Set your expectations low and you won’t be disappointed in the event of failure…
That appears to be the approach for most Ravens fans as they await the start of training camp in roughly 75 days.
Fans remember the swagger and bravado of the 2004 Ravens team, coming off a surprising 2003 campaign behind Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright that enabled them to actually host a playoff game. The Ravens augmented their roster following that season with players like Deion Sanders, heightening the bravado and the confidence. Expectations soared but after a fast start the team sputtered and failed to make the post season.
The downward spiral continued in 2005 as the Ravens struggled to a 6-10 finish with several embarrassing losses including one in Detroit, the Presence of Malice game in which the team had a major meltdown and committed 21 penalties. Many believed that Ray Lewis was so distraught with the team that he quit on them, ending his season to have hamstring surgery the authenticity of which is still questioned to this day.
Fans remember the 2007 season, on the heels of 2006 when they finished 13-3. Many pundits thought the team was the best in the post season yet they dropped a home game to the eventual Super Bowl Champs, the Indianapolis Colts. But that didn’t stop fans from fueling big expectations for 2007.
That was Brian Billick’s last season with the team one that saw Steve McNair resemble a player that went from 33 to 63, rapidly aging before our very eyes. Billick’s Boys of Bravado fell to 5-11 including a nine game losing streak and a loss to the Miami Dolphins – the only win by Head Coach Cam Cameron’s dysfunctional group that season.
Since then, fans have exercised caution whenever team expectations climbed.
After a return to the playoffs in 2008 and an AFC Championship Game appearance, many expected the Ravens to be playing in Miami this past February. Instead of adding to their confidence, the favorable forecasts were viewed by some fans as Ravens’ kryptonite, evoking agonizing grimaces and solemn expectations of another disappointing season in another odd numbered year.
Fortunately that didn’t happen and after a very productive offseason, the Ravens are positioned to go deep into the playoffs in 2010 and the national media has noticed.
And like Pavlov’s dog, the fans have responded and many are nervous once again.
They prefer a flight path under the radar.
They want their team playing with a collective chip on its shoulder because they think their team plays better that way.
But this is a different Ravens team – a more mature collection of athletes guided by a coach who doesn’t fuel swagger or bravado the way Brian Billick did.
When asked about the Super Bowl possibilities of the team one of the historically biggest perpetrators of swagger and bravado, Ray Lewis had this to say:
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t even answer that. The bottom line is that we came out and had a great practice today. The energy is freaking incredible.”
He later added, “I don’t know if you can think about a Super Bowl right now. The bottom line is for us to come and get these young guys to understand our tempo, our pace. We’ve got a lot of new pieces in a lot of new places. We just want to teach them the Raven mentality and get this mini-camp under our belt and then move from there. Then when the season comes along, we’ll start speaking about those type of things. But until then, we’ve got a lot, a lot of work to do.”
Fans can go ahead and worry and hope that the media picks other teams as a preseason favorite. And they will. These are the same fans that are annually disappointed by the Orioles so they look to the Ravens for the competitive sanity. They don’t want to be disappointed.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what we think.
This is what we do as fans.
What matters is how talented, prepared and focused the players are.
Judging from Ray’s comments, so far, so good.
Besides at some point to be a consistent winner like the Patriots and Colts, you have to behave like the lead dog – you have to want to BE the lead dog.