"We won!" people around here shouted Sunday night as the Ravens took their second national championship in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Those two words are significant. It wasn't just the Ravens who won. It was also "we," as in those who live and work in the Baltimore community, who won. The victory was a welcome shot of pride.
Baltimore gets dissed a lot. It's a blue collar city on the Atlantic seaboard that, to many, is merely an industrial landscape seen by train or car window on the route between Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. It's also the setting for "The Wire," the densely plotted TV miniseries that was acclaimed by many, but also left the impression that Baltimore was a crumbling metropolis where cynical politicians preside over streets infested with drug dealers.
Perhaps by extension, the Ravens also had an image problem during the season. After a strong start, the team stumbled through four losses in mid-season and were all but written off by national commentators. Some respect was grudgingly restored when the Ravens prevailed against high profile teams like the Colts, Broncos and Patriots. But they were still four-and-a-half-point underdogs going into the Super Bowl against the 49ers.
Now, all of Baltimore — even all of Maryland, except perhaps that part infected with Redskin-itis — can bask in the spotlight as respectful attention is paid.
Meanwhile, the victory also strengthens the bond the fans, as well as all Baltimoreans, feel toward one another. Baltimore is a special place with a unique culture that celebrates the offbeat and the unpretentious. We know it, even if outsiders don't quite get it.
And, while we celebrate the purple, let's not forget the orange. The Orioles also had a playoff run in 2012 and showed signs they will return as contenders this season. Spring training begins for the O's in a few weeks, when the fading glow of the Ravens' victory can shift to rising spirits about the fortunes of our other Birds. And as icing on this remarkable Charm City cake, there's also Michael Phelps and his unparalleled Olympic legacy.
As this championship recedes into history, perhaps the esteem held by us, and now others, for our fair seaport on the Chesapeake will diminish. But you can be sure the Ravens will be the stars taking the stage when the next NFL season gets underway.
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It's been a great year, Baltimore. And another great year may lie ahead.