`No respect' goal line is stacked up

January 10, 2001|By John Eisenberg

THE RAVENS have risen above any criticism of their ways and means with a nine-game winning streak that has taken them to the AFC championship game, but at the risk of sounding like a seventh-grade English teacher, they need to work on their theme.

The "no respect" thing.

Can't they be more original?

You've heard it, of course. Who hasn't? The Ravens have ridden the old horse for weeks, reaching a high point after the wild-card win over the Denver Broncos, when Ravens coach Brian Billick told a roomful of reporters that "a lot of you all didn't believe."

It wasn't quite as prevalent in the aftermath of Sunday's win in Tennessee, but it was still there.

"If we can't start getting respect after this, how can we?" linebacker Ray Lewis asked.

Groan.

What's wrong with using a motivational ploy that dates back to when the Greeks sat inside their wooden horse, listening to the Trojans rip their carpentry skills?

For starters, it simply isn't true in this case. Sure, a couple of the pre-game knuckleheads on the television networks have picked against the Ravens, but the vast majority of comments the Ravens have generated from opponents and observers have been overwhelmingly positive. And, more to the point, respectful.

"How can you not respect a defense as great as that?" Titans offensive tackle Brad Hopkins said after Sunday's game, sounding slightly incredulous that the thought was even being raised.

True, Trent Dilfer and the offense have taken a few hits, but, let's face it, if you haven't offered a sarcastic grumble or three yourself as the Ravens have bumbled along with the ball, you're the only one. (Be honest now.)

There's a difference between being a surprisingly successful team and one not getting any respect. Did many outsiders think the Ravens would get this far? No. (The Ravens didn't either in their heart of hearts.) But does anyone think they're undeserving? No.

You can't be undeserving when you win 12 of 16 regular-season games behind a record-setting defense, blister the Broncos in the first round of the playoffs and then knock off the AFC's No. 1 seed on their field - by two touchdowns. Anyone who doesn't respect that played too much offensive tackle without a helmet.

Another problem with the "no respect" campaign is that, well, it doesn't travel well. Go somewhere else, just about anywhere else, and you hear the same stuff. Everyone uses it. With all due respect (no pun intended), it's about as original as "Police Academy 5."

Over in the NFC, the Giants are mad that everyone thinks they're a weak No. 1 seed and the Vikings are mad that everyone thinks they're all offense and no defense. Forget the possibility that these criticisms might be valid. These teams aren't getting enough respect. Just ask them.

Oh, and have you noticed that the team the Ravens are playing in Sunday's AFC championship game is using the same motivational trick?

"There was a lot of talk on TV about how we had the weakest defense left in the AFC," Raiders middle linebacker Greg Biekert said after his team beat the Dolphins Saturday, "and I think our guys took that personally."

Imagine, they aren't getting enough respect, either.

Have you noticed that no one is?

If Sunday's matchup were a debate-club exercise instead of a football game, it would go something like this:

Ravens: "It's sick how we're getting disrespected. Randy Cross never picks us to win."

Raiders: "But we're getting disrespected even more."

Ravens: "No way!"

Raiders: "Way! Haven't you been watching `Inside the NFL' on HBO?"

It's just the world we live in now, of course, the world of talk shows and Web sites and cable channels and bulletin boards and cheap shots, a million opinions in play at any time and everyone straining to get a shred of attention.

The end result? Jerry Glanville's players might not have paid the slightest bit of attention to him when he was coaching, but a lot of guys sure are listening now - for reasons known only to them.

More importantly, the effect of all that hot air blowing back and forth is that no one gets respect anymore. Not a single, living soul.

Wait a minute. Let's amend that. Tiger Woods gets respect. He's No. 1, and he gets all the respect he wants.

But no one else does in sports, politics, entertainment, anywhere. No matter who you are or what you do, there's always someone dissing you somewhere.

Look at the guys who ran for president. What did people say about Gore? Boring. Bush? Dumb. And let's not even get started on the guy still in office.

The New York Yankees and their four World Series titles in five years? "Lucky," says Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

Shoot, the entire NBA no longer gets any respect now that Michael Jordan is retired. It's been dismissed as a league of bad basketball played by semi-children who should still be in college.

Actually, the entire NFL no longer gets respect, either. Quarterbacks? No Montanas in the bunch, that's for sure. The title contenders? No dynasties in the bunch, that's for sure.

Just look at the world around you and what people are saying. Baseball? Doomed. Hockey? Who cares? Olympics? Drugged. Horse racing? Dead. Hollywood? Out of ideas. Snow? Annoying. Sunshine? Cancerous.

Everyone thinks everyone else is either too loud, fat, slow or stupid - something disrespectful.

The Ravens shouldn't complain. They have it better than most, actually.

If that means they need a new theme for motivation this week, they can always fall back on an old reliable: one more win for a trip to the Super Bowl.

It's boring, but effective.

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