Peter Schmuck

It'll be a purple Christmas, and that's OK with the Ravens

The elf costume should have been a dead giveaway, but Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr. doesn't always run in the direction that you — or opposing defensive backs — might expect.

He showed up for his media session this week dressed for the holidays and then some, yet quickly dispensed with the Christmas cheer when someone asked him how a yuletide Ravens/Steelers matchup fits with all the peace, love and joy that goes around this time of year.


"It's going to be joy," he said, "not a lot of peace."

The game certainly will come with a naughty-and-nice vibe that reflects all that this rivalry represents and all that will be at stake. Everything is on the line for the Ravens, who might have to win their last two regular season games to reach the playoffs.


It's the kind of showdown that lends itself to all the usual football clichés, and it will take place on a day when — ideally — you might prefer that your kids watch "It's a Wonderful Life" than pepper you with questions about the concussion protocol. But this is the Ravens and the Steelers, so it's OK to be dreaming of a black-and-blue Christmas.

The players are pretty much all in. Safety Eric Weddle, who could dye his massive beard white and play a pretty good Santa Claus on Sunday, said the other day that this is the stuff of which childhood dreams are made.

"When you sit back and think that as a little kid you were sitting there watching games on Christmas, and [now] you're going to be playing, and everybody is going to be watching, that's pretty surreal to think about," he said. "We have such a great opportunity to not only play in this kind of setting, but to have the chance to win the division."

The division title doesn't exactly hang in the balance with a Ravens win. The Steelers can wrap it up with a victory. But the Ravens would have to beat them and win again on the road at Cincinnati next week to be assured of a place in the postseason.

What that assures, however, is that the game is going to be intense and violent, and the outcome — for better or worse — is going to impact how a lot of people will remember what is supposed to be a very joyous and spiritual day.

Coach John Harbaugh tried to find some perspective when he was asked this week how a nasty, hard-fought game between two teams that historically hate each other reconciles with that holiday tableau, but he couldn't keep a straight face.

"It all goes hand in hand," he said. "When you philosophically sit down and look at all that and examine your life, and you think about what it's really all about in life, you'll see how it all fits together perfectly. Very deep question."

The fact is that there is nothing so very unusual about all this. The NFL has been scheduling big games on Christmas when it falls on Sunday for a long time. The NBA makes Christmas a showcase for several big games every year and has a very attractive five-game schedule on Sunday.


Most of the NFL schedule will be played on Saturday, which still conflicts with the first day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, but let's be honest with ourselves. We love it; the ratings prove that, and the NFL can't exactly take off the second-to-last weekend of the regular season.

The vast majority of NFL players will be back home with their families in time for Christmas morning, while the Ravens and the other three teams playing on Sunday will be busy getting their game faces on.

"It is not really a Christmas for us as players that are participating in the game," Smith said. "It is business as usual."

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at and follow him @Schmuckstop on Twitter.