The Tell-Tale Heart [Editorial]

Our view: With the Orioles flying high and the Ravens poised to do the same, Baltimore sports fans rejoice in their good fortune

September 04, 2014

Edgar Allan Poe once wrote that those who dream during the day "are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." So it seems entirely fitting that Baltimore can spend the first Purple Friday — or dare we say, Orange-Purple Friday — of September daydreaming of a Ravens-Orioles championship season.

Technically, the Ravens can't win a championship in 2014, as that feat was accomplished by some team out of Seattle last winter (coincidentally, a fellow member of the bird family), but you get the idea. Baltimore is enjoying that embarrassment of riches that is rarely bestowed upon a city, competitive teams in those most American of professional sports — baseball, which bills itself as the nation's pastime, and football which, based on television ratings, actually deserves that title.

Two years ago, Baltimoreans sat on a similar perch. In 2012, the Orioles made it to the divisional playoffs for the first time since 1997, and the Ravens followed with a Super Bowl victory. But that was a rarity. Prior to that you have to go back to the days of the Colts to recall a time when Baltimore could claim two serious contenders.

This year, while the Orioles may be the stronger candidate for post-season play, the Ravens are not to be taken lightly. They enter their first game of the season Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals undefeated in preseason games and picked by no small number of sportswriters as the favorite to win their division despite going only 8-8 last year.

It will be a challenging task, beginning with the Bengals, the team that crushed the Ravens' playoff hopes in the last game of last season. The Ravens running game was abysmal in 2013, and any hopes that running back Ray Rice would bounce back to earlier form ran headlong into a domestic abuse charge for which he has been suspended two games. The offensive line has been rebuilt, a new offensive coordinator is in charge, they've added veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, and Joe Flacco might be ready to return to 2012 Super Bowl MVP form (an accomplishment for which he was richly rewarded with a new contract). Will that be enough?

That may depend on the defense. That's where Ravens fans expect more from a team that was ranked a middling 12th in the National Football League in total defense in 2013, and it's hard to believe there won't be some improvement, particularly if the secondary is healthy. Remember, nose tackle Haloti Ngata is not just a Royal Farms fried chicken pitchman and linebacker Terrell Suggs is a former NFL defensive player of the year. Most NFL defensive coordinators would kill for a run stopper and a quarterback chaser like those two.

Meanwhile, it doesn't hurt that the Ravens have one of the league's top kickers in Justin Tucker — his 92.7 percent field goal accuracy was among the NFL's best last year — and one of the best punters in Sam Koch, who was among the punting yardage leaders. Nor should anyone ignore what the team has accomplished during Coach John Harbaugh's six seasons, a 62-34 record including an even better 9-4 won-loss mark in post-season play. Last year was an aberration; this season is likely to be a return to form.

At some level, professional sports is just another business, albeit a high-profile and often government-subsidized one. And it's not without its scandals from performance enhancing drugs to incidents of domestic violence. But for fans, there's still a certain thrill at being in the center of the sports universe and watching your team climb up the weekly "power rankings" or get an extended segment on ESPN SportsCenter. For the Orioles and Ravens to do so simultaneously is a double-thrill that not every generation can experience.

Pairing orange with purple may not be a fashion statement elsewhere, but in Baltimore, it works just fine. Let the Big Apple wallow in two-sport mediocrity this year. May Pittsburgh fans experience second or third best. Living in Florida? Good luck with that. Here in Charm City, we dream of "the excitement of the heart," as Mr. Poe might say, and some memorable days ahead on the diamond and the gridiron.

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