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Dejected Ravens fans can hardly watch the game as the Ravens lose to the Titans in the Divisional Playoff at M&T Bank Stadium.
Dejected Ravens fans can hardly watch the game as the Ravens lose to the Titans in the Divisional Playoff at M&T Bank Stadium. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

We can console ourselves by saying, “It was fun while it lasted.” We can say, “Thanks for a great season, you guys.” We can go to YouTube and watch Lamar highlights from October or replay the entire win over the Patriots in November. And those are all fine sentiments and therapeutic suggestions, but I don’t imagine Baltimore Ravens fans are much interested in any of that right now.

This wound is fresh and deep.

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We thought the Ravens were going to the Super Bowl.

There have been great Ravens teams in the past that did, or almost did, but somehow this time it really seemed like destiny.

We had the amazing Lamar Jackson as quarterback and what became, as the season progressed, a complete team that even impressed my hard-to-impress colleague from the Baltimore Sun sports department, Mike Preston.

The Ravens were a team everyone talked about everywhere — sports analysts on TV, the cashier at my neighborhood Giant, my postal carrier, my doctor, co-workers, friends, family. Even relatives in New England conceded the Ravens’ awesomeness.

They were the No. 1 seed in their conference. A record-setting team. A beautiful team.

Can we call it a disaster without being accused of hyperbole? I already used the word “destiny,” so we might as well go with disaster. That other D word, “disappointment,” just isn’t sufficient.

I come at this as a citizen of Baltimore as much as an observer of sports. The Ravens’ ride through the 2019 season gave the city a huge lift. It was needed here more than in most of the other cities with NFL teams, and not just because our other major sports franchise, the Orioles, had slipped into a period of prolonged losing.

We needed the lift because of the city’s debilitating crime crisis and all that attends that horrible phenomenon.

The past five years have been brutal because of what I so often write about and what so often The Sun must report — the incessant violence, hundreds of shootings, hundreds of homicides, leaving Baltimore with a jagged, painful crown: one of the most violent cities in the nation.

Even on Saturday, when most of us were thinking about football and anticipating the Ravens-Titans showdown, some people in Baltimore were still shooting and being shot. Five people were killed and seven others injured in a string of separate shootings, according to police.

The last one occurred while the Ravens-Titans game was still underway, at 10:52 p.m. The news release from the Baltimore Police Department said the shooting had taken place on Bloomingdale Road in West Baltimore: “When officers arrived at the location, they observed a 24-year-old male suffering from gunshot wounds. Medics transported the victim to University of Maryland Shock Trauma, and medical personnel pronounced the victim dead.”

Would a Ravens victory have changed that reality?

No.

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But even defeat in the playoffs allows me to say what I had been meaning to say all season: that the city should derive inspiration from the Ravens’ commitment to winning and Lamar Jackson’s dedication to improving his overall skills and performance. That’s still a great story.

"They just did a great job. We've just to try harder and get it next time and convert it." said Lamar Jackson when asked how long this loss with stick with him.

Bogged down in problems we have not been able to solve, Baltimore’s collective psyche too often — some might say permanently — slips into low expectations and presumptions of mediocrity. There’s a temptation to just give up. We lose sight of the city’s grand potential. There are so many people, companies and institutions doing amazing things here, and throughout the region, but it gets harder and harder to see the excellence, or the potential for it, when your mayor turns out to be corrupt, the city’s population drops, too many kids can’t read, we can’t recruit enough police officers and the violence continues at an insane rate.

The coming city election, in late April, will be the most important in 50 years, and Baltimoreans just can’t settle for anything less than strong, wise and honest leadership to get us out of this mess. Otherwise, we will be settling for the status quo again and accepting mediocrity.

Which takes me here: I wasn’t going to try to offer consolation for what happened Saturday night at the stadium, but I guess that’s what I’m doing.

In Baltimore, we wisely warn ourselves against getting our hopes up. But, with the Ravens of 2019-2020, it was hard not to. They reminded all of us — those who live, work and vote here, those who live nearby and still care about the place — that, in a city beset with problems, excellence is still pursued and still possible.

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