Revisiting wrong Ravens pick: That's the spirit

Gameday

December 25, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

Oh, me of little faith.

I was fairly certain that the Pittsburgh Steelers would play the Grinch for Baltimore football fans on Christmas Eve, but the Ravens proved me quite wrong with yesterday's 31-7 victory at Heinz Field - and don't think my misplaced lack of confidence didn't get some attention in the spirit world.

Not long after I finished my evening gruel and retired to my bed chamber, I was awakened by a frightening specter - I could have sworn it was fellow Sun columnist Mike Preston - who warned me about the ominous price of my negativity.

He told me I would be visited by three more ghostly apparitions, who would help me put this season into proper perspective and regain the spirit of Purple Festivus.

"Ridiculous," I muttered to myself as I rolled over and went back to sleep. "I must have had one too many Christmas crab cakes. Just a bit of indigestion. That's all it was."

Wrong again. I soon was visited by the first of three spirits, a young sprite who identified himself as the Ghost of Ravens Past but bore a strange resemblance to Kyle Boller.

He took me, as if by magic, back to last year, when the Ravens were struggling to a 6-10 record, and revealed all the doubts that would follow them into the 2006 season. The future of the head coach was uncertain. The quarterback situation was unresolved. The star linebacker was discontented.

No wonder it was so hard to envision the Ravens as anything but a marginal wild-card team. No wonder, even after 11 wins, it was still possible to slip into a state of melancholy at the thought of playing in Pittsburgh.

"Don't worry, we saved your seat on the bandwagon," the spirit said, waving his finger at me disapprovingly, and then he was gone.

I dozed off again, only to be rousted by another otherworldly intruder, this one identifying himself as the Ghost of Ravens Present. Looked a little like Steve McNair, but at that point it was unsettling enough just to have a ghost in a football uniform sitting at the end of my bed.

"What were you thinking?" he asked knowingly.

"I was pretty sure Bill Cowher would have the Steelers ready to play," I explained. "They've been playing well, and they really needed this game. Who knew that Ben Roethlisberger would disappear faster than Roch Kubatko when they bring the check?"

You'd think I would have gotten a little credit for picking the Ravens correctly against the spread 13 out of 14 times coming into yesterday's game, but the testy spirit just shook his head and pointed out that I predicted a double-digit Steelers victory.

"You were only off by 34 points," he said with a laugh. "You couldn't have been more wrong if you had predicted a Republican sweep in November."

How did he know?

Never got a chance to ask, because the spirit vanished quicker than Donovan McNabb in a big game. I tried to go back to sleep, but there was no point. I knew what was next.

The Ghost of Ravens Yet to Come looked - not surprisingly - like Brian Billick, except he wasn't calling his own plays. He whisked me off to a giant parking lot in Miami and silently pointed at Dolphin Stadium.

"I know, I already made my plane reservations," I said. "It was only $139 round trip on Southwest."

Frankly, I was surprised he wouldn't know that, being an all-seeing, all-knowing Christmas ghost, but go figure. I never said the Ravens weren't going to the Super Bowl; I just said they would run into a buzz saw in Pittsburgh.

Turns out I was wrong.

Really, really wrong.

The Ravens looked like a team that could go a long way in the postseason. They outscored the defending Super Bowl champions 58-7 in two games this year and moved up a seed when the Indianapolis Colts somehow lost to the Houston Texans yesterday.

I woke up with a new attitude. I can't wait for tomorrow, because the Ravens get better-looking every day.

God bless them, every one.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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