Cheering on the Ravens a dot-com away

January 19, 2001|By Tom Mudd

DEANSGRANGE, Ireland -- As I write this, Matt Stover has just kicked a 21-yard field goal to extend the Ravens lead to 16-3.

This is happening about 6,000 miles west of the desk at which I sit, in a room that gives me a passable view of the Three Rock Mountain to the southwest of Dublin.

It is the absolute magic of the Internet that makes such a moment possible. I will remember it long enough to be able to describe it to my 4-year-old son, Charlie, who sleeps 15 feet away. He is unaware his father is checking insanely for updates on the NFL Gameday Web site. As far as he knows, the only sport in Baltimore is baseball, and Cal Ripken is the only player. (Now that Mussina is gone, anyway.)

The Raiders have just switched quarterbacks, so the smell of desperation wafts ever so faintly from Oakland to Dublin.

I'm absolutely delighted to be sharing in my hometown's possible return to the Super Bowl, three decades after the memorable Jim O'Brien kick that made Baltimore footballers (as they say in this part of the world) champions of the NFL. And it's hard to believe that just a few years ago, it might not have been possible for me to follow the game as I'm doing. I get every play, every fumble, every interception, every penalty. The only problem is that I have to imagine who committed what penalty.

Oops. This new quarterback just got the ball into Ravens territory. C'mon Ray Lewis, step it up!

And the other problem, to this 37-year-old who's been using the Internet daily for at least five years, is that it's just not fast enough. I couldn't get a live audio stream, for some reason. (They don't write about such things in the papers here.) I can't even get decent pictures without screwing up the timing of the play-by-play stream.

But there's only 5:38 left, so the Ravens should be OK, right? No. Now they've got a first and 10 on the Baltimore 14. I need a beer. This is thirsty work.

What's more, I come back from my trek to the fridge only to find that Oakland has somehow punted, and for 32 yards. But then the guys in silver and black are back on the Ravens 5, first and goal. Huh?

Ten-yard penalty against the Raiders! Yes! Geez, who was it on?

Until the stock market swoon, everybody thought the Internet, e-commerce, e-business and e-bloody-everything would eliminate all the ups and downs of the economy. Everything would be infinitely easier. We would be able to move effortlessly around the world, but without having to lift our ample backsides off the seats of the ever-so-comfy chairs we bought without leaving the house.

Jamie Sharper just picked off a pass from the sub QB; 14-yard return. It could be over!

Actually, I knew better a long while ago, back in the days when I was first dipping my big toe into the infopuddle. I went into an AOL chat room and started disagreeing with certain ...

Jamal Lewis up the middle for 11 yards!... intolerant rantings being posted by someone there. When I objected, I got a chilling response.

Only 2:08 left. A Super Bowl for Baltimore! And I'll be in town when it happens! This hasn't happened since I was 7 years old.

The chat room rantings sort of took the bloom right off the new rose that everyone was oohing and aahing about. Sure we'd be able to communicate more quickly and more efficiently.

Jamal Lewis has just picked up 13 yards, chewing up precious seconds in the process.

But maybe we do enough communicating as it is. Sometimes, I think we really need to communicate less, lest the nastiness that lives in the hearts of many should infect even more.

Oakland has used up all its time-outs. Tampa-bound, baby!

But I write for a living, so surely that's not a good position to take. Less communication would mean less understanding, wouldn't it? And it would mean that we'd be more vulnerable to war, right? But another part of me says that without so much communication, perhaps my little boy -- who sleeps so sweetly just down the hall from here -- might not get so much abuse for the stammer he grows in and out of.

Raiders' ball, first and 10 on their own 31; 16 seconds left.

Perhaps. All I know is that I want kids to leave my kid alone. I want my hometown to get another Super Bowl trophy. And I want streaming audio the next time.

Game over!

Tom Mudd lives in a suburb of Dublin, where he is European bureau chief of IndustryWeek magazine. He was born and grew up in Towson.

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