It’s still real and it’s still spectacular
It’s taken more than two weeks to wrestle with how to write this particular blog. I’ve been slaving over just how exactly to put the feeling into words. I’ll start easy:
The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl champions.
I’ll let that sink in, because it’s still sinking in for me.
So this is why you put up with all the stuff that comes with being a football fan.
This is why you get invested in these silly games.
This is why you spend a small fortune on team merchandise.
This is why you grow a beard and don’t cut your hair during the playoffs.
This is why put up with heartbreaking playoff losses like the ones to Pittsburgh in 2010 and New England in 2011.
As the great Jackie Chiles once said, it's real and it's spectacular.
Hell, this win was so glorious I even had to pick up the Sports Illustrated commemorative edition, a big deal as much as that rag has ticked me off lately with the Ray Lewis deer antler spray story and Peter King’s ludicrous “Joe Flacco to Cleveland” nonsense.
When I look back at Super Bowl XLVII 10 years from now, I’m not sure I’ll think about the game so much as this moment: at around 12:30, after the game was over and it was still sinking in that the Ravens won, I went outside to put the garbage out to be picked up later that morning. I stepped out of the house, took a breath, still letting it sink in that my team won the Super Bowl, and how I’ve been fortunate to now see my team win two Super Bowls in my lifetime.
And then the snow started coming down.
It didn’t last long, and didn’t stick, but it felt like something out of a movie or something.
The game itself took about ten years off my life as the Ravens built a huge lead and then nearly squandered it. On the final goal line stand, my heart was about ready to pop out of my chest. But when Colin Kaepernick’s final pass to Michael Crabtree fell incomplete, it almost settled me down. And then when the game was over, when Josh Bynes tackled Ted Ginn Jr. (there’s a great trivia question for a year from now) and the Ravens had won, well, I knew sleep was probably not going to be forthcoming. The moment was so great that I didn’t want to go to bed, for fear that I might lose the feeling.
When your team wins a championship, it’s really indescribable. You really do feel like part of the team in the sense that you watch the games, you spend money on the jerseys and the T-shirts. You put grey hairs on your head and irritate family members watching these games. When your team wins a championship, you have bragging rights for a whole year and all the haters and rival fans out there can, as Shaquille O’Neal once said, tell you how your butt tastes.
A lot of Ravens fans have wrestled with how this championship differs from the one in 2000. I guess for me, the first championship was all about defiance. Baltimore and Baltimore fans had been spurned by the football establishment for more than a decade, highlighted by the indignity of being passed over for an expansion team by Jacksonville of all places (how’s that one looking NFL?) and then-Commissioner Paul Tagliabue telling us to build a museum instead of pursue a team.
And then when we did get a team, and they finally got good, we had to deal with everyone calling our best player, Ray Lewis, a murderer. We had to deal with all the hate still being directed at Art Modell for moving the team from Cleveland. We had to deal with the national perception of our team as bullies and thugs (highlighted by Sports Illustrated putting Jamie Sharper on the Super Bowl cover with the line ‘Baltimore Bullies’).
That championship was a big “screw you” to the football establishment. It was a validation of the franchise. It made the Ravens legit. Would the Steelers rivalry ever become what it did without the Ravens having won that title?
This title was, it sounds cheesy to say, all about love. The love between the team and the fanbase really can’t be separated. They are us and we are them. The team’s victory is our victory. It meant a lot to those players and coaches to see our fans take over New Orleans for Super Bowl week. It meant a lot to them to hear the “Seven Nation Army” chant in New England and New Orleans. They appreciate what a great homefield advantage M&T Bank Stadium has become. They appreciate that our fans are willing to travel from Baltimore to Denver to New Orleans, as my buddy Jay did, to see them play. I’ve never been happier to have Eddie Money’s “Two Tickets To Paradise” stuck in my head than it was when it became the team’s unofficial theme song, thanks to Ed Reed.
For me, I think I appreciate this one a bit more because I know how hard and how rare it is to see your favorite team win. The Orioles went 14 years without a winning season. I fully expect to go to my grave having never seen the Caps win a Stanley Cup. So seeing two championships by the Ravens within 12 years is something worth savoring.
One other difference between the two Ravens championships: the first one was like an unexpected dream. We won the game, had the parade and thought, “OK, now what?” This time it’s like the culmination of a lot of things, but mostly a culmination of a group of players that have been together for a long time having one “last ride,” and finally getting over the hump.
This season marked the transition, the passing of the field marshal’s baton from the retiring Ray Lewis to quarterback Joe Flacco. As Lewis told Flacco before the Denver game, “You’re the general now.” Of course, Flacco picked a hell of a time to have one of the greatest postseasons by someone not named Joe Montana. The Ravens are going to make him an extremely rich man, and, along with Ray Rice, are set to take over as the faces of the franchise from Lewis and Reed.
Unlike when Lewis was Super Bowl MVP, Flacco was welcome at Disneyworld and as much as it pains me to see my quarterback hanging out at fashion shows with Tommy Hilfiger, it is a perk of Flacco’s new celebrity. Maybe next time Joe can take LaMarr “The Ravens won’t win a Super Bowl in this lifetime” Woodley (BTW, for Ravens fans that love schadenfreude, Woodley was recently ripped in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by an anonymous teammate for being out of shape).
But really, I’ll save the Steeler hate for next year. For now, it’s just time to bask in the glow of the Lombardi trophy.
In the time since the Super Bowl was over, I’ve asked just about every Ravens fan I’ve encountered, somewhat rhetorically, “It doesn’t ever get old to say ‘World Champion Baltimore Ravens’ does it?’ All I’ve talked to give the same answer: no it doesn’t.