The Ravens' loss has a silver lining for some

January 17, 2007|By GREGORY KANE

Iawoke Saturday morning facing a dilemma. At Goucher College, the semifinals and finals of the Mount Mat Madness wrestling tournament were scheduled. At 4:30 p.m., my beloved Baltimore Ravens were scheduled to take on the Indianapolis Colts, whom I call the Baltimore Colts Playing in Indianapolis.

Should I stay home and watch my favorite sport on television or head to Goucher and watch my really favorite sport live? I opted for Mount Mat Madness. Why should I pass on one of the best high-school wrestling tournaments in the country just because my knucklehead Ravens finally played up to their potential and made the playoffs?

Judging from the outcome of the game, I made the right choice.

It looks as though the Ravens' offense reverted to its "adversarial relationship with the end zone" thing again. The defense did its job: The guys kept the best offense in the game from scoring a touchdown. But that offense was downright offensive.

Still, isn't there a silver lining to the Ravens' loss to the Colts? Sure, we won't play in the Super Bowl. But the Ravens put a big smackdown on the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. Twice. For me, that's better than winning the Super Bowl. When the Ravens won at Pittsburgh in late December, I may have been the lone fan who said, "Boys, your work for the season is done."

Here's a little more glow to the silver lining: Saturday's debacle notwithstanding, the Ravens' offense did get better this year. True, it's now obvious that our offense does not match up well against the Colts' defense, a unit that no one will mistake for the 2000 Ravens or the 1985 Chicago Bears.

Truth is, a few weeks ago the Colts' defense couldn't stop anybody. Now, for the past two weeks, that same defense has throttled the offenses of the Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs. Now the imp in me - the same guy who only recently abandoned the idea of having "Honk If You Think Earl Morrall Tanked Super Bowl III" bumper stickers made - finds that a tad suspicious.

"I want every player on the Colts defensive unit tested for performance-enhancing substances," I declared after Saturday's game. No defensive unit, I suspected, could go from being that bad to being that good in that short a period without some, well, some help.

It's taken a great deal of struggle for me to suppress my inner imp, but I've been successful. I'm now convinced Morrall did not tank Super Bowl III. And the Colts defensive players used no performance-enhancing substances. Sometimes the simplest explanations are the best. The simplest explanation regarding Saturday's game is this:

The Colts are just plain better than the Ravens.

So that there'll be no misunderstanding, let me explain what I mean by "better." I mean it in the traditional sense: superior; more adept; more proficient; "of superior quality and excellence," if you want a dictionary definition.

And the excellence of the Colts is yet another silver lining. Not for the Ravens, but for Baltimore. Who's the architect behind the latest Colts run of excellence?

Owner Jim Irsay? Puh-leese. The only jobs the guy ever had are the ones his daddy gave him.

I'm inclined to give credit to Colts executive vice president Bob Terpening, who in 2007 will celebrate 30 continuous years with the club. It was the Baltimore Colts who gave Terpening his first job in pro football, as a scout in 1970.

Terpening later became a part-time scout for the New England Patriots but returned to the Colts in 1977 as a scout. He later became director of player personnel. In 1984 he became the assistant general manager and vice president in 1997.

Best of all, Terpening has local roots. He's a Baltimore City College grad who went on to coach football, wrestling and track and field at the school in the 1960s. For one harrowing season during the 1966-1967 school year it was Terpening's unfortunate duty - as City College's junior varsity wrestling coach - to steer me around the learning curve all beginning wrestlers have to negotiate.

That was before it transpired that my learning curve for wrestling was an infinite straight line.

There are Ravens fans for whom the Colts winning a Super Bowl would be a worst-case scenario, but I can't see it that way. If the Colts win, it's a feather in Terpening's cap. Lord knows, the man deserves something after trying to teach me wrestling for an entire season.

It's a feather in Colts head coach Tony Dungy's cap, who deserves it for the way he handled the late-season crisis in 2005, when his son committed suicide.

Finally, it's a feather in Colts quarterback Peyton Manning's cap. I'd hate to see him join Fran Tarkenton and Dan Marino as superb quarterbacks who never won a Super Bowl.

There has to be some silver lining to the Ravens losing to the Colts, and darn it I'm determined to find it. Of course, I'd have found a silver lining if I were with Custer at Little Big Horn.

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