morning Dish” daily at www.drewsmorningdish.com, focusing on local sports and community events, plus occasional discourse on the PGA Tour, NHL, NBA and college athletics.