It isn't often that you can look back on an entire year in Baltimore sports and focus on a single day that changed everything.
Local fans had been on a pretty good roll since the Orioles and Ravens combined to make 2012 the most uplifting year in recent memory, and last year featured strong performances by the Orioles (American League Championship Series) and Ravens (divisional playoff round), as well as a surprising Big Ten debut for the Maryland football program.
The early months of 2015 continued to massage our sports self-esteem, as both Terps basketball programs stormed into their new conference — the men's team finishing second in the regular season and the women running the table in both the regular season and the Big Ten tournament. And the summer began with the Terps baseball team coming within one playoff round of reaching the College World Series.
Then came July 30.
Of course, that was the day that top Ravens draft choice Breshad Perriman suffered a "bruised knee" and what was expected to be another strong Ravens season began to unravel. It was also the day that the Toronto Blue Jays completed a megadeal for superstar pitcher David Price on the heels of a huge trade for All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki two days earlier.
The Ravens didn't know it yet, but Perriman's injury was much more serious than originally thought and he would never play a down in 2015. It would also portend a series of season-ending injuries that would cost the team Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith Sr., Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Michael Campanaro and others. You know the rest.
The Orioles had to know right away that their quest to defend their 2014 AL East title had come to grief. They had just won five games in a row to move two games above .500 and shake off a 5-15 slump that had pushed them off the top of the division standings and into fourth place.
Things were looking up until the Detroit Tigers arrived in Baltimore and immediately sent their top pitcher packing to the Blue Jays, who entered that day in a virtual tie with the Orioles in the AL East. But the best the Orioles could do at the July 31 trade deadline was outfielder Gerardo Parra. If it wasn't clear to everyone which team had suddenly taken the high ground in the tightly bunched division, it should have been.
The Orioles seldom looked like a division champion in 2015 for a variety of well-documented reasons. The season took an unhappy turn in late April when the Freddie Gray unrest forced the club to play a game at Camden Yards with no fans allowed in the stands and move a home series against the Tampa Bay Rays to Tropicana Field.
After the trade deadline, the Orioles would hang in for a couple of weeks before going into a late-August tailspin that ended their title defense. It took a season-ending five-game winning streak just to salvage a .500 record. They finished 12 games out of first place after winning the AL East by 12 games the year before.
Meanwhile, the Ravens were stumbling through the early weeks of the NFL season, trying to remain viable during a highly unusual season-opening string of seven games that included five on the road, four of which were on the other side of the country. They still didn't know that Perriman was gone for good, but they lost Suggs to a second Achilles tendon tear in the season opener in Denver and the receiver corps took a double hit when Smith and Campanaro went down with back injuries in the team's first victory (over the Pittsburgh Steelers) on Oct. 1.
The team would not come up for air until it won three of four games in November. But by that time, the roster was absolutely decimated by injuries and it was too late to salvage the season.
There was no solace to be had in College Park, where the Terps football team followed up its surprising 2014 debut in the Big Ten by going winless in conference until its final game of the season against Rutgers.
Coach Randy Edsall started hearing footsteps after the Terps were trounced by Bowling Green in their second nonconference game and was gone six games into the season after losing to West Virginia, Michigan and Ohio State by a combined 88 points.
The football season wasn't all bad. Rob Ambrose's Towson Tigers delivered another solid season (7-4) and Navy enjoyed one of its most exciting seasons in the last half-century, flirting with the possibility of a New Year's Day bowl until falling to Houston in a showdown for the American Athletic Conference East berth in the league's championship game.
Senior quarterback Keenan Reynolds spent the fall writing his name all over the NCAA record books to establish himself as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. Reynolds and the Midshipmen had to be content with beating Army for the 14th straight time and regaining the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.
Thanks to the Mids and both Terps basketball programs, the year neared its end on an upswing, with both the Maryland men and women entering December ranked among the top five teams in the nation.
The jury is still out on the rebuilding efforts of both the Orioles and Ravens, so it would be premature to predict what 2016 will bring. But Maryland basketball appears ready to ring in the New Year in style … and spring training will be here before you know it.