When it comes to the `What If' Bowl, mother doesn't always know best

February 04, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

MIAMI -- My mother is a saintly woman who taught me some important life lessons during my formative years.

Don't smoke.

Don't drink.

Don't curse.

Don't ever have a serious relationship with anyone named Margo.

And, most of all, don't gloat.

The only thing worse than a poor loser, she always told me, is a poor winner. The ability to win graciously is a talent that will win over your opponents and reinforce your integrity.

Of course, my mother is from the Midwest, where they actually believe that kind of garbage. I threw her a bone and never smoked, but when the home team makes it to the mountaintop, all bets are off for the others.

We won the What If Bowl, baby. The Ravens are the hypothetical champions of football, and if you think I'm not going to do the Ray-Ray Shuffle and the Dirty Bird all the way down Pratt Street then you've got another thing coming.

When Jamal Lewis romped 38 yards for the winning touchdown over the New Orleans Saints, I was so charged up I burst out of my seat in the press box at Dolphin Stadium and tackled one of the reporters from The Indianapolis Star.

The Ravens have come a long way since last year's discouraging 6-10 finish. They acquired Steve McNair from the Tennessee Titans. Coach Brian Billick underwent a successful personality transplant. They drafted aircraft carrier Haloti Ngata. Lewis bought a trucking company, although fortunately no vehicles with "Mayflower" painted on the side.

I knew they were headed for Miami from Day One, even though I inadvertently wrote in The Sun's special football preview section that way too many things had to go right for them to go all the way. Can't believe my editors didn't catch that.

McNair is "the man." That was pretty obvious from the moment he took over for Kyle Boller, who was never "the man," but may eventually mature to the point of being "the man" if he pays close attention and learns everything he can from the current "man."

There were a couple of speed bumps along the way, like the time Jim Fassel showed up at the Ravens' complex with the Week 7 game plan and they wouldn't open the traffic gate for him But the Ravens exceeded expectations with a 13-3 regular-season record that earned them a playoff bye.

Though I never had a doubt, the watershed moment that stands out for me was the touchdown pass McNair threaded between two defenders in the first half of the Indianapolis Colts game. Todd Heap ran the wrong route and still ended up pulling in the ball at the goal line. I swear, if Antoine Bethea picks that ball off, who knows what might have happened?

Knocking the Colts out of the postseason was a cathartic experience for a lot of football fans in Baltimore, but I couldn't identify with that because (as hundreds of e-mailers have reminded me over the past four weeks) I'm not originally from Baltimore and could never understand.

I found the victory over the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at M&T Bank Stadium much more satisfying, but only because of that freak incident where Patriots coach Bill Belichick got lost inside his baggy sweatshirt and had to be rescued by paramedics.

Admittedly, the Saints were the team everybody in the country - except a few million people in the Chicago area with no social conscience - wanted to see in the Super Bowl. They were America's Team because they represent the area most affected by Hurricane Katrina.

We understand that and applaud them for their unlikely run from last place team to NFC champion in just one season, and we're sorry for trouncing them at home during the regular season and snatching the NFL title away from them in the final minutes of the Super Bowl.

No, not really. If I was on the field, I would have danced on their logo.

Sorry, mom.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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

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