It doesn't take a football fan to feel good about the Baltimore Ravens winning the Super Bowl. As thousands gather Tuesday morning for a victory parade through the streets of Charm City, let us take stock of just what an extraordinary moment this is.
A team that oddsmakers saw as a prohibitive fourth-seed underdog in the National Football League playoffs had to overcome away games against star-studded franchises like New England and Denver and a Super Bowl opponent that most sports commentators believed faster, stronger and more talented. But those underdogs won a memorable championship in memorable fashion.
Suddenly, Baltimore is cool again. We are winners of the "Black-out Bowl," the team with the underrated franchise quarterback whose "over-the-hill" defense could stop the cutting-edge "pistol" option offense when it counted most — with time expiring and backed up five yards from disaster. The Ravens are the throw-back jerseys of the sports world, the underestimated blue collar, lunch pail working stiffs who win because they put team first.
As Coach John Harbaugh so aptly observed, it wasn't a pretty win but that somehow was exactly right for the Ravens — and for Baltimore in 2013. As fun and thrilling as the Ravens last Super Bowl victory was a dozen years ago, this one somehow tastes sweeter — the franchise was a relative newcomer to Maryland back then, but it is family now. We have history.
No matter how cold the winter winds may blow, whether during the parade or in the weeks to come, we will warm ourselves in the memories of super moments. "Do you remember when," we will begin our conversations with our neighbors, friends and family, and they will fill in the blanks — Joe Flacco's flawless throws, the unflappable Anquan Boldin's clutch receptions, the Jacoby Jones kick-off return, and of course, the final goal line stand.
Even Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's post-game interviews will stick in our minds' eye. Could that giddy presence on camera, that dancing, singing, joyful dervish really be the same person who comes across as so humorless and impatient at Board of Estimates meetings? Note to City Hall staff: Bring a Ravens player or two or 53 to all future mayoral events, please.
But the memory we're really looking forward to locking away is that of witnessing tens of thousands of people, young and old, black and white, male and female, city and suburban, rich and poor all standing shoulder-to-shoulder celebrating like screaming maniacs as the Ravens are treated as conquering heroes.
The Ravens are in the entertainment business. They play a game — one that has been bogged down in controversy in recent years over the harm it does those who play it, whether through concussions or use of performance enhancing drugs. For all the TV ratings, the memorabilia, the wins and losses, it's still just a game, and it's importance comes only from how much the rest of us invest in it. Not just in dollars, but in emotions.
Well, the fact is, we have invested our hearts in this team and this game, and so have countless others. The thrill we felt on Sunday when the game was finally over and the Brothers Harbaugh had their awkward moment on the field and owner Steve Bisciotti accepted the Vince Lombardi trophy, that was as real as if we'd been personally handed some gaudy silver chalice, too.
Ah, if only we could bottle this feeling, this transcendent sense of brotherly love, this triumph — all of it focused on a team that proudly proclaims itself to be of Baltimore (and not Pittsburgh, thank the football gods) — we would keep it on tap like a keg of Natty Boh to drink year-round. For Baltimore faces no challenges that can't be overcome in similar fashion from people working together toward a shared goal.
Not underperforming schools, not over-abundant crime, not missed economic opportunity nor even poverty or drug abuse. Nothing ails this city that teamwork — and a willingness to believe — can't overcome. And when so many people stand together for a common purpose, even if it is merely to celebrate a football team, the possibilities seem limitless.
So here's to you Joe and John, Ray and Jacoby, Anquan, Dennis, Justin, Dannell, Paul, Ed and all the rest. You were great, and you made this city proud. Now, perhaps, it is time for us to follow your example of selflessness and hard work, of resilience and courage and oppose threats far more daunting than a bunch of San Francisco 49ers.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun