Football is back and I’m still bitter
I know I should be more ecstatic about the NFL and particularly my Baltimore Ravens being back. I really should.
After all, I’ve still watched NFL Network all the time, I’m a sucker for old games, Top 10 shows and old highlight videos.
But for some reason I’m distant. I’m really not feeling like jumping back into the Ravens with both feet right now.
Maybe it was the lockout, which pitted millionaires versus billionaires in a public pissing contest over $9 billion dollars.
Maybe it’s fatherhood changing my priorities in life, although granted, I can’t wait until my son is big enough to wear the Ravens jumper my mom got him, complete with little Ravens socks.
Perhaps it’s because as soon as the lockout ended, the team cut Willis McGahee, Kelly Gregg, Todd Heap and Derrick Mason, reminding us all that the NFL still is a harsh and unforgiving business with no room for sentimentality.
But I think the reason I’m not ready to get sucked back in again is as simple as the following words: Ravens vs. Steelers, January 15, 2011.
There’s not a Ravens fan out there that needs me to recount that gory defeat. It was a soul-crushing, punch to the throat kind of loss. The kind of loss that makes you question why you even watch these stupid games and root for laundry.
Yes, I’m still bitter. I’m not sure I can ever again look at a bottle of Flying Dog Raging Bitch beer and not think of myself turning into a raging bitch after T.J. Houshmandzadeh dropped Joe Flacco’s fourth-and-18 pass in the waning seconds of the game.
I was mad then and still am when I think of that game. My team choked away a two-touchdown lead. Thinking about that game turns me into Peter Fonda solemnly telling Dennis Hopper “We blew it,” at the end of “Easy Rider.” And they blew it to the Steelers of all people, only our most hated rivals.
As if I couldn’t dislike the Steelers enough, Pittsburgh players LaMarr Woodley and Ryan Clark took shots at the Ravens during the lockout, saying they won’t win the AFC anytime soon (Woodley) and that the Ravens aren’t their rivals (Clark).
The shame of it is a small part of me agreed with them after all the ridiculous losses the Ravens have had against the Steelers the past five years. Until we beat those clowns in the playoffs, they’re going to have the high ground to talk all the noise they want.
Quite frankly, the Ravens can make all the moves in the world. They can sign up an all-star team and go 16-0 in the regular season and it wouldn’t matter.
There’s only one outcome that will give me, and probably every other Raven fan and I’d bet most of the organization itself, any satisfaction after January’s debacle: beating Pittsburgh in the playoffs. Followed by going to the Super Bowl and winning it.
Sure, the Ravens could win the Super Bowl this year without beating the Steelers, and it would be great. But it would be just a tad bit hollow, knowing Steeler fans can always say, “Yeah, but you didn’t beat us.” It would be a mixed sense of achievement.
No, the Ravens have to beat Pittsburgh on the way there. There’s no other way January 15 goes away or the talk of jerkweeds like Woodley and Clark goes away without it.
And until they do that, well, I’ll be watching.