Sunday, December 31, 2006

THE MAGIC NUMBER IS 4 WINS!


So I’m sitting here waiting to gather the troops to trek on down to The Vault and I’m thinking to myself, “The Magic Number is 4!” Of course that includes today’s game. And I’m also thinking that the stars are aligning for the Ravens. It’s almost as though you can see them all gradually coming together in perfect alignment much like those synchronized swimmers gather to form some interesting hexagonal shape.

It’s a beautiful thing.

First there’s Brian Billick on the brink of being fired ascending from the woodshed to the penthouse. Then there’s Steve McNair being tossed from the Titans’ house and ascending to the house of Mickey Mouse. And then there’s all the talk about the Chargers and how balanced they are; the Colts and the best defense is a great offense (nice try Jaws); and of course who can count out Belichick & Brady, the firm that always seems to be waiting in the wings for that hostile takeover.

But everyone seems to be ignoring the wonderful story developing in Baltimore.

They said McNair would never stay upright behind the Ravens offensive line. They said that J.O. was washed up. They said that Ray Lewis was a cancer (see the ringleader behind SelltheOrioles.com). They said that the Ravens offense wouldn’t be enough. They (me included) said that until you beat a tough opponent on the road, expect nothing in the post season.

Now we all end our emails with “Happy Festivus For The Best of Us.” (At least I do.)

Yes this all has a familiar look, a familiar feel. Even this day has a similar feel to the game against the Chargers back in 2000...you remember, “If We Win We’re In!” It was cool with light rain that day too...

Four wins over the next five weeks.

Is that too much to ask?

Friday, December 29, 2006

My Wishes for 2007...What are yours?

As we prepare to close out the old (2006) and bring in the new (2007), I thought that we too would chime in by briefly reflecting upon ‘06 and set the stage for what we all hope will be a very promising ‘07. A good place to start would be right here at 24x7.

For those of you who have been with us for quite some time, the 24x7 you know today is vastly different than that which you knew as late as July 25, 2006. We appreciate your patience during our transformation and we trust that since you are still reading this, that you’ve accepted and enjoyed the many enhancements and additions we’ve made to the site. There are still many more enhancements and additions on the way which we’re sure will be to the delight of all who bleed as we do.

Looking back on 2006, the year was a success in so many ways and there are still so many ways to improve. Even the most optimistic dyed in the wool Ravens fan must be somewhat surprised by the 2006 season thus far and I’m sure optimism and confidence run like a finely tuned engine through your veins. And you have every reason to feel that way.

Clearly the Ravens are the crown jewel of the sports landscape here in The Land of Pleasant Living and we are proud of our association. Yet as stated, much could be improved upon along that sports landscape and with that in mind I welcome your commentary or any additions to these well-intentioned wishes for the coming year.

Without further ado, our wish list:

To Brian Billick…I wish for you a fair contract extension that provides the comfort zone you need for yourself and your family -- one that invites you to stay here along the shores of the Chesapeake even well beyond your days managing the sidelines of the town’s favorite team. Clearly you’ve earned it after persevering a tumultuous off-season while swallowing much more than your fair share of humble pie.

To Steve McNair…your destiny. After being locked out of the Titans’ facility, a team that you fought like a gladiator for, may you find your coveted Super Bowl Championship in ‘07 in Miami and when someone asks, “Hey Steve, where are you going?”, you emphatically and enthusiastically reply, “I’M GOING TO DISNEYWORLD!”

To Ray Lewis…I wish for you the continued desire and passion needed to lead and inspire your teammates. I also wish for you a dose of reality -- one that allows you to clearly see that a $9.3 million cap figure is far too high. And may that dose lead you to negotiating a more cap friendly deal that allows you to retire as an original and career-long member of the Baltimore Ravens.

To Adalius Thomas…may you find the riches that you deserve and may your heart be open to at least a modest hometown discount so that 96 can stay exactly where it belongs.

To Jonathan Ogden…a boatload of competitive juices that inspire you to lace them up at least one more season. You’ve proven that you’ve still got it. Do it again, please?

To Chris Chester…20 added pounds of solid muscle without the Merriman Method.

To Rex Ryan and Eric DeCosta…the patience to find the right fit as you further your respective careers. To Rex, learn from your former defensive coordinator colleague Romeo Crennel and Eric, pay close attention to the trials and tribulations of your friend Phil Savage.

To Edwin Mulitalo…the willingness and determination to rebound from your injury and push to crack the starting lineup once again. All around good guys like you don’t grace our presence enough in the world of sport.

To B.J. Sams…a bionic fibula…To Dan Cody, a clean bill of health for no less than 12 months…To Mike and Musa Smith…full recoveries. Your grit and determination are more deserving of healthier careers.

To Steve Bisciotti…the sweet smell of a Super Bowl victory cigar.

To the Baltimore Metropolitan Area…the windfall from another successful Festivus and a community galvanized by its collective passion for all things purple.

To Amber Theoharis…homesickness. Don’t leave B’more.

To Stan White…audio tapes of Tom Matte and a slightly accelerated pulse.

To the Self-appointed Vice President of All Things Dundalk…a memory of where you came from along with copies of A Christmas Carol & The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

To Peter Angelos…the willingness to heed the call of WNST and sell the Orioles. Then use part of the proceeds to buy the property that houses WNST.

To Stan the Fan and the Press Box…continued success with your broad paintbrush. May you keep finding ways to go where no other publication has gone before and may you also find innovation in your Bone Yard as opposed to bone-headedness.

To Anita Marks…a mild winter, fairness (that juice monkey thing was blown completely overboard) and a crash course on the provincial mentality of us Baltimorons (you have to be one to call one).

To the national media…the inability to Mapquest or Google Baltimore. We don’t need your support. We are proud of that chip on our collective shoulder.

To Tom Jackson…the understanding that Bart Scott is not a rookie. Jackson said earlier this season, “You talk about offensive rookie of the year being Laurence Maroney, the defensive rookie of the year obviously I think is Bart Scott.”

To Joey Porter…a size 18 foot to go with that errant bullet.

To Monday Night Football…an extension for Mike Tirico and the signing of Troy Aikman. The other two can go but if they can‘t, then the Reader’s Digest version of any explanation from Joe Theismann.

To Chris Berman…BACK-BACK-BACK-BACK-BACK away from NFL Countdown or whatever it is they are calling that show these days. You are well past your prime time. And please take Michael Irvin with you.

To Brett Favre…a decision.

To the Baltimore Orioles…an extension for Eric Bedard now before he can test the market! (see Barry Zito, 7 years, $126 million). Hopefully it’s not too late. By the way, did you know that Zito only has 102 wins in his 7 year career? If he maintains that pace over the next 7 years, the Giants will be paying him $1.235 million per win.

To GAMETIME…a daytime slot.

To each of us one and all…less Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton & Tom Cruise and more Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba, Beyonce and Jeri Ryan….ok and for you ladies that dude on the anatomy show.

To Miami…a town painted purple to go with the Purple Rain of Prince on Sunday February 4, 2007.

To Baltimore…a celebratory parade without rain on February 6, 2007. You deserve it!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

HEADS OR TAILS? THE VALUE OF LOSING THE COIN TOSS!

While the Ravens are growing into a more balanced team, they remain a team that relies on its defense for most of its success. And that is why I often want the Ravens to lose the coin toss, particularly at home. The thought here is to get the crowd into the game and we do that at The Vault when the Ravens are on defense.

Three and out and we’re off to the races.

When folks are just returning to their seats after the half, the stadium isn’t as loud and therefore more conducive to playing offense.

Since Kyle Boller has been with the Ravens, they are 25-6 at home (.806). When the Ravens win the coin toss at home and receive they are 11-4 (.733). When they lose the toss and defend, they are 14-2 (.875). The average margin of victory when winning the toss at home is 12.3 points. When losing the toss that figure climbs to 16.4 points (+33%).

Also the average margin of a loss is more favorable when the Ravens lose the coin toss at home (4 points) v. that when they win the toss (8.5 points).

So why not elect to play defense whenever they win the coin toss?

If it were only that simple.

Here’s how the NFL coin toss rule reads:

1. The toss of coin will take place within three minutes of kickoff in center of field. The toss will be called by the visiting captain before the coin is flipped. The winner may choose one of two privileges and the loser gets the other:
(a) Receive or kick
(b) Goal his team will defend

2. Immediately prior to the start of the second half, the captains of both teams must inform the officials of their respective choices. The loser of the original coin toss gets first choice.

So if the Ravens won the toss and elected to defend, their opponent could choose to receive when it’s there choice to start the second half. That’s the equivalent of a turnover.

So the moral of the story is to hope when the visiting team makes their coin toss call, they win every time so that the Ravens defense can get things started.

Oh and in case you are wondering the Ravens have lost the coin toss 5 of 8 times on the road this year on their way to a 6-2 road mark. Those 6 wins equal the total number of road wins during Kyle Boller’s entire Ravens career as the No. 1 QB.

A little bad luck on the coin toss call and a lot of poise go a long way…

C-O-L-T-S COLTS...GO COLTS!


Look, I’ve got it all figured out and in order for this plan to work for all of us, we are going to have to become Colts fans this weekend. Now I know that for some, such a request is the equivalent of blasphemy or the highest form of treason. But stay with me and trust me….I know these things!

If the Colts lose on Sunday and the Patriots win, the Colts will become the No. 4 seed and will more than likely host the Denver Broncos. That would send the Jets in all likelihood to the Big Razor to play the Patriots. Should all go according to my Crystal Ball, the Colts would then travel to San Diego while the Patriots would end up here during the weekend of January 13.

This is not what we want!

No not because I’d rather the Ravens take on the Colts instead of the Patriots, I’d rather the Patriots take on the Chargers instead of the Colts. I just can’t see the Colts beating the Chargers in San Diego. The Chargers had success against the Colts last year and this year’s Colts gave up 153 yards on the ground to Ron Dayne.

RON DAYNE!

The last time Ron Dayne ran for that many yards he was headed towards a free buffet in Seacaucus, NJ! Ok, maybe it was when he was a Wisconsin Badger in 1999 but you get the point. If Ron Dayne can lay 153 on the Colts, just imagine what LaDainian Tomlinson could do. And therein my friends lies the moral of this story. The Chargers win and the Ravens are packing their bags and heading west for the AFC Championship.

Now if the Patriots go into San Diego, my bet is that Bill Belichick comes up with a way to further frustrate the slumping Philip Rivers while he keeps LT in check, relatively speaking of course.

So there you have it…it’s a simple ball game. Root for the Colts this weekend and then get ready to be the host city for the AFC Championship.

The road to Miami goes through Baltimore baby!

Has anyone seen Big Wheel?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS


Look, I am hardly a Scrooge. But I have to tell you 6 weeks of Christmas music is killing me. Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing these songs next to a roaring fire on a cold Christmas Eve. I can remember when WLIF would play these songs non-stop from the moment Christmas Eve turned into Christmas Day right on up until 11:59 PM Christmas Night.

Now, they play these songs on and on and on from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day.

And my fiance, God bless her soul…she has an insatiable appetite for these songs and an extremely high tolerance for repetition.

Thank the Lord above for my Ipod!

Anyway, I heard the classic, “These Are a Few of my Favorite Things” briefly today before I turned up the volume on my Ipod. Somewhere along the crossed wires of my sometimes wacky brain activity, I decided to change the lyrics to this classic to more closely match the things on my mind.

So clear your throat, lock in on that tune and sing along with me (imagine that little ping pong ball bouncing atop the lyrics):

Passing on first down to set up the pitches
Dynamic action without Boller’s glitches
Lighting fast defenses and blitzes they bring
These are a few of my favorite things

Fathead quarterbacks who were number 7
Flat on their backs thanks to our 57
Purple and black are the colors we bring
These are a few of my favorite things

Manning he’s running from those 96 slashes
LT is ducking from 92’s smashes
Carson is fearful of the Conference North Kings
Yes these are a few of my favorite things

When T. Pryce sacks
When Ray Lew stings
I’m so freakin’ glad
I can’t wait til they win a Super Bowl Ring
To show the whole world -- WE’RE BAD!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

RAVENS GET PRO BOWL SNUB


This morning over a cup of Joe I jotted down Ravens players who I thought would be heading to Hawaii in February to participate in the 2007 Pro Bowl. I broke the list down into the following categories while trying to be as objective as possible: 1) Stone cold lock to go; 2) Should go; 3) Shouldn’t go but probably will based upon reputation; 4) Should go but probably won’t based upon some other players’ reputations.

Here’s the way the list looked:

1. Stone cold lock: Jonathan Ogden, Adalius Thomas, Trevor Pryce, Gary Stills
2. Should go: Bart Scott, Todd Heap, Terrell Suggs, Chris McAlister
3. Shouldn’t go but probably will: Ed Reed and Ray Lewis
4. Should go but won’t: Kelly Gregg, Matt Stover

The confirmed list that you’ve by now already heard includes: JO, AD, Suggs, Cmac and Reed. Heap, Lewis, Stills and Stover are all alternates. I am shocked that Pryce and Stills didn’t even make the team. Just as shocked that neither Pryce nor Bart Scott made it as mere alternates.

Ed Reed has had a poor season considering he is the highest paid player at his position and I genuinely believe he went on reputation, just as JO did last year. That can jump up and bite players at times. It did last year for AD and this year he’s in. It did this year for Kelly Gregg and Bart Scott, both having better seasons than players chosen ahead of them as starters, reserves or alternates.

But let’s look for the silver lining in this. I think the snubs will serve to further galvanize the locker room. Those selected will be upset by the deserved not chosen. It will sharpen that chip on the team’s collective shoulder and they’ll let the snubbing inspire them even more.

Just like being a 3 point dog to a team that they dominated 4 weeks ago will…

Never mess around with the junk yard dog. It has a nasty bite.

And in Baltimore, there’s plenty of dogs in the Ravens‘ house. Just ask the Pro Bowl voters and odds makers.

WHY WOULD YOU ROOT FOR THE COLTS?

At the moment I’m out of town on biz and I happened to get a copy of The Sun. So I look at the cover and what do I see? Ravens fans celebrating a Colts’ touchdown at the ESPN Zone. Why?

Am I missing something here?

Why are fans setting their sights so low? Clearly the Ravens aren’t overwhelmed by their AFC North Championship. So why are you? Isn’t your bar set as high as the Ravens’? Doesn’t Super Bowl Champion have a better ring to it than AFC North Champion?

Silly question I know but here’s a more pertinent one – wouldn’t such a championship be more attainable as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed with the path to Miami traveling through Baltimore? So GO BENGALS, right? Colts drop to the third seed…more home playoff games…Yahoooooo right?

Well apparently not for some with less ambition….

I happened to be rooting for the Bengals almost like they were the Ravens. And I am sure glad that I am not a Bengals fan. Did Jim Fassel design that offensive game plan? Matt Cavanaugh? That was a joke. I bet Carson Palmer is pretty sore today. That Bengals offensive line was an absolute sieve. Conversely the Bengals defensive front seemed to be counting to 7 Mississippi before rushing Peyton Manning.

Anyway, I had to take a shower after watching that game. The stench of being a Bengals’ fan for 3 hours was unbearable.

Never again!

Unless of course a Cincinnati win benefits the Ravens or they are playing the Steelers.

Speaking of which, can you believe the Ravens are 3 point dogs against the Stillers this week? Didn’t we just beat them like a drum 4 Sundays ago?

Hello, McFly?

More on that later…

Thursday, December 14, 2006

GOD MUST BE A RAVENS FAN!

For the past few years I’ve been saying that, “God must be a Ravens fan.” My rationale you ask? That would be the extremely favorable weather here in Baltimore on football Sundays.

How many times have they called for rain or dicey weather only to see the clouds miraculously vanish as the skies open up for another afternoon of Ravens football? If memory serves me correctly there has never been a regular season game played at M&T that was affected by rain. The closest may have been the “If we win we’re in” game against the Chargers back in 2000. But even then the rain was never more than a light drizzle.

The home playoff game against the Broncos was a blustery and bitterly cold afternoon but somehow knocking the snot out of Denver took the edge off that chill. It also doesn’t hurt if you sit on the sunny side of the stadium like I do.

Even the home playoff game against the Titans in January 2004 was a balmy 60+ degrees. This week the forecast on Sunday is for sunny skies and 65 degrees.

Whenever I mention our meteorological fortunes to anyone that will listen, I’m told to hush up – I might jinx us. Fuggedaboutit! I’m not worried about any jinx. I’ve been making this claim for years and still, here we will be basking in the glow of a near winter solstice sunshine.

If you go back a little further in Ravens history, you may recall a game played in 1996 I believe when the Ravens defeated the Steelers 31-17 under the blanket of a steady November rain. Perhaps even God didn’t remember that the old Browns had become the Ravens and they played in Baltimore.

But other than that Steelers’ game, I challenge you to find another regular season game when rain was a factor in Baltimore. I bet you can't!

I did do some research on this topic. I looked back on all the games played in November and December here in Baltimore since the 2002 season. The average temperature during those games played here in Baltimore for November was 57.5 degrees and for December it was 44.1 degrees. The normal average temperature for those months is 46.8 degrees and 36.7 degrees respectively. Kind of like the Ravens turnover ratio this year, that's a plus 11 and a plus 7!

You feelin’ me? Feelin’ the warmth?

So, get out your SPF 30 Coppertone and enjoy the San Diego like weather down at The Vault on Sunday. And while you’re at it, if you can…wear some Chiefs underwear and Bengals socks to support those teams. It might help spread some good karma towards our second and third favorite teams this weekend.

But go light...it’s going to be hot down there at M&T.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

SEX SELLS

Chances are if you are reading this you are a Ravens fan. And thanks to the genetics of a Ravens fan your DNA suggests that you suffer from an inferiority complex when it comes to the NFL. You can’t help it really -- it’s just how you are built.

Turn on ESPN or NFL Network after a big Ravens win with high hopes that the Ravens will be deluged with praise from the national pundits and what do you get -- a Bengals’ love fest. Listen to Chris Berman (assuming you can any more) and his weekly Swami almost always picks against the Ravens by some twisted score of 12-11 or somewhere thereabout.

From being told to build a museum to the lack of nationally televised games; from the difficulty of schedule to a Christmas Eve game on the road in Pittsburgh; from referees accusing the Ravens of having malice in their hearts to Brian Billick subtly suggesting that the league has an ax to grind with our city, you think the NFL’s league office will turn the screw on Baltimore whenever it can.

Make no mistake about it, the fix is in!

The Ravens are the Rodney Dangerfields of the NFL. We get no respect!

While the league and its talking heads fawn all over the Chargers, a team the Ravens beat no less, the Ravens are tucked away like an ugly stepchild. As the league showcases Cell Block H (aka the Cincinnati Bengals) the fans of Baltimore feel like it’s their team that is incarcerated.

And you know what? You’re right. Your feelings are justified. Baltimore does get the dry shaft. We do get ignored. We are like Flick with his tongue stuck to the pole while the others are huddled inside a toasty classroom watching highlight films that don’t include us.

There’s a reason for it -- SEX SELLS and the Ravens aren’t sexy.

The Ravens are built on defense and defense while it wins championships isn’t exciting for highlight programs. Last night our quarterback made the highlight reels -- for a tackle, for being a defender! Yep, Steve McNair was featured on ESPN's Jacked Up segment.

But generally fans want to see scoring -- big plays. Gamblers want to see the plays that won them cash or sealed their fate; fantasy football players line up to watch SportsCenter and NFL Replay like Rosie O’Donnell queues up at Jonah & The Whale’s all you can eat buffet.

That’s how it is and the Ravens aren’t quite the match for that NFL world. All NFL fans want their team to play great defense yet offense is more exciting. We like Mary Ann for a lifetime but Ginger for a night on the town. We don’t run to the TV to look for the girl next door -- we want to see Angelina Jolie or Jeri Ryan. When is the last time a lawyer looked like Jeri Ryan and if I’m mistaken and she’s the norm for female attorneys then I have to tell you, I’m ready to sue somebody for something.

Hey let’s sue the NFL for character defamation or psychological abuse.

We’re tired of the neglect here in Baltimore!

Look around you. What NFL jerseys do kids buy? Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Michael Vick, Ladainian Tomlinson and (gulp) Ben Roethlisberger are at or near the top of jersey sales. Nobody wants us!

Face it folks -- the Ravens just aren’t sexy.

Offense is sexy and sex sells.

Look at all the recent changes, modifications or closer enforcements of NFL rules. Just about every one is designed to help the offense. It’s the NFL’s version of Nip/Tuck and all the enhancements boost offensive teams.

So Baltimore if you want your team to get more attention -- attention deserving of a 10-3 team, then you better hope they get sexier and sexier means more offense.

That’s just the way it is and it’s doubtful that it will ever change.

You can thank Vegas, fantasy footballers and Ginger for that.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Super Bowl win could mean losses

This football season is beginning to feel quite familiar. Here comes that Festivus feeling again and given the presence of Peter Angelos and that losing feeling that settles in here in the Land of Pleasant Living around April 15, wouldn’t another Lombardi look good out there in Owings Mills?

Who could deny that such a sight is within the realm of possibility? After all the current media darlings, the San Diego Chargers, are a team that lost to the Ravens when the Ravens were hardly at their best. They could lose to the Ravens again regardless of the venue. After all Marty Schottenheimer is still their head coach and Marty on the sidelines in January is reminiscent of a scene from the original American Pie movie when the anticipation of Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) is just too much for Jason Biggs’ character Jim Levenstein to handle. Chances are he’ll blow it in the clutch with Martyball just like Levenstein blew his…ah never mind.

But back to that Lombardi…

The spoils of another Super Bowl win would be all too sweet. And what a story it would make with some very interesting subplots: Brian Billick goes from the outhouse to the penthouse; Steve McNair’s goes from a lock out to Disneyworld; Ray Lewis returns home for another title; yes Virginia the Ravens do have an offense; Eric DeCosta courted by the Ford family in Detroit (assuming they obtain all outstanding scandalous photos that Matt Millen apparently has in his safe); Rex Ryan to goes to Cleveland.

Yes there is a downside to winning a Super Bowl.

The NFL is a copycat league and the vultures that want to be like you come swirling overhead waiting for the perfect time to strike. And they will.

Some players will cash in…players like Adalius Thomas and Jarret Johnson. Eric DeCosta’s star climbs even higher and maybe some owner decides that DeCosta is the perfect architect to re-design a team in tatters. The annual coaching carousel will again be in motion and they’ll be jockeying for position to gain Rex Ryan’s attention.

Hey Rex, Phil Savage on line 2 for you!

And while those are all problems, they are good problems and they are problems that successful organizations must deal with.

That’s life in the fast lane of the National Football League.

Monday, December 04, 2006

DEREK ANDERSON: THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY?


Derek Anderson. Now there’s a name that will get a work out around the water cooler today. Wish the Ravens kept HIM, right?

“Did you see that?” “Boy Savage really pulled one over on us there?” “How could Ozzie let this stud get away for nothing?” “I can’t believe we risked sneaking him on the practice squad after that preseason performance against the Redskins back in ‘05!”

Etc., etc., etc.

People forget that on his very first snap under center in the Falcons preseason game in ‘05 that he stumbled and fumbled and turned the ball over. They forget later in that fourth quarter he threw an interception in the red zone. The same people don’t know that time and time again during summer camp Anderson locked in on receivers, bounced swing passes at the feet of running backs and tripped so often back peddling that he made Kyle Boller look as calm and collected as Joe Montana.

Yet the Ravens tried to do something with Anderson -- not cut him but to sneak him on to the practice squad.

And while we cheered for him when he rallied the third and fourth string Ravens to victory over the third and fourth string Redskins in overtime 26-20 on the heels of a 7 for 14 performance, 156 yards and two scores, that performance may have sealed his fate as a Raven. Trying to sneak him on to the practice squad was certainly risky given Phil Savage’s intimate knowledge of the former Oregon State Beaver.

As you know (perhaps even painfully) the Ravens lost the Beaver when Savage acted like Eddie Haskell and snatched him away.

These things happen.

And great performances from backup quarterbacks also happen. How many Clint Courtneys and Stoney Cases have we seen in our days?

Anderson could become a serviceable back up. He could become a decent starter. But before we get our knickers in a twist about this, let’s see how Anderson does on a national stage against the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Thursday Night or the following week against his former practice mates -- the Baltimore Ravens, after they prepare for him.

Then come and bring the topic of Derek Anderson to the water cooler!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

THERE ARE A FEW EXTRA SEATS ON THE BANDWAGON

Ok, how many of you thought the Ravens would run the table after Pittsburgh? If your hand is in the air was that really realistic? (I’m lowering my hand now by the way.)

Let’s face it, the odds were stacked against the Ravens in Cincinnati from day 1. Very short week after a facing their bitter rival, the Steelers. You know the rest.

What I don’t get is the response to the loss from many here in Baltimore. Can we have a little faith?

We’ve seen it time and time again in the NFL -- teams that can weather adversity will be successful. Look at the Ravens in 2000, the Patriots in 2001, the Steelers in 2006. They got it together and battled through difficult times and they were rewarded for their ability to handle adversity.

They say you learn more about a man during adverse times than during prosperous times. The same thing can be said about teams. The same can be said about fans!

The 2006 Ravens are NOT the 2005 Ravens. That team last year didn’t buy into their head coach’s message. They lacked discipline and when the season got away from them quickly the focus was far from the team on more on their individual careers. Maybe even the assistant coaches had doubt and worried for their careers. Matt Simon apparently did. Maybe they were already circulating their resumes anticipating that it might be Brian Billick’s turn in the queue at the head coaching guillotine.

Instead Billick visited the head coaching woodshed, took his beating like a man and made the necessary adjustments. So has the team and so too have the assistant coaches.

My bet is that the Cincinnati loss will be a good loss. I expect the Ravens to look hard in the mirror; to see the errors of their Thursday Night ways and fix them. I believe in Brian Billick. I believe in Steve McNair. I believe in Ray Lewis. I believe that their collective leadership will bring this team together and use the Cincinnati loss as a learning tool and prove to the thin-skinned bandwagon fans the value of maintaining focus throughout the journey of a NFL season.

After all at the end of a season or journey, it’s not how you get there but that you arrived and enjoy the spoils of a goal fulfilled.

I think the purple and black are on to something. I think they are going to play well in KC and whether they win that game or not, I think they have the character that it takes to run the table after that.

12-4 and a home playoff game.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Buckle up, enjoy the ride and trust the driver will ya?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

CAN THE RAVENS SUCCEED IN MUDVILLE?

The forecast in Cincinnati for tonight at kick off is for rain and temps in the high 40’s to low 50’s after a soaking rain all day today. With modern day technology and modern day stadiums, that giant sucking sound you hear now could be pinpointed to Paul Brown Stadium as the grounds crew does its best to make the field playable.

Cincinnati being more of a finesse team would probably prefer a fast track so there won’t be any additional hosing down from the hometown grounds crew in the style of the Patriots when they play the Colts. Of course that tactic is not out for Bill Belichick with the recent installation of Momentum Turf at the Big Razor.

But back to the Ravens….

Who does the rain favor tonight? That’s my question to all of you.

A look at history (if you call looking back to 2000 history) suggests the Ravens don’t do very well in a soaking rain. Actually that is an understatement – they do horribly. Need proof? Ok, here you go:

Ø Ravens @ Miami (2000) L 6-19
Ø Ravens @ NE (2004) L 3-24
Ø Ravens @ Chicago (2005) L 6-10
Ø Ravens @ Denver (2006) L 3-13

So, in four games the Ravens have TOTALED 18 points. That’s 4 ½ points per game!

Uh-oh!

Hey anything can happen. A steady dose of Jamal with some play action early in the downs might help but Jamal with a wet ball is like handing him a slimy eel.

Is there a mudder in the house? A brother from a different mudder?

I bet Sam Adams is a mudder. The slow surface will bring everyone down to his version of NFL speed. Chris Chester at 305 (more like 275) and Sam Adams at 345 (more like 405) is the equivalent of my son trying to block me….

Anything can happen and I’m not a betting man but to stay on the safe side, bet the under. On average when the Ravens play and God answers Phil Collins plea (“Oh yeah I wish it would rain down…down on me!”) the TOTAL amount of points scored is 21. The line is set at 44 ½. You do the math….thank me later!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

STEELER FANS IN MUTE AT THE VAULT

And all through The Vault not a Terrible Towel waving Roethlisberger wannabe was stirring…not even a Porter or a Ward.

And all was beautiful in The Land of Pleasant Living…

I remember the days at old Memorial Stadium – the early days of the Ravens…when we were just getting our collective NFL legs under us. Tens of thousands of those yellow towels littered the old insane asylum and it was downright embarrassing. It was only embarrassing this past Sunday to the Steelers’ fans who wasted their time and money watching a thorough beat down of the team formerly known as World Champions.

The Steelers have defended their title this season like the French might defend a fortress.

For awhile I actually felt a bit sorry for Roethlisberger.

Why did Bill Cowher leave Ben in there the entire game? Does he plan to go with Charlie Batch and he didn’t want to risk injuring the new starter? Was it punishment for Roethlisberger for his off season carelessness? Has Cowher checked out?

I overheard one Steeler fan say that “We are the best of the worst.” Gee talk about digging for a silver lining. That is a Steelers team without an identity. Way back when, I checked off the Christmas Eve game as a loss for the Ravens. I’ve changed my mind – the 2006 version of the Steelers cannot beat this year’s Ravens. It ain’t happening!

No way no how…

When the Steelers show up for that game it will have no meaning to them. It will have meaning to a few individuals either preserving their bodies for the future or to play for their next contract. Cowher might be coaching his next to last game and the team will go through the motions. You might think that the Steelers will get up for a game against their bitter rival, but why? Because they did so for a meaningless game in 2003 here in Baltimore?

Nah, don’t think so….that Steelers team had more heart. This one looks emotionally bankrupt. Besides, why would they get up for a meaningless game when they couldn’t do so during a game that their season was riding on?

4-7…now that’s funny!

Even funnier was the meek body language of those fans and their droopy towels. Still funnier was driving by a Steelers’ bar in Canton only to find no Black and Gold – no Steelers’ swag. There were just a few patrons in the bar and they were sporting Colts’ jerseys. How ironic.

It’s good to be a Ravens fan today…no doubt about it! And after the Ravens beat the Bengals on Thursday, it will be like a doubleheader sweep. Get the brooms out!

By the way Chuck Thompson was right. The beer is a little colder after a win. Just ask the owners of all the bars and pubs in town that have prospered after Ravens wins.

Well maybe not for that little Steelers bar on Fait and Decker in Canton.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

REAL RAVENS FANS DON'T SELL OUT

You people kill me. You know who you are. You are the ones who boo the hometown team. You are the ones who cheer when your struggling quarterback goes down with an injury or when a referee is hurt. You probably race to beat the little old lady to the last seat on the bus too.

And now you sell out tickets to your arch rival fans to help embarrass your city.

Newspaper beat writers write about it. Radio talk show hosts talk about it. And Pittsburgh fans who live in the area are laughing about it. They are laughing at you.

You will criticize the Ravens players and say they quit or that they're showboats or that they're only worried about themselves. You are quick to profess that there’s no “I” in team and just as quickly you log on to Ebay to whore your tickets to the highest bidder knowing full well that the bidder will be a card carrying member of the Terrible Towel-aban. And you justify this behavior because you say that it subsidizes the season ticket seats where you actually park your Judas-sized butt.

And then you have the stones to call yourself a die hard fan?

Jamison Hensley of The Sun last year wrote an article entitled A Wave of Discontent. In the article, Hensley gathered thoughts from these so called “fans.” One self-proclaimed “die hard” said, "This season has been demoralizing. This team has to stand up and recognize that this city enjoys winning and that's what we've got to get back to."

Another adds, "I think it shows [Ravens fans] are kind of upset. Maybe this will send a message to the right people about how things are going."

So what will the excuse be this year when you sell out?

Gas prices are too high? My son wants a Playstation 3? You need the money to buy this year's Furby? You want the extra cash to buy playoff tickets?

PLAYOFFS? PLAYOFFS?

We don’t need your kind at The Vault. Stay home, please! Go and drink your hot seasonal toddy by the fire with your slippers and hit the jump button on your remote during commercials so you don’t miss the Lifetime Channels latest chick-flick offering…like Little House on The Prairie re-runs.

Another fan in Hensley’s article talked about making a quick buck and another about doubling, tripling or quadrupling his investment in the tickets.

Some fans you are!

Greed is good I suppose you sell outs! You say you’re a diehard. More like a blowhard.

Die hard. Please give me a freakin’ break!

You don’t “die hard”, you die easy and find comfort in a death bed lined with benjamins. I’d hate to be in a foxhole with you! You are probably one of those fans that are first to complain about a player that wants a new contract yet you sell out your PSL neighbor.

To all you Steelers fans that make the trip down I-70, welcome to Baltimore. Really, welcome! Enjoy your stay. Patronize the many wonderful establishments in the city and have a great weekend. Have fun at the game and enjoy the stadium. I admire your passion and you are to be commended for it.

To all those fans that feel like I do, bring your hard hats on Sunday. Let’s collectively send a message to those Ebay prostitutes and match and exceed the passion of the yellow towel wavers who will, thanks to those Judases, arrive in numbers. And get on your feet throughout the game. Let’s make the noise in that stadium hum in Ben Roethlisberger’s helmet like the tailpipe of that crotch rocket he likes to drive around Pittsburgh.

And be sure to give your fair weather Sally neighbors an earful when they return for the Browns game on December 17, provided that is they have the guts to show up which I seriously doubt.

It will probably be too chilly for the tooties anyway.

You fair weather Sally’s kill me!
Please, if you have to sell your tickets, sell them to someone who bleeds purple.

Monday, November 20, 2006

CHEAPENING THE RING OF HONOR

During one of the TV timeouts of yesterday’s game, my eyes randomly scanned the stadium. My casual perusing was interrupted by the name of Ernest Byner. Now I know this is a topic that is hotly debated and it is almost a universally accepted opinion that Byner does not belong among the all-time Ravens’ greats (acknowledge by his presence in the Ring of Honor.)

To make matters worse, Byner is the very first inductee to the Ravens ROH. The first inductee should be the standard – the standard of excellence, it should be to recognize something of distinction and that placard is a symbol of such distinction.

What has Ernest Byner really done for the Ravens? What has he done to distinguish himself?

Ask folks around the league and Byner is generally remembered for two things: 1) A big fumble at the goal line in a playoff match against Denver as a member of the Browns; or 2) As a Washington Redskin.

If Byner is the standard, they better make the plaques smaller. It’s going to get busy in that Ring. During his playing career as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, Byner had 947 yards on 243 carries, averaging 3.9 yards per carry with 4 TD’s. He also caught 51 passes for 398 yards and a score.

That’s distinction?

No it just STINKS that our standards are so low. It cheapens it for anyone else inducted.

Chester Taylor had 1,599 rushing yards as a Raven with 4 scores. He also had 105 catches and 3 scores in his Ravens’ career. Does he belong in the ring? What about Priest Holmes? He had a 1,000 yard season, rushed for 2,102 yards as a Raven to go with 10 TD’s and 88 catches for another score. Bam Morris rushed for 1,511 yards and 8 scores to go with 54 catches and another TD.

And then there’s Vinny Testaverde and Michael Jackson and Qadry Ismail and Rod Woodson and Shannon Sharpe, the list could go on. With the sole exception of Bam Morris whose car trunk immaculately conceived a duffle bag of Mother Earth’s finest, all of these players are more deserving of the Ring than Byner.

With Byner up there, who might be next, Edgar, Allan and Poe?

Duane Starks, where are you? Come on down and get your plaque.

So what can the Ravens do to correct this blatant blunder?

Unfortunately not much.

But Ernest Byner could request that his name be taken down. Maybe he might like to be remembered as a good guy who did the right thing and got the Ravens off the hook with that misplaced placard instead of being remembered as the “Who?” guy years from now when future generations look up and see his name.

You fumbled once when you had an opportunity to do something big EB. Don’t fumble again! Do the right thing!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

DOWN IN FRONT!


During the Ravens v. Bengals game, I was into it as I normally am. I was up whistling and screaming "DEFENSE" when Cincinnati had the football. And no it wasn’t on third down only. It was on first down and second down too! Even S.A.F.E. Management reps encourage the support.

Sometime during the early part of the second quarter someone who has sat about 8 rows behind me for years stopped by to say hello.

Or so I thought….

He knelt down beside me with a couple of beers in hand and said, “You know I appreciate your enthusiasm but do you have to stand up on first and second down? Can’t you just stand up on third down?”

My reply: “No I can’t. If you want to sit down during the game, you should have stayed home in your living room.”

I meant it.

Screaming at the top of my lungs and whistling at the loudest decibel level possible is hard work. It’s what I do to help my team. I do my best to contribute to the 12th man at The Vault.

Am I wrong?

I didn’t even give a second thought to accommodating my neighbor’s request.

Would you?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

BRIAN BILLICK: EXTEND HIM, EXTEND HIM NOT?

On Tuesday our regular guest columnist and host of WNST’s Morning Show, Drew Forrester kicked around on air the topic of Brian Billick and a possible contract extension. The debate is certainly a worthy one and it is one that has no clear and definitive conclusion at this stage of Billick’s tenure.

It’s funny in a way – I’ve been accused of being a Billick hugger and a basher almost simultaneously. And I have no problem with the accusations. You see the true bashers will be quick to call me a hugger if I support Billick on a controversial issue. The true huggers will claim that I’m a basher if I criticize a debatable Billick decision.

The truth of the matter is that I’m neither a hugger nor a basher. I’d like to think I’m objective but that’s not for me to decide I suppose.

I don’t know Brian Billick very well but what I do know of him, I like. Actually I like him a lot. I genuinely believe that the image he projects publicly as the Ravens’ head coach is very different than his private persona. Brian Billick once did something for a very close friend of mine on his own. It was a random act of kindness on his part and while I wanted to call attention to it publicly, I chose not to, surmising that the deed alone was enough for Billick.

My suspicions were later confirmed by a source close to Billick.

Personally I’m happy to see Billick doing well this season not only for the sake of the team but also for his own sake. I didn’t like it when Ray Lewis seemingly threw him under the bus this past offseason. I did like it when Ray gave a game ball to Billick. The full circle was a welcomed and pleasant development.

As we’ve seen, much can happen in a year. Last year the Ravens were 2-7. This year they are 7-2. Last year folks wanted Billick’s head. This year they want to give him an extension.

Not so fast.

I hope Billick earns that extension. But I don’t think he’s earned it yet. Why not wait and see how this season and next season go before making what I believe is a hasty decision at this point? He’s under contract through 2007. If at this time next year things appear as promising as they do now, then maybe Steve Bisciotti should pony up and add a few more years to that contract.

But for now, let’s just concentrate on the Falcons and then the Steelers and then the Bengals and then…..

O.J. AND FOX NETWORK TAKE SHAMELESSNESS TO NEW HEIGHTS

So I sit down this morning at my favorite Fells Point coffee house (and no this isn’t my attempt at Peter King’s Coffee Nerdness) and I begin to read the USA Today. And what do I see? Why it’s O.J. Simpson promoting his newest scam, a book called If I Did It.

To make matters worse, Fox will air a program on November 27 to help Simpson promote his garbage tentatively titled, If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened.

Now it seems to me that O.J. wasn’t supposed to rest until he found Nicole Simpson’s and Ronald Goldman’s true murderer, right? Looks like he took a little rest and he’s used his "restless pursuit" to tell the world how he would have planned their slayings. Not how he plans to capture the “real killers”, but how he would have planned their demise!

What a guy!

And then I thought, “What do you expect from a desperate, broke, heartless, gutless, spineless and lying scumbag like Simpson whose bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame shames all those nearby?”

If he’s as innocent and as compassionate as he claims to be, why would he further tarnish the lives of these victims? Why would he subject their families to such a vulgar and opportunistic venture and re-open old wounds? Why would he again bring the death of their mother to the surface again for his children?

Why? Because he’s a sorry ass excuse for a human being and because he’s guilty!

But Simpson isn’t the only one at fault here. Plenty of blame should go to the book’s publisher Judith Regan as well as Fox. They are enablers. To hell with them and to hell with O.J.!

They say the best O.J. has plenty of pulp. This O.J. has so much that not only is it difficult to swallow it makes me want to gag!

Any word that comes out of Orenthal’s mouth is nothing but Pulp Fiction.

Sorry for the off topic rant.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

RAVENS DRAFT TRACK RECORD OVERRATED?


The Ravens certainly have a lot to be proud of so far this 2006 season. They’ve weathered adversity and they are playing as a team. Brian Billick’s crowning achievement to date is certainly the 2000 season when he helped keep the team together despite 21 consecutive quarters without a touchdown and the negative affects of the Ray Lewis murder trial.

However if the 2006 season continues down a rosy path it will arguably be Billick’s finest moment even if they don’t win the Super Bowl. Stay tuned.

But what happens beyond 2006 is anyone’s guess. Adalius Thomas just might be the team’s MVP and this could be his last season as a Raven. Salary cap pressures might prevent him from returning. And while the Ravens will likely do all they can to keep him, if they let him hit the open market the market could price him out of the Ravens’ range. If Carolina jumped at the chance to sign Maake Kemoeatu (who by the way is behind his statistical pace from 2005) by offering him a $12 million signing bonus, what do you think AD might get?

Cha-ching!

If second round pick Dan Cody is to be the heir apparent to AD might it be wise to get him a little PT? How about at least activating him? I would think he is more important to the Ravens future than a spindly one-dimensional receiver like Clarence Moore. Anyone watch Moore on the kick return team on Sunday? He was about as tentative as a pimple-faced teenager attending a supermodel cocktail hour.

The truth be told, the Ravens have done a miserable job of finding playing time for several of their first day draft picks. Chris Chester (2006, Round 2, 56th Player Selected), David Pittman (Round 3, 87th Player Selected), Dan Cody (Round 2, 53rd Player Selected), Adam Terry (Round 2, 64th Player Selected), Dwan Edwards (Round 2, 51st Player Selected) and Devard Darling (2004, Round 3, 82nd Player Selected) have a TOTAL of 1 start among them.

ONE START!

I don't care whose fault it is that is an alarming number for the level of investment in these players.

Want more staggering numbers? These guys have collectively played in only 51 games and they have been inactive a total of 68 games.

If these guys aren't given the opportunity to step up and play it could cost the Ravens in the future and it will be an indictment against the coaching staff, the front office or both.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

LIFE IS GOOD


Back in my high school days as we prepared for our senior year at Archbishop Curley, we naturally had our senior portraits taken and we had to complete a questionnaire, the answers to which would be the basis for our senior bio.

One of the questions asked had to do with what we wanted to be in life. What profession did you see yourself in?

I answered at the tender age of 17 that I wanted to be a sportscaster.

But somewhere along the line I got off track. Girls were more interesting and I went through the motions at Loyola College. My grades were pretty decent making Dean’s List but I was the type that crammed through the night and took a power nap just before the exam. When the exam was over the knowledge seemed to fall from my head like garbage through a disposal.

Eventually I made my way into the business world and somehow entered the fray of commercial finance. While the profession provided a nice lifestyle and I met wonderful people along the way and to this day many remain friends, I can’t say that I was ever really excited about the job. I liked the competitive nature of the business but the profession wasn’t me.

Since then I’ve reminded my kids often to get their education but when they finish, they should pursue something that they love -- something that they love so much that they would do it for free.

But get paid for it.

I wish that I had pursued my ambition as a 17 year old with much more determination.

But what’s the point of living with regret? Despite fast forwarding 25 years I decided that it isn’t too late after all. I still want to be a sportscaster when I grow up. Maybe it will work out. Maybe it won’t. I’m pretty confident that we’ll do ok but at the very worst what a great lesson for my kids to learn first hand as they see their old man work crazy hours yet never lacking passion.

Do what you love. Love what you do.

Do something you love so much you’d do it for free.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

RADIO GAGA....CHANGES AT WNST

A friend of mine is a big Queen fan and we often have these good natured debates about Queen’s place in rock and roll history. For my money Queen is one of the best if not the best live rock and roll band of all time. But their studio work in my opinion is lacking for a band of their stature. Sure they have a few great songs but that’s the problem for me…there’s only a few.

The band is much more popular worldwide than they are here in the States. That’s not to say that they aren’t popular here – they’re just immensely more popular across the pond.

A perfect case in point is the song Radio Gaga. The song’s popularity in Europe is evidenced by the enthusiasm that crowds display during live performances of this Queen standard. But for me, the song is crap.

It should be called Radio CaCa and that is exactly how I refer to it to my diehard Queen fan friend.

Radio Caca…radio crap!

And the radio crap hit the fan over at WNST yesterday!

Terry Ford and Jeremy Conn much to their surprise were fired. Somewhere just before 9AM the entire morning crew was asked to leave the building and not long after their return, the profiles and email addresses of Ford and Conn were wiped from WNST’s database and website and severance checks awaited them. Only Drew Forrester was left standing.

Caca happens…or something like that.

I’ve learned personally that the radio business is a tough business. Programming changes can be blindingly quick, driven sometimes by a clash of egos, a dash of an ego or by a drop in ratings. Ratings equate to advertising demand and dollars. The lower the ratings the lower the demand and the lower the asking price for ad space. It’s a pretty straightforward business.

The knock on WNST’s morning show has been that they have at times pushed the edge of good taste. Their crotch humor, sometimes described as sophomoric turned off some folks.

Hey, to each his or her own. That’s why you have choices.

Those who are regular morning listeners at WNST know that the more comedic of the trio of Ford, Conn and Forrester are Ford and Conn. Pushing the buttons of listeners isn’t uncommon for morning drive time teams. WNST’s morning team from the outside looking in tried to combine that morning shock jock approach with sports. And if that’s your cup of tea, the Comcast Morning Show provided exactly that.

It isn’t uncommon to push the envelope of good taste in radio. The danger is that sometimes the discussion can go over the edge and when it does, radio like any business has to determine if the collateral damage is worth the headaches.

Apparently Nestor Aparicio ran out of Advil.

If you are a major league home run hitter a team might look the other way if it knows about the juice. If you are struggling you might become the sacrificial lamb.

Ford and Conn need their livelihoods for obvious reasons. We all do. Both are intelligent men who are very well versed in the wide world of sports. They will find a new home and life will go on for each following their temporary hiccup. As most of us do, they’ll learn from their apparent mistakes (we all make them) or they’ll find a more permanent home where their styles are more welcomed. Both are good guys and deserve to find their proper place. I wish them well.

As for Forrester, all the best to you Drew with your new sidekick Casey Willett and producer Adam Dembeck. I’m sure you will go through growing pains but at some point in the not too distant future, you will find your groove and provide what many of us look for in sports talk radio during the morning drive – LOCAL.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

CALIFORNIA DAYDREAMING OF THE RAVENS

Recently I made my way out to California for my cousin’s wedding. It was completely California, held at one of the beautiful vineyards in Temecula. Behind that little arch that enveloped my cousin Vince (really) and his lovely bride Jill was part of a lush field of vines pristinely arranged and behind it a few picturesque foothills that helped to accent the valley of grapes.

I looked out at the vines and I thought about the movie, Field of Dreams. “If you build it, he will come.” And then, “ease his pain”, both meaningful statements in that movie. Then my mind drifted from corn to grapes and of course some grapes are purple so naturally I thought of the Ravens.

I always thought “The Big Grape” would be a good nickname for M&T Bank Stadium.

I digress…

“Ease his pain.”

“Ease whose pain?”

Why Brian Billick’s of course.

My thoughts were interrupted and I went on with my day.

Later during the trip I visited the San Diego Zoo and Sea World. I marveled at the animals and the things that the zoologists and biologists and Pavlovogists were able to train these animals to do. The elephants after a few simple prompts were obeying their trainer like a patient under a hypnotic trance.

Whales and sea lions and dolphins were taught to do things that must have taken years to reach the level of perfection that they so easily executed during the exhibitions.

And then I thought of the Ravens again. If a sea otter could fetch and deliver a can of Pepsi on call, why can’t the Ravens run a screen pass?

Monday, October 23, 2006

AMERICA'S PASTIME IS NOW NAP TIME

As a kid, I remember racing home from school in the early fall to watch World Series games. It was a special treat and certainly added some spice to the regular routine of a weekday afternoon.

Even if the Orioles weren’t in the Series, it had an aura about it that made it unique.

It doesn’t feel that way any more. Kids today could care less about the World Series and in many ways, I don’t blame them. It’s just so much different today.

These days, the Orioles are as relevant to the baseball postseason landscape as I am to Angelina Jolie’s Palm Pilot. That certainly has something to do with it.

Then there’s the issue of programming. As a kid, we had The Game of The Week on NBC with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek. Today, there are games up and down the dial any day you want them.

As a kid, if someone mentioned steroids I would have likely believed it to be a villain for Johnny Quest. Today, it pollutes MLB.

And now, every World Series game is on at night and it’s not the same. I can remember teachers in my elementary school changing the class schedules and bringing in TV’s on elevated stands to let the students watch the Orioles during the postseason until the school bell sounded. Baseball galvanized the community and then we could always count on our favorites being there year in and year out. That was before the advent of free agency.

Yes things were different back then. We couldn’t wait to run home and catch the end of a Series game. I couldn’t wait for my Dad to come home from work so that I could fill him in on all that had taken place up to the moment of his arrival.

Last night while watching part of the game in a Carlsbad, CA hotel room with my son, I unsuccessfully fought off falling asleep while he toyed with his laptop, relatively oblivious to the Tigers knotting the Series at one.

Baseball is just not what it used to be.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

WONDERING ABOUT THINGS PURPLE & THE NFL


I’ve been wondering about a few things purple today…

I wonder how assistant special teams coach John Fassel feels today after his Dad was dismissed. Imagine working for a company that gave your Dad the boot. Might you question the organization? Might you even wonder if you were next? It must be pretty tough for John to focus and keep a stiff upper lip these days. Fortunately he has a few days off to simmer and he’ll probably remind himself many times as will his Dad that the NFL is a business and these things happen. Still, if it were me, the only way I’d stick around is if my Dad convinced me to stay.

Speaking of staying, I have to wonder too how long Rick Neuheisel will hang around. Neuheisel was to be the offensive coordinator if Jim Fassel moved on to be a head coach somewhere. Well now that he’s moved on, why isn’t he the coordinator? Why should the circumstances be any different? If Fassel took a different job back in the spring, why would Neuheisel be less qualified now to handle the duties of the O.C.? You have to wonder how long the former head coach of the Washington Huskies will be around these parts.

Instead the playbook will be handled by its author, Brian Billick. But i wonder if the results will be any different. Can a new chef deliver a tastier product using the same ingredients?

Last night while watching the Bears’ comeback against the Cardinals, I couldn’t help but notice how Arizona under Denny Green’s guidance lacks a killer instinct, much like the Ravens lack a killer instinct under Brian Billick. There’s no denying the lineage there…

And by the way, I wonder what’s up with the game of musical chairs being played by Billick, LB Dennis Haley and WR Clarence Moore. If you haven’t heard, Moore is back for more and Haley’s tour on the varsity unit was as fleeting as his namesake’s comet. I don’t get it. Are the Ravens trying to launder players now? Hey if you are going in that direction, maybe they ought to try and pass off Mike Flynn for Steelers’ Center Jeff Hartings.

While we’re on the subject of the Steelers, did you see Troy Polamalu get lassoed by Larry Johnson during his interception return? That hair cost the Steelers’ Safety a touchdown. There was nothing illegal about Johnson’s tackle. Back when Ricky Williams was in the league and sporting his Rasta dreads it was ruled that such lengthy hair is part of the uniform, therefore Johnson’s tackle was legal.

Ever see Polamalu without his helmet on lately?

I wonder why they don't change his name to Troll Polamalu.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

RAVENS TO DEFEAT PANTHERS

Anita Marks asked me while sitting in on her MASN show and after I predicted a Ravens win on Monday Night against Denver if I’ve picked against the Ravens yet this season. The question she was not so subtly asking was really, “Can I letgo of being a fan and objectively predict the game’s outcome?”

The fact of the matter is I did pick the Ravens to lose the opener against Tampa. I was wrong.

I was also wrong on Monday Night when I predicted a 19-13 Ravens win over the Broncos.

But other than that, I have picked the Ravens to win every game.This week is no different.

So why do I think the Ravens will win?

Let’s start with a cursory look at the Panthers.

Carolina has the league’s 23rd best offense and 25th best passing attack. The Ravens are second overall defensively and third best at defending the run and the pass. The Panthers have shown a willingness to maximum protect, holding in 7 blockers with only 3 out in patterns. The thinking is that if given enough time, Steve Smith will find a way to get open regardless of double teaming.

That might be good in theory but the realities of the situation are that the Panthers are a bit nicked up on the offensive line. Jordan Gross has been forced to the left side after anchoring the RT position for 3 seasons. Center Justin Hartwig will try and tough out a groin injury. The Ravens might test his mobility with blitzes up the gut with Bart Scott.The Ravens are also pretty good at bracketing top shelf receivers. Word is that Smith will command the attention of Samari Rolle with top sidehelp from Ed Reed while Chris McAlister marks Keyshawn Johnson. That’s not a bad plan and with little threat at the tight end position, the Panthers won’t be able to keep the Ravens backers honest and Dawan Landry will be able to cheat up in the box to support the run, the strength ofCarolina’s offense.

Unfortunately, that’s also the strength of the Ravens defense.On the other side of the ball, the Ravens offensive struggles are well chronicled and until proven wrong, expect John Fox’ defenders to load up the box. That might put slumping CB Ken Lucas at risk on an island. I’m looking for the Ravens to go at him with some high percentage 3 and 5 step drop passes on first down. Setting up second and 6 or so will keep the ravenous Panther defensive line honest and it will allow the Ravens to open up their play book and get the running game untracked somewhat.

Productivity on first down might also make the Panthers vulnerable to playaction. Linebacker Thomas Davis is a converted safety and has some cover skills but bluffing the run might be all Todd Heap needs to get his 6’5”frame down the seam with the centerfield safety likely looking to support corners Lucas or Chris Gamble.

Here are my keys to the game:
1. Contain Smith…prevent the homerun and protect against double moves
2. Keep Delhomme in the pocket
3. Win first down on offense to help neutralize Julius Peppers and leave the Ravens with options
4. Naturally, protect the football

Do this and the Ravens will emerge victoriously.

I’m calling it Ravens 20, Panthers 16.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

FEELING HOT, HOT, HOT

The Ravens offensive line has been the subject of much criticism this season. Some of it is justified and some of it isn’t. In Denver, I think the offensive line did its job. And had Mike Anderson or Musa Smith been on the field to pick up the yardage that Jamal Lewis left on the field, my Report Card grade would have been a B for the unit instead of a C+.

Which of course begs the question, “Why aren’t those other guys seeing the field more?” A similar question was posed to Brian Billick during his press conference yesterday.

"We have a lot of confidence in all our backs," Billick said. "I'm not going to get caught up in who has how many carries. If a back is having a hot hand and running well, then we'll kind of ride that a little bit. But [Lewis] is running hard and he had some good tough runs."

Look it doesn’t take a Ron Jaworski film session to see that both Anderson and Smith were more effective running the ball in limited action than Lewis during his 15 carries, 6 of which went for 2 yards or less bringing his season total to 43 carries of 2 yards or less measured against 88 total carries but who’s counting?

What exactly constitutes a hot hand?

I guess the answer is some unknown figure less than 2.9 yards per carry because that was Jamal’s average on Monday compared to Anderson’s 6.2 yard average and Smith’s 4.7.

Coach Billick further explained, "Each of them deserves to be 'The Guy' and get a lot of carries. We're just looking for productivity. We got some good backs. I know they all want more. The depth of that position is a positive for us. But it is a balancing act."

Wait, I thought you go with the hot hand coach. Why is there a balancing act?

When you’re hot, you’re hot…and when you’re not……well you know…or do you?

Do you really believe this stuff coach or is this just more of the high wire spinning act?

Coach has changed in some ways for the better and I think it shows.

But in other ways, it’s still the same old Brian Billick.

What do you think Paris?

"He's hot!"

WAITING ON MCNAIR

During Brian Billick’s press conference yesterday which for the most part told us very little, he addressed questions about Steve McNair and described how his starting quarterback is still coming to grips with the Ravens offense.

"I think he's getting more comfortable. It is a work in progress," Billick said. "You'd like for it to come quicker and there's a lot of things going on around him. There are some very good things done. There are some things he would tell you that he scratches his head and says, 'Boy, I can't believe I missed that.' We're still going forward with it."

Well coach I’m scratching my head too and wondering what is taking so long? The cynic would ask, “What’s to learn?” when it comes to the Ravens offense? But I won’t take that route. I’ll simply ask, “Might McNair’s learning curve be a convenient excuse for the offensive inadequacies of your team?”

All three of his interceptions on Monday Night were the result of poor decision making. Whether it’s Pop Warner, in the schoolyard, on the sandlot or in the NFL, you don’t throw the ball in places where McNair threw the ball on Monday. I’m sorry but I just don’t think that has anything to do with understanding the intricacies of an offense.

And while we patiently await for your $11 million bonus baby to get comfortable coach and while we all hide behind the smoke and mirrors of a misleading 4-1 record, I’m wondering why the Ravens 12 year vet, multi-Pro Bowler, former Co-MVP QB is taking so long to find his comfort zone while a certain rookie QB in Arizona adeptly runs a no huddle offense.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

RAVENS GO TO 5-0!

I may be proven wrong. Once I thought I was wrong but I was mistaken….

Anyway, I don’t see how the Ravens lose on Monday Night. Sure the Broncos are rested and they are 13-4 after bye weeks and Mike Shanahan is an offensive guru (sorry Brian) and we will be a visitor on Monday Night and the Broncos are balanced and gee whiz they have fast linebackers and Champ Bailey is being pimped like the second coming of Deion Sanders – the Cowboys version and nearly all national experts are picking the Mr. Eds.

So are the Ravens going to lose?

No worries here folks. I’ve got to words for all those national pundits –“Ain’t happenin’!”

Look, last year the Ravens lost 12-10 in Denver. Ed Reed wasn’t 100%, Ray Lewis was MIA (maybe cheerleading for a high school team), Bart Scott wasn’t as developed, Haloti Ngata wasn’t a Raven, the Ravens had only 1 safety, Trevor Pryce was a Bronco and he’s now in purple and of course,Steve McNair was in Tennessee.

The game was arguably Kyle Boller’s worst as a pro and Jake Plummer actually had a very good game against the Ravens defense (19 of 33 for 236 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT and a QB rating of 90.0).

And they only won by 2?

Brian Billick had a chance with 2 minutes to go for the kill but opted to kick it way instead of going for the onsides kick despite having only 2 timeouts. Hmm, that’s a topic for another day.

What has changed for the Broncos?

Well, there’s no Gary Kubiak and no Ashlee Lelie but there is Javon Walker.

I’m no math major but when I add it all up, I think the Ravens can overcome those 2 points with all the additions minus Kyle Boller’s quarterbacking version of pin the tail on the donkey, Bronco, whatever.

Here’s how I see it. Some teams match up well against others and I just think the Ravens have the Broncos’ number. The Ravens offense while not prolific will move it in the right direction and show some progress. Todd Heap will actually catch a pass in the first half. Mark Clayton will pickup where he left off last year when he had 7 catches, 105 yards and a score against the Broncos, Mike Anderson will get a few touches and possibly a score and the Ravens defense will bend some but not break often.The under/over on how often Joe Theismann will mention Ray Lewis is 19 and by the way, that will be the number of points the good guys score.

Make it 19-13 Ravens!

Thumbs down to MNF!

I don’t know if you are like me, but I’m not too keen on the Ravens playing on Monday Night Football. It throws my whole week out of whack.

Here it is, a beautiful Sunday morning and it doesn’t even feel like Sunday because the Ravens aren’t playing. Normally by now, I’m making my way to the remote to turn in to the potpourri of pregame shows but today,it doesn’t feel the same and I’m not racing to the tube.

And by the way, Tuesday Morning Quarterback just doesn’t have the same ring to it as the Monday Morning Quarterback. We want to talk about the Ravens game on Monday and then build on it throughout the week as we approach the next game. By the time we reach the Denver game tomorrow night, we’ll have been talking about wild horses for 8 days.

Eight days a week, is way too much to show I care.

Give me my seven days.Hey, we’ll only be talking Panthers for 6. So really, we’re knocked out of whack for 2 weeks So for all of you who don’t think the Ravens get their fair share of national props and all of you who feel slighted if the Ravens aren’t on Monday Night Football, get over it.

And if the Ravens season goes the way we hope that it will, there will be more night games when the league goes to their flex scheduling (Week 10).

Oh the horror.

Sundays are for football and football is life and Monday Night Football messes mine up!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

R.I.P. T.O.

Before the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens I was a diehard 49ers fan. It happened not long after the Colts move and I relished the annual battles with the Dallas Cowboys. It helped to ease the pain of not having a team of my own.

During those 13 or so years, I would venture up to Philly and down to DC to see the Niners on occasion. I may have seen them 5 times and they won every time.

The DC games were a bit more fun. I could cheer for the Niners and talk smack with the Redskins fans and most didn't seem to mind. Philly on the other hand was a different story.

My buddy who would score the duckets for the Philly games warned me, "Leave your Niners swag at home." Initially I laughed it off but he sternly stated, "I'm serious. These fans are nuts!"

And so I left it home.

I remember a Monday Night game when Steve Young lit up the Eagles. It was a complete thrashing but the Eagles fans hung in there. They took to agitating the Niners fans who weren't the recipient of my buddy's sound advice. They would bait them into fights and when the Niner fans could take no more and retaliated, the Eagles faithful joined in on a resounding chorus of "YOU-YOU-YOU-YOU-YOU!"

Sure enough, security would come along and escort the Niner fans out.

A well orchestrated sting!

Terrell Owens' return to Philly made me think of this story and I think he's about to get stung.

Here's a city that threw snowballs at Santa Claus.

I would not want to be Terrell Owens this week.

Not only did he diss Philly, destroy the Eagles 2005 season and throw the exulted Donovan McNabb under the bus, he became a member of the team Philly fans despise the most -- the Dallas Cowboys.

Around here, it's not too uncommon to see a t-shirt that says, "Pittsburgh Sucks!" In Philly Eagles fans proudly where t-shirts that say, "F--- Dallas!" with the blanks appropriately filled in.

Remember when Michael Irvin's body was motionless upon The Vet's rock hard surface? The Eagles fans roared with approval. A football game is a war for Philly fans. There's the Eagles and there's the enemy.And at the moment, there is no bigger enemy to these raucous fans than Terrell Owens.

It's great theatre for sure and I for one am happy that the Ravens aren't playing opposite the Eagles v. Cowboys this week. If Santa got snowballs, I shutter to think what the Philly faithful will do to T.O. especially in a Dallas uniform. Surely Owens' head will be on a swivel and whether it's due to him lacking the stones to fight it for four quarters or if it's due to a headhunting, crowd pleasing Brian Dawkins hit, I think the odds of T.O. playing the entire game are pretty low.

Somehow, that hand will start hurting.

Hide the pain killers!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

HAYNESWORTH & HENRY DESERVE LENGTHY TIME OUTS

I’m sure that by now you’ve all seen or at least heard of the classless, despicable and cowardly act of Albert Haynesworth – a head stomp on a defenseless and helmet-less Cowboys offensive lineman Andre Gurode who was lying on the ground on his side.

After the game, Haynesworth was remorseful and expressed regret as to how he disgraced the Titans, the NFL and his family.

While listening to Haynesworth, I have to admit that I felt a little compassion. His remorse sucked me in. His body language and facial expressions suggested a man filled to the brim with regret. The shame of it all – I felt for this guy who happens also to be a pretty good ball player. What a contrast from the lunatic that screamed obscenities at Coach Jeff Fisher only hours before.

Later I heard that Haynesworth has a history past transgressions including road rage and showing up after practice with a pipe to take on one of his teammates at the University of Tennessee. My compassion was fleeting and dissipated. This guy is a time bomb and the NFL did the right thing – hit him in his wallet for 5 game checks. So the next time Haynesworth considers something so cowardly, maybe he’ll think about his children that he feels so badly for because they bear the Haynesworth namesake. Maybe he’ll even think about Gurode’s family who “escaped” with 30 stitches.

But I doubt it. Guys like Haynesworth need help. They need psychological counseling. Maybe he even needs to be medicated! What if the next time he’s even more infuriated and really unleashes the fury of a 320 pound cannon ball knee to someone’s head?

Haynesworth claims he’s not a dirty player and maybe he’s not. But does his penalty equate to the violation? It might but the NFL shouldn’t stop there. They should force him into counseling or force him out of the league. It’s as simple as that.

And then they shouldn’t stop there. The league should turn their collective attention towards Cincinnati and Chris Henry, another time bomb ready to go off. What if he gets behind the wheel again for a little joy ride with some more under aged girls? What if one of those girls was your daughter or worse, suppose his impaired driving kills one of them or an innocent bystander on a street corner?

Do it now Mr. Roger Goodell and your cronies before it’s too late. Chris Henry at best deserves a severe punishment and at worst, he should lose the privilege of playing in the National Football League.

TIME TO TAKE THE BALL FROM JAMAL

When Jamal Lewis was pitter-pattering back in 2003 no one seemed to mind. Two thousand sixty-six yards has a way of making folks overlook the backfield shuffle when the productivity is there. Since that season, Lewis has a total of 2,180 yards in 31 starts. Suddenly the pitter-pattering is a problem.

The truth be told, the pitter-pattering is Lewis way of keeping his legs churning while he reads the blocks in front of him in order to determine where he can maximize the results of the play. Some backs wait or slide – Jamal does the Curly shuffle.

That is not the problem!

The problem is the burst that follows his read – a burst that just doesn’t seem to be what it once was.

It isn’t uncommon for backs to suddenly hit the wall. And yes Lewis has had his fair share of injuries and off the field issues. But maybe that’s part of the wall. He’s a one dimensional back with a ton of wear and tear who now lacks confidence in the passing game and the team is extremely hesitant to throw the rock to him. And maybe that affects his mojo during the game.

That and the 8 and 9 in the box that the Ravens offensive masterminds still can’t seem to loosen. You’d think they were trying to split an atom!

This is nothing new. Defensive coordinators may as well take the week off when they play the Ravens. Jamal is in the game, run. Snap count is on one. Now it’s second and nine. Kill McNair.

Isn’t it time to give other teams more to think about? Isn’t it time to give Musa Smith and Mike Anderson more snaps? All of this spin doctoring from Brian Billick about the number of snaps available for Smith and Anderson are limited is just that – spin! The reason there aren’t more running plays is due to the Ravens’ inability to get it done on first down. They leave themselves with second and long far too often.

This past Sunday, they managed 25 total yards on their first 16 first down plays. You don’t need a calculator to figure out that that stinks!

Give Smith and/or Anderson the ball. Let’s see what they’ve got.

Can the running game be much worse?

Cup of Joe anyone? The New Monday Night Football

Something tells me that I’m in the minority here, but I actually enjoyed the old Sunday Night Football broadcasting crew of Mike Patrick, Paul McGuire and Joe Theismann. Initially, I didn’t like them and that feeling was driven by my underlying contempt for Theismann. After all, he was a Redskin and his games were shoved down our throats on Sundays here in The Land of Pleasant Living.

But when I got over the silly bias and the fact that I’m a native Baltimorean and it is my inalienable birthright to detest things about DC (after all, I genetically inherited a B’more inferiority complex, you know?), I grew to like Theismann. And I wished that the Sunday Night crew would do the Monday Night games that we now watch on ESPN.

Oh well….

Anyway, my feelings towards Theismann were aided by an event that I was part of back in 1995. Then I worked for a subsidiary of Bell Atlantic and Theismann was our guest speaker at a sales conference held in Panama City, Florida during Spring Break. How’s that for a conference location?

Anyway, after a night out of “team building” until the wee hours of the morning, Theismann was scheduled to address our group of approximately 150 strong the first thing the next morning….or should I say, uh, in a couple of hours.

A grabbed a cup of Joe (pun intended) and made my bleary-eyed way down to one of the ballrooms for Theismann’s presentation. I was ready. I was going to ask him about changing the pronunciation of his name to match that of the Heisman Trophy. What a blabbering phony he was.

During the first 5 minutes of his speech, I listened as Theismann humbled himself before all of us. He talked about teamwork and about recognizing individual strengths and weaknesses and pulling together as one. You know the old “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” theory.

“Maybe he’s not so bad”, I thought.

And then he did it. Before our entire gathering in so many words he admitted how egotistical it was of him to change the pronunciation of his name. And then I thought, “I actually like this guy.”

After his speech was over, I had a chance to talk to Joe (notice he’s Joe now) and he actually seemed to listen. We talked about Bert Jones and that Monday Night game in Baltimore when Jones’ arm was practically hanging yet he managed to make some miraculous throws to help the Colts win.

I then did the previously unthinkable – I had a picture taken with Joe with our arms around each other.

Maybe I was out too late the night before…

Anyway, all that aside, I was thinking last night while watching the Eagles move up and down the field on the Packers and wishing that Steve McNair could throw the ball like Donovan McNabb, that Theismann (notice we aren’t as chummy anymore) is actually the weak link in the trio of he, Mike Tirico and Tony Kornheiser. I think he’s trying too hard to be as good as the 90’s John Madden and now Troy Aikman.

He’s not.

You know I never used to like Troy Aikman either, because he was a Cowboy and I liked the Niners.

Wonder if Aikman does any public speaking?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

HELLO MOM!

Seventeen years ago today I lost my Mom. She was the life of any party. A prideful woman devoted to her husband and her family. Her passing was sudden and it left our family with a gaping hole.

Fortunately her lessons were many and while not a scholarly woman, her wisdom still resonates today. It is a huge part of her legacy.

I remember during the funeral mass for my Mom, a friend of our family and a Franciscan from my alma mater, Archbishop Curley, Fr. Vincent Gluc said mass. He compared life on Earth to the life of a caterpillar. He compared death to the caterpillar’s time in a cocoon only to emerge as the more beautiful butterfly.

The spot on metaphor was intended of course to compare the caterpillar’s new life as a butterfly to that of my Mom as she traveled to a new form of consciousness to meet her Maker.

Not long after my Mom’s passing, I was playing golf with my Dad. I’ll never forget this moment and trust me, I’m not one who possesses a steel trap for a memory. Mine is more like a slippery slope.

Anyway on that day, I was addressing the ball on the 10th tee at Pine Ridge. Just as I was about to begin my backswing a beautiful Monarch butterfly landed on my chest. It just sat there and appeared to be looking at me. I stood there, looking back at it until she decided to take off and go on her way.

I felt a strange kind of peacefulness and I thought of Fr. Vince’s metaphor.

Mom had stopped by to say hello.

Whether it was her or not, I suppose I’ll never know for sure while I reside on this planet. But in my mind, it was her and to this day whenever I see a butterfly that seems to have gone out of its way to capture my attention, I simply say, “Hello Mom.”

It makes me smile and it eases the pain that lingers even today, 17 years later.

By the way, she must have also helped my focus on that golf ball. If you are familiar with the hole, the perfect play is a drive along the tree line on the left with a slight fade towards the end. On that day, I played that hole like a pro and was left with a wedge to the green.

There’s little doubt in my mind that that Monarch had everything to do with the flight of that tee shot on that beautiful day.

I miss you Mom.

2 1/2 POINT DOGS AT HOME? ARE U KIDDING ME?

I find it hard to believe that the Chargers are 2 ½ point favorites in our crib! Some might say that the Ravens offense or lack thereof has oddsmakers shying away from the Ravens. Should they be concerned? Absolutely! But dogs in our back yard? To borrow from Larry The Cable Guy, “Now that ain’t right. I don’t care who you are, that there ain’t right.”

Who have the Chargers beaten? You could make the argument that the strength of their two victories pales in comparison to even the strength of the Ravens three victories. They have a young untested QB coming into Baltimore to face a defense that treats inexperienced signal callers in the shark invested “waters” of M&T Bank Stadium the way that a mako treats bloody chum.

Sure the Chargers have Shawne Merriman. Sure they have LaDainian Tomlinson. But the Ravens are giving up 1.8 yards per carry and the object of their collective desire on Sunday will be LT. And if they take him out of the game and force the Chargers to be one dimensional, how will Philip Rivers adapt to the crowd noise and the fury of the league’s best pass rush? Here’s a guy who hasn’t even been sacked yet and has been asked to throw the football only 47 times!

Give me a break!

Generally speaking, home field represents a 3 point swing. Therefore oddsmakers see the Chargers as 5 ½ points better than the Ravens on a neutral field.

Sorry….that doesn’t quite register.

And while it’s hard to imagine an easy Ravens win given their offensive struggles, I expect them to continue doing what they’ve been doing to get to 3-0 – force turnovers. Part of that is up to all of you!

When that whistle blows on Sunday signaling the opening kickoff, think of The Gladiator and “Unleash hell!”

If so, at 4:15 on Sunday the Ravens will be 4-0!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

ANTICIPATION

The anticipation is killing me. I hate that Carly Simon song by the way. Its linkage is to ketchup too and that then takes me to Heinz Field where the Steelers will host the Bengals in an early season game that has major divisional implications. For perhaps the only time during the remainder of my days, I’ll be rooting for the Steelers today. I worry what a big win in Pittsburgh might do for Marvin Lewis’ boys.

And can you believe this game isn’t on regular TV? Fox has the double dip today and if you are at home without the NFL Ticket the treat they are serving up is the 0-2 Redskins against the 0-2 Texans. Hopefully something as exciting as figure skating is on one of the other stations or maybe even a cheerleader contest.

Hey just checked….O’s on at 1:30 and the Nats are on at 1! Hoo-rah!

No-Doz anyone?

Anyway, back to the anticipation. This riveting lineup prior to the Ravens contest in Cleveland certainly doesn’t curb my appetite for Ravens football. This is round 2 of 8 contests that test my will – watching Ravens games on TV, what a gut twister. If not for these road games, I’d probably live to 110. With them, I’m lucky to make it to 60.

Hey, you thinking what I’m thinking? I could sell this concept on the home front and use it as the central theme in my argument as to why we should travel with the team.

Yeah, that’s the ticket!

But wait a minute….if she gives me the unequivocal “NO!” does that mean she loves me not? Maybe she doesn’t care that watching these games on TV speeds up the ticker on my biological clock. Sure, she can help wipe the crust from my eyes in the morning, gussy up my hair, spray her favorite cologne on my chest, stick a Lifesaver in my mouth and send me on my then presentable way each morning but little does she realize that these games are rapidly accelerating the aging process of my internal parts.

Might that Lifesaver be replaced someday with one of Raffy’s favorite performance enhancers?

Go Steelers?

I hate 4 o’clock away games!

Gee only 8 ½ hours to wait.

It’s keeping wa-ay-ay-ay-aiting!

Can’t you just picture that ketchup being poured on that burger and plate of waffle fries?

Oh these are the good old days…

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

WHY A WIN IN CLEVELAND IS SO PIVOTAL

This week’s game against the Cleveland Browns is a pivotal one for the Ravens. A win will put them at 3-0 and either tied with the Bengals for first place and two games in front of Pittsburgh or in sole possession of first. A loss could send the Ravens reeling a bit, particularly if the offense lays another egg like it did on Sunday and if the Ravens do lose, we all know it won’t be because of the defense.

One loss could trigger another and then suddenly the Ravens are 2-2 heading into Denver for a Monday Night encounter with the Broncos.

A win in Cleveland coupled with a solid offensive showing could build more momentum that could carry the Ravens past the Chargers. And let’s face it, the Ravens have their way with young quarterbacks. Why should Phillip Rivers be any different? Who will he have faced prior to the Ravens defense? The Oakland Raiders? The Tennessee Titans?

Please….

4-0 heading out to the Rocky Mountains to take on a struggling Denver team…that sounds like a pretty special start to me. Last year in Denver the Ravens lost 12-10 and had a chance to win that game despite all of Kyle Boller’s bumbling and stumbling.

Can you say 5-0?

Sure you can, with bells and whistles and bird caw-caw-caws.

But it all starts with this pivotal game at the mistake by the lake.

Charlie Frye…Ravens defense….Charlie Frye…..Ravens defense.

Hmm, I like our chances…

Thursday, September 14, 2006

STARK RAVEN NUTS!

There’s something about watching a Ravens game on TV. I don’t know what it is but I lose my mind when the game is on the tube. I just don’t get it. I can be at Lager’s Pub or Della Rose’s or in my living room or someone else’s living room watching the game and with each play that doesn’t go exactly perfect, I can feel my body contort. The angst and the trauma of a failed play grip my body like a fully tightened vice and I get nuts. I’m a freakin’ Prince song and to the uninformed observer not familiar with my transformation into Mr. Hyde, I must be a raving lunatic.

“Why did you run the football on first down? The entire stadium knew you were running and hello, didn’t those 10 defenders in the box clue you in on the fact that they knew we were going to run? My God now it’s second and 10 and here comes the blitz! Why not quick kick now? Here we go, it’s 2004 and 2005 all over again!”

And that’s on the very first play of the season.

Now when I’m at The Vault, there’s more civility in my viewing displeasure. Maybe that’s because the bowling alley words and the destruction of furniture isn’t as tolerated by S.A.F.E. Management as it is by the Lombardi Family. But then again, I wasn’t invited to my family reunion because it was on a Sunday during the Fall but that’s another story.

This past week, the family just laughed at me because things went well from the start. And when they did, of course everyone had to stay exactly where they were until I felt it was safe to move. Why screw up a good mojo, right?

“Don’t touch those tortilla chips. Did you have one during that good drive?” “No thanks, I don’t want anything. I wasn’t having anything during that first drive and if I do, bad things might happen to the Ravens.”

After that initial touchdown, I jumped from my chair, punched the air and burst out with my best WOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO!

They all laughed but boy did I feel good.

Just before Chris McAlister grabbed his Pick 6, my nephew said, “I feel an interception coming.” Man do I love that kid! As McAlister crossed the goal line, I ran over to my nephew and planted a wet one on him. “Tell me more Mike, tell me more!”

“Hey, where are you going”, I shouted at my son. “You can’t move now, it’s 14-0!”

“I’m going to the bathroom”, he said.

“Well, ok. But don’t go anywhere else.”

Something is wrong with me. Something is seriously wrong with me.

I’m not alone though. My buddy suffers with this same affliction – this football Tourette’s as my fiancé refers to it. He once took his portable TV into the bathroom and locked the doors to get away from his family. He figured that he and his family would be safer that way.

His wife called me the next day, explained all of his acts of lunacy in graphic detail and then said to me very seriously, “Tony, I think something’s wrong with him!”

Frankly, I see him as a pretty normal guy.

How about you?

Monday, September 11, 2006

REMEMBERING 9/11/01

We all remember where we were 5 years ago today – that fateful day that forever change our country. Even after all this time, the infamous day still seems quite surreal.

I was in between jobs on that day, so I was at home doing some computer work with the TV on just to my left serving its purpose as background entertainment.

As I surfed my way through the internet, I noticed the AOL home page and the picture of flames blazing from one of the World Trade Center towers. With the JFK, Jr. plane tragedy fresh in my mind, my first thought was that a small out of control plane hit the tower. So I switched the station over from ESPN to CNN.

The rest is history. We all watched these unconscionable events unfold before our very eyes. I marveled at the stiff upper lip of TV reporters chronicling the developments as my upper lip quivered and my eyes moistened from sadness and anger.

I’ll refrain from expressing my political views on the subject however I will say that we sometimes forget about this event’s importance (myself included) and get caught up in trivial and relatively insignificant things in our personal lives and we momentarily forget that we all share a bond. We are all Americans and we live in the greatest nation on God’s planet.

And most importantly we are all brothers.

One year after the Osama bin Laden violations, another brother of ours fell – John Unitas. Johnny U was and still is THE Baltimore sports icon.

Take a moment to remember our fallen brothers today…I know that I will. And I’ll be thankful that I live in a country that affords me liberties each waking day which unfortunately I sometimes take for granted – but not today.

God You & Bless America!