Shameful display

Best to just forget about area teams' 2007 seasons

Local sports year in review

December 24, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

If you're a local sports fan and you're starting to think of 2007 as one giant lump of coal in your Christmas stocking (or other holiday container appropriate to your religious affiliation), I've got only one thing to say.

What took you so long?

I guess we should have figured it was going to be a long year on Jan. 13, the day the Ravens kept Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts out of the end zone for a whole playoff game but couldn't keep them from taking a giant step toward the franchise's first Super Bowl title since, well, I'd really rather not say.

Sorry to bring that up during such a festive season, but when the once-proud Maryland men's basketball team was upset by American University on Saturday, everything about this discouraging sports year flashed in front of my eyes and crystallized in one discouraging thought:

Can we really be this bad?

The answer is obvious. The Orioles are just starting a Square One rebuilding program after their 10th straight losing season, and the Ravens are starting to take comfort in the fact that they're assured a top-eight selection in next year's draft. Throw in a so-so start for the man-Terps and the recent departure of one of the greatest coaches in Navy football history, and you've got the makings of one discouraging 12-month period.

Want more proof? The Ravens season turned so sour so fast that yesterday we all crowded around the television to see if the third-string quarterback could remain upright for four quarters against the Seattle Seahawks.

Troy Smith handled himself OK, considering the Ravens got taken to the woodshed at Qwest Field and now stand on the brink of a season-ending 10-game losing streak. We should just be grateful he provided a reason to watch as one of the top teams in the NFC used the Ravens as a scout team for their coming playoff run.

The Ravens let us down for two reasons. First, of course, because they had built up some pretty big expectations this year before Steve McNair, Todd Heap, a big chunk of the offensive line and most of the defensive secondary went down with injuries. And second, because we depend heavily on the Ravens to help us forget about the Orioles every August.

The O's were certainly forgettable, though it's hard to forget how they celebrated manager Dave Trembley's contract extension with a 30-3 loss to the Texas Rangers in August.

If it is true that it's always darkest before the dawn (and I've never seen any real evidence to support that theory), things should be getting better for both of Baltimore's major professional teams soon, because it's hard to imagine things getting much worse on either front.

The Orioles hired Andy MacPhail last summer to take the team in a new direction, and he took the first big step when he traded Miguel Tejada for five players this month. He has a lot more work ahead to lay the foundation for long-term success, but he knows what to do and how to do it.

The Ravens have hit bottom, but they could rebound in a hurry. General manager Ozzie Newsome has a history of taking full advantage of high draft picks, and next season's schedule will be a little softer coming off a fourth-place finish in the AFC North.

Don't know what to say about the area's top NCAA program, except that Maryland's women's hoops team is holding up its end. The Terps are 14-1 and ranked fourth in the latest Associated Press poll, which is really nice but not enough for a whole state to salvage its sporting pride.

Guess you have to give a little credit to the Terrapins football team, which scored a couple of big wins and could end up over .500 by beating Oregon State in the Emerald Bowl on Friday, but even Ralph Friedgen would probably agree that he was shooting for more than a medium bowl game when the season began.

Don't know about you, but after all that - and another year of tawdry steroid revelations both local and national - the thing I want most for Christmas is a case of selective amnesia.

What better time to say "Wait until next year!" than when next year is less than a week away?

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.

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