What an incredible ~six month ride this has been for Baltimore sports, and for us lucky fans of the purple and black and orange.
First, we watched our Orioles shock the baseball world all season, but especially into September and October by continuing their improbable run, not only making the playoffs, but winning the Wild Card play-in game in Arlington against the defending American League Champions.
Watching the “Buckle Up Birds,” as they were dubbed, thumb their noses at the stat geeks and analysts who said all year that they weren’t for real just made their victory celebration inside the Texas Rangers’ visitors clubhouse all the more satisfying.
This video still puts a huge smile on my face. The way those guys fought, scratched, and clawed all year long and then to finally see them get to celebrate like they deserved to. It was a scene that O’s fans had not seen since 1997, and it warmed our orange hearts to the core.
Then the Birds came back to Baltimore for the first playoff games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 15 years, and the atmosphere was electric. TBS’s sideline reporter Craig Sager famously measured the crowd at over 120 decibels, saying it was the loudest sports stadium he had ever been in.
While his instrument can be debated, the fact is that the Baltimore fans were ridiculously loud as Jim Johnson struck out Alex Rodriguez in the top of the ninth inning in Game 2 of the ALDS.
Unfortunately, the New York Yankees would prevail in five games, ending the O’s magical season, but it did nothing to dampen the fond memories that we’ll always have of those 2012 Birds.
The Baltimore Orioles’ season ended on October 12.
That night, Ed Reed tweeted the following:
By then, the NFL was in full swing, and the Ravens had just barely defeated the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead to push their record to 4-1.
While we were all optimistic about the Ravens, most had trouble shaking the lingering hangover from 2011′s crushing AFC Championship defeat in New England. Our boys had started the season well at 4-1, but the feeling of “last year was our year,” overshadowed the hot start for many, especially considering how excruciatingly ugly that particular 9-6 win over the Chiefs was.
However, Ed Reed proved to be prophetic.
Even after struggling through some late season turmoil and finishing the season at 10-6, the Ravens earned a home playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Far from being just any game though, this was THE game. Ray’s final game in Baltimore.
The “Last Ride” was to start that day, and we were all hoping that it wouldn’t end as quickly as it began.
All we could do as fans was to be as loud as possible and send Ray off as best we could.
Where was Craig Sager with his decibel meter when Ray danced out of the tunnel for (what we thought was) the final time?
The fairy tale started that day, and the Ravens authored an ending that makes even Hollywood jealous.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, B’More – nobody believed in our team. Again.
The national pundits and analysts wrote off our team. Again.
And again, the boys of Baltimore thumbed their noses.
When the victory parade/celebration came to M&T Bank Stadium on February 5, and Ray Lewis came out for one final, final time – holding a Lombardi Trophy, no less – Mr. Sager and his instruments could have set new records for the third time in the span of a few short months.
The point here is that, again, Baltimore sports fans were on Cloud 9.
I’ll put the first pin in the calendar on September 6. That was the night that Cal Ripken Jr.’s statue was unveiled – the 17th anniversary of 2131 – and the O’s took on the Yankees, nipping at their heels for first place. That game was an epic contest in itself, with New York scoring five runs in the top of the eighth to tie the game, only for the Birds to hit three home runs in the bottom of the frame for the win.
Starting that day, over the next 152 days – less than half of a calendar year – all of the below transpired:
- O’s clinching a playoff berth
- O’s playoff win in Texas (and above celebration)
- First playoff games at OPACY since 1997
- Ray’s retirement announcement
- Ray’s final home game and victory lap
- The incredible Flacco-to-Jacoby Jones touchdown in Denver (and ensuing win)
- The Ravens getting revenge in Foxboro in the AFC Championship Game
- The Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII
- The epic victory parade and celebration in downtown Baltimore
Look at all of those events – events that Baltimore fans will always remember, and in such a short period of time. The only thing in my lifetime that comes close would have to be the Ravens winning Super Bowl XXXV followed by the Maryland Terrapins winning the 2002 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Still, those two events were separated by over a year – this is better, for me, despite the fact that 2001-2 involved two championships to the one this year.
And now, pitchers and catchers report today. Hope springs eternal.
Nothing in this picture is more than about four months old. Yeah, it’s been a fun little span.
We’re spoiled, fellow Baltimore fans. Soak it in. Enjoy it. You never know when we’ll have it this good again.