Ravens fans left hunting for some painful answers

Ravens Extra

January 15, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

It was late in the fourth quarter of the game we shall never speak of again when a strange thought crept into my damaged psyche:

"The Orioles postponed FanFest for this?"

I know, I've obviously been watching too much radio on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, but the dismal performance of the Ravens' offense in Saturday's devastating 15-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts had my head spinning.

Did anybody see this coming?

I'm not talking about the loss. Everyone recognized the possibility that the Ravens could lose the game. The Colts were among the preseason favorites to reach the Super Bowl, and they opened the season with nine straight wins. But I don't think anyone imagined that the defense would keep Peyton Manning and Co. out of the end zone for four quarters on Saturday and the Ravens would be cleaning out their lockers on Sunday.

If somebody had told me the only Colts player to score would be kicker Adam Vinatieri, I would have bet the house and the 401K that the Ravens would advance to the AFC championship game.

When the Ravens' defense took the field, it was time to hunt.

When Steve McNair and the Ravens' offense took a powder, it was time to hunt and fish.

The disappointment of the local football faithful still is fresh, so it will be a while before Ravens fans put the season in its proper perspective. The Ravens won 13 games after a dismal 2005 season that put coach Brian Billick on the hot seat. They were the No. 2 seed in the AFC. It was a very good season.

If they had lost to the New England Patriots or the San Diego Chargers, it might be easier to see that bigger picture right now, but they lost to the team that abandoned Baltimore a generation ago, which turned a week of hype into a world of hurt.

Question: How many Ravens fans does it take to unscrew 100,000 purple light bulbs?

Answer: That's not funny.

But when you're ready to look on the bright side, this team might not be done yet. Most of the key components will be back to attempt another Super Bowl run this fall, though there is some question whether the front office will be able to get defensive cornerstone and pending free agent Adalius Thomas back under contract.

There has been talk that the Ravens aren't getting any younger, and there is some truth to that. General manager Ozzie Newsome brought in a handful of veteran players to put them in great position to march on Miami this year, but the team also has some terrific young players to build around and a history of drafting well.

In short, this opportunity may come again as soon as next season. The Colts aren't going anywhere either, so there's a pretty good chance Baltimore football fans will get another ride on this emotional roller coaster.

The next week is going to be tough, but I have a suggestion. Instead of spending all of your remaining emotional capital rooting against the Colts in the AFC championship game, how about joining the rest of America's unaffiliated playoff football fans and adopting the New Orleans Saints for the remainder of the postseason?

The Saints are an attractive team with a bunch of exciting young stars who have lifted the spirits of the area that was most ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. If you need a dose of real perspective after a weekend of historical angst, this might be a great way to move forward.

Of course, that's easy for me to say. I wasn't around here in the early 1980s, when Robert Irsay was thumbing his bright red nose at a passionate and faithful Colts fan following. I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to think I know how that must have felt or suggest how anyone else should feel about it.

My hometown football team - the Los Angeles Rams - also blew town, but Southern California is a different kind of place with a different kind of sports fan. There are so many people there with roots in so many other places that L.A. seems content to be the first generic NFL city.

Baltimore would probably be content to be a baseball town for the next few months - rescheduled FanFest, anyone? - but the chances of that being a satisfying situation remain in doubt. The Orioles made a series of solid offseason moves that clearly make them more competitive, but they don't appear destined for playoff glory anytime soon.

Everyone was depending on the Ravens for that Saturday, but it didn't work out.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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

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