A step-by-step program for football's uninspired

Facts: You don't have to rave over the Ravens, but there are a few tidbits we think you should know.

Purple People Meter

January 09, 2001|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

No one is asking you to become a football fan overnight. No one is asking you to paint your face or car purple and black, or to know what position Edwin Mulitalo plays - much less spell his name. And no one is asking you to dye your hair blond for Sunday's Ravens-Raiders game.

But please know a few rudimentary facts about the Baltimore Ravens. They are the only game in town. The Orioles could sign Alex Rodriguez this week and no one would blink.

Cal Ripken Jr. could announce plans to run for the U.S. Senate and people would say, "Yes, but did you see Ray Lewis spike McNair?"

Blame Billick: Ravens head coach Brian Billick didn't have the decency to wait, say, a whole three years before delivering a Super Bowl contender. On one level, most people know the Ravens are 14-4, haven't lost since before the presidential election proper, and that if they win Sunday, the Ravens will play in the 35th Super Bowl.

But their success doesn't feel quite real, for some reason. The Ravens can't be this good this fast, can they? (First downs are overrated anyway.)

For non-fans, the Ravens' success has not yet registered. These people were alarmed to see a TV wheeled into their neighborhood Hair Cuttery on Sunday.

Others were stunned to find no one at their grocery store after 12:30 p.m. Still, others were horrified to find everyone at their grocery store before 12:30 p.m. Apparently, the Ravens were playing a big game.

They play another one this Sunday, so pay attention - or at least know just enough to fake interest:

Ten Things to Know if You Don't Like the Ravens, Never Will Like the Ravens and Aren't Crazy about Football in General:

1. The Ravens are a very good team. Call them lucky, call them charmed, call them winners of nine in a row. Or call them in Oakland, where they play the Raiders in the AFC championship Sunday at 4 p.m., when Northern Californians and Baltimoreans will cease grocery shopping and hair cutting.

2. If someone asks you to name the Ravens quarterback, don't say that cute Stoney Case guy or that old Colt, Bert Jones. Make no mistake, Trent Dilfer is the quarterback - which used to be the most important position in football until these playoffs.

If Dilfer gets dropped on his head in an especially forceful way, Tony Banks will replace him as quarterback. If Banks fumbles, Bert Jones will step in.

3. A word about Ray Lewis: It's not crucial you know he's the Ravens' middle linebacker, just don't refer to him as "the guy in a local limo at a Super Bowl party last year where two men were knifed to death." The murder charges against Lewis were dropped.

If you're stumped to say anything positive about the Ravens, just say, "Ray Lewis." The words tend to end any football argument or discussion. If you really want to show off, tell people Lewis is "as good as L.T."

4. L.T.: Lawrence Taylor, former New York Giants linebacker. He was particularly good.

5. The playoff system seems confusing and entirely unnecessary to the person who doesn't believe football should exist. All you need to know is there are four teams left, two of which are the Oakland Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens. They are in the American Football Conference. There's absolutely no need to know anything about the other conference.

After next Sunday, two teams will be left. Those two teams will play in the Super Bowl, a major event that begins before dawn on Jan. 28 and ends sometime in June.

6. A word about the Oakland Raiders: It's not important that you know their impressive record, their storied league history or the names of their players. But you should be aware that the Oakland Raiders are known cheaters, meanies and Hell's Angels. They use bad language, too.

7. What's this "Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!" song? The Ravens' anthem is a popular dance song by the Baha Men called "Who Let the Dogs Out." (Sort of like "We Are Family," the song the Pirates used when they beat the Orioles in 1979). The song is a hit with Ray Lewis, a fact which in no way should prejudice your own opinion of this, the best arrangement of sound ever recorded.

8. "I thought the Ravens couldn't score," you're still saying. Still true. But special teams and the defense have scored like a second offense.

9. "Special teams" here doesn't mean the '58 Colts or '66 Orioles. It's the guys who play on kickoffs and punts and field-goal attempts.

10. To recap: The Ravens are one game away from the Super Bowl.

Now, football is not a cure for cancer. It's not going to solve any drug or crime problem. It's not going to make peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. It's not even as good as college basketball. It's just football. But just play along this week and repeat after us:

Woof! Woof!

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