Try to sound out Ravens

it all sounds same

November 15, 2008|By RICK MAESE | RICK MAESE,rick.maese@baltsun.com

Oh, the momentum the Ravens must be carrying into tomorrow's clash, right?

"It's irrelevant," coach John Harbaugh insisted Monday. "Doesn't matter. We've got a road game this week playing the New York Giants."

Well, at the very least, we can agree this is a big game, right? I mean, the Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs. They've lost just once this year.

"Everybody can make out of any game what they want to make out of it," Harbaugh offered Wednesday. "It might be interesting for some people or some fans more than other fans, but nonetheless every single one of them counts the same."

Come on. Can't they appreciate that the future looks at least a tiny bit bright?

"All we're thinking about is getting ready to have a great practice today," the coach said. "And playing the next game."

Eh, the insipid observations and cliche-ridden comments, as practiced and well-timed as any receiver's route. To be fair, it's not Harbaugh. It's today's NFL. Harbaugh just happens to be especially well-versed in parsing empty verse.

On a midweek teleconference with reporters, Eli Manning responded to a question with that tired "one-game-at-a-time" line. One reporter spun on his heels, stormed back to his work space and remarked, "Geez, it's like even the opposing players are taking their cues from Harbaugh."

I'd had enough.

Back to the newsroom. Down the steps. And into the vault.

Let everyone else bore themselves to tears with Baltimore vs. New York, 2008. With the 50th anniversary of the Greatest Game Ever Played just a month away, I spent an afternoon digging through archives, revisiting Baltimore vs. New York, 1958. Back then, the TVs were black and white, but everything else was bursting with color.

That old coach, Weeb Ewbank - he had taken over the Colts before the 1954 season, promising a championship within five years. When he made the prediction, he hadn't counted on playing in the NFL's first overtime game. After the Colts beat the Giants, 23-17, in sudden death, Ewbank said: "I miscalculated. I predicted it would take five years to build a champion. It took me an extra quarter."

To be fair, Ewbank wasn't especially animated in the days leading up to the game. His quotes in The Sun could've been uttered by Harbaugh, in fact. Here's how The Sun's Cameron Snyder described Ewbank on the ride to New York:

"He's a little nervous most of the time, but maybe more so today. He chewed on the edge of an envelope and rolled and unrolled his seat belt as he talked. Ewbank has sharp personal opinions, but avoids controversy to the point of seeming dull. He's not colorful in the sense of a Jim Tatum or George Preston Marshall."

It quickly became apparent that not only had coaches dulled over the years, so, too, had sportswriters. The day after the Colts' win, one enterprising reporter filed this dispatch, under the headline, "Domestic Bliss Returned."

"In The Block, a strip-teaser swathed in Christmas red told her bar companions her first act, still hours away, would be dedicated to the Baltimore Colts ... at another Block joint, a master of ceremonies dedication sounded through loudspeakers with a slight variation: 'To Unitas, Ameche, Moore and the whole team.' "

[Note to editor: I might need next month's expense money issued in singles.]

The trash-talking wasn't limited to players. Sportswriters got in on the act. Shirley Povich, the legendary Washington Post scribe, suggested "the better team for 571/2 minutes lost the football game."

Days later, Jesse A. Linthicum in TheSun charged that Povich "evidently hates to see anything prosper sportswise in Baltimore."

But had the fans changed? I like to think not. The passion and unbridled throw-your-fist-through-a-light-bulb enthusiasm you see today certainly existed 50 years ago. In fact:

"A Dundalk Colts fan was injured ...yesterday when the team scored its score-tying field goal," read a Sun story the day after the game. "Lewis Hucks, 25-year-old steel worker ... jumped for joy as he heard over his radio that the kick was good. He threw his arms in the air as he jumped from his seat. His right hand smashed an electric light bulb and was gashed. Mr. Hucks was being treated for the cuts in the accident room at city hospital when Alan Ameche galloped across with the winning touchdown."

Fifty years later, the team from Baltimore heads back to New York. The Ravens this time, not the Colts. Playing at Giants Stadium this time, not Yankee Stadium.

To Harbaugh's credit, his mantra has been drilled deep. You know a head coach is effective when his players unknowingly repeat him, nearly verbatim.

Said Jason Brown: "Every game that we have is a test."

Said Joe Flacco: "We go out each week and try to get a win. ... The New York Giants are just another team."

And Ray Lewis: "For us, it's just the next game up."

Next month, the city will remember and revel in a celebration from long ago.

For Baltimore vs. New York, 50 years separate the Greatest Game Ever Played and Just Another Game We Have to Play.

'58 memories

Did you watch the Greatest Game Ever Played in '58? Were you there? Please send us your memories at sports@baltsun.com or The Baltimore Sun/Sports, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278. We're planning a series of stories leading up to the anniversary and will publish some of the best memories.

RAVENS (6-3) @GIANTS (8-1)

Tomorrow, 1 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Giants by 7

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