And then there were four…
The countdown to kickoff.
All of the analysis, debate, stats, “expert” picks will soon be rendered meaningless.
Emotions will certainly run high for Ravens fans up to and through the conference title game. And those emotions will be even more extreme when the fourth quarter clock reads 0:00.
Should the Ravens win, the party in the street will be jubilant and the two weeks leading into Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans will be absolutely exhilarating, particularly when you consider the mood and downward trending vibe surrounding the team following back-to-back home losses to the Steelers and the Broncos just one month ago.
Should the Ravens lose, the depressed state of a community galvanized by purple will plummet to new depths. Not only will all of last year’s AFC Championship ghosts come back to haunt us again, it will also signal the last time Ray Lewis dons his familiar No. 52.
The highs and lows during the game will be many.
Hopes may run high and at times they may appear dim.
A field goal, once considered a sure bet during the regular season suddenly looks longer and the uprights narrower.
Every play, every tackle, every ball that just misses its mark will trigger a response more animated than the play result deserves. The stakes are that high.
Sixty minutes of championship football between two foes that know each other well, to determine who will represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVII.
Every season consists of team goals. Win the division. Win two or three playoff games. Win the Super Bowl.
Each season also has its obstacles, unexpected setbacks through which teams must persevere. The Ravens have had their fair share.
Terrell Suggs overcame the odds and returned from an Achilles injury and then later a biceps tear.
Torrey Smith lost his brother and battled through the pain inspired by his brother’s memory and love.
Shutdown corner Lardarius Webb was lost for the season during Week 6.
Baltimore lost the man who helped restore our civic pride – Art Modell takes his last breath before he could realize his righteous place in the Pro Football HOF.
Ray Lewis suffered a triceps tear, an injury that for most ends a season. It did not. After all we are talking about Ray Lewis.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fired, a move questioned and criticized across the sporting world, directed by the team’s owner and consequently placing John Harbaugh on the hot seat.
Ray Lewis decides to retire at the end of the season, rallying his teammates for one more final homestretch.
The Ravens beat the team that left our city, a team skippered by last year’s defensive coordinator who is winning his battle with leukemia.
In Denver, prohibitive underdogs playing against a team that throttled them just a few weeks earlier and led by nemesis Peyton Manning, the Ravens overcome the odds and leave Rocky Mountain Mile High as victors, despite battling the elements and thin air and a west coast trip on a short week.
And now there’s Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, a duo that has never lost a title game at home.
The story can’t end here. The story will not end here.
What would be the poetic justice in that?
Bring on the Harbowl or bring on the Chilly Bowl featuring Joe Cool and Matty Ice.
The party, the show, the journey must go on.
There will be no sad faces in Charm City tonight.
And soon there will be just two…