Oh Baltimore, it's not so bad. We made it pretty far this year. And I don't just mean football. We're doing okay as a city too. They call the Ravens a defensive team, and that's how I see the city as well. A great team, but more because we're able to defend ourselves and because we have all sorts of silly pride in this place... Not because we're ever assumed to have many unmatched assets.
We are who we are: Scrappy, hilarious, overdramatic, imperfect, talented, spirited and working with what we've got. Look at one of our star players, Ray Rice (who celebrated his 25th birthday yesterday by defending his fellow teammates on his own facebook page). The guy is between 2 and 17 feet shorter than an average NFL player, yet he consistently disproves any theory that he's too small for the NFL by outplaying everyone else on the field, and somehow defying physics by not being crushed to death under massive pigpiles of 5 fellow players twice his weight. Instead of mourning the end of our promising season and loss of a chance at the superbowl, we should be celebrating the fact that we are a team (and also a city) constantly defying the rules and even in failure, maintaining a stubborn pride in our team. We small businesses should be celebrating Rice himself, for proving the little guy can play with the big guys.
The good news is that we had a damn good season, and anyone who blames someone screwing up in the last 20 seconds of a game for the loss should go soak their head and watch a singles tennis match. That's like saying a restaurant closing on North Avenue has destroyed the city's chances at culinary greatness. Like running a city, football is a team sport. Part of the challenge is that we have to rely on each other to succeed - which means supporting each other in the weaker moments. In this city as with this team. Perhaps our current recession is that missed catch in the end zone, or that missed kick at the 30 yard line, or a disappointing start to an important game. Our boarded up properties are the holes in our defensive line. A lack of local government support for small businesses & arts organizations could be summed up with the self conscious appearance of an unprepared offense. Frustrating, angering even. But in order to have a successful Team, you have to have fans and support. They have to believe in how good you'll do next year. As our friend Ray Lewis said at the end of the game: "As a team, we just got to keep moving. We just got to keep building, keep building, keep building and remember this taste." Yes, I think we can learn a lot about a lot from watching this sport.
That, or my metaphors could be off, and football could be about our animal urges for yelling, watching violent physical conflict and large daytime consumption of beer and sauces of the nacho cheese and bbq variety. (In which case, we can learn a lot about a lot from watching ourselves watching this sport)...
Either way, I've enjoyed my first year as a football fan. Enjoyed it quite a bit.