Friday, April 13, 2007

Save Ferris

At first glance, the Baltimore Ravens 2007 regular season schedule has the looks of a masterpiece.

Four nationally televised games – two live from our Charming City. Three west-coast road trips separated by a minimum of four weeks each. A mid-season bye. A visit to Buffalo before Thanksgiving and trips to Sun Diego and the Sunshine State long after the turkey has been carved. Of course, looks can be deceiving.

Consider the scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at the Art Institute of Chicago. Cameron is burning a hole in the canvas of a Seurat painting made up of thousands of tiny dots that when viewed from afar, compose a picturesque scene along the banks of the River Seine. But as Cameron comes to realize, when you look a little deeper, things aren’t exactly as they appear.

The trees don’t really have leaves on them. Ferris isn’t the Sausage King of Chicago. And the Ravens have to play three of the top four seeds from last year’s AFC playoffs – in a row!

Seriously, this is a good comparison. The title of the painting in the movie is actually “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”. Of course if it was called “Sunday Afternoon on the Field of Lambeau” it would be dead-on, but this is close enough.

So what happens when you look at the tiny dots that connect to form a seventeen-week season?

First, seven straight games to start the year against teams that finished at .500 or below in 2006. Look deeper, however, and you see that this stretch includes back-to-back road trips against some of our former feathered friends in Cleveland and San Francisco, who always seem to pack an extra punch when they line-up against the men in purple.

Next, fifteen days off before a divisional dual with the Steelers on Monday Night Football. Look deeper, however, and you will see that Pittsburgh will be celebrating their 75th Anniversary that evening and are likely to line ‘The Bus’ up in the backfield with Bradshaw under center.

And finally, the perverbial hat trick: Lighting bolts, freedom fighters, and horseshoes. Possibly the most anticipated three-week stretch in the NFL as Baltimore faces off against the three [other] teams predicted to possibly represent the AFC in the desert next February. But again, look deeper.

Apart from losing their head coach and both coordinators, the Chargers will be sleeping at home for two extra nights following the Thanksgiving holiday, which could only mean one thing – more leftovers. And turkey is a known cause of drowsiness.

The Patriots are clearly locked and reloaded for another run at a title, however, AD might be able to play all 11 defensive positions, but only one at a time. Wes Welker returning extra kickoffs means the Ravens are scoring more often. And Donte Stallworth typically has both hamstrings strained by mid-October.

And then come the Colts. Yes, those Colts. The same team that knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs last year. The same team that won their first Super Bowl since calling Owings Mills home themselves. The same team, however, that not only lost 5 starters, but one stubborn monkey off their back that may have given them the edge they needed to finally win a Championship.

The point of my homage to John Hughes’ classic, or maybe to Seurat’s classic depending on how you look at it, is that no matter how you look at the 2007 season, each game will bring its own storyline, subplots, and media scrutiny that we can’t begin to predict with two weeks left before the Draft! But after a 13-3 regular season seemed to begin and end on an unusually warm night in January, we need to be prepared to enjoy each and every game the league has given us. Monday Nights and Sunday Nights, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Jamal and AD, LT and Big Ben, South Beach and the Space Needle. To paraphrase the immortal words of Matthew Broderick, “The NFL moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

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