Friday, July 27, 2007

Keep Me Floating

“What I want is what I've not got. But what I need is all around me.”
- Dave Matthews Band

What I want should be obvious. It’s what every NFL player, coach, cheerleader, mascot, general manager, scout, trainer, fan and blogger from Baltimore to the Bay Area wants – a trip to Arizona next February for Super Bowl XLII.

But what I need isn’t so clear. That’s because what I need is what we all wanted just one year ago. A winning season. A season sweep of the Steelers. A Division Title. A playoff berth. A first round bye. The spotlight. Respect.

So where does that leave me? Where does that leave all of us? What are we to think? What are we to do? What are we to, well, want?

Over the course of my first two years living in Baltimore, and during the additional four years spent following Charm City sports from afar, it has appeared that all Baltimore fans have wanted was to be competitive, win games, and win respect from the world of sports and the Worldwide Leader.

Consider that most Orioles fans were predicting a .500 season this March and an even greater majority would admit now that if Tremblay can carry the birds to 80 wins, the season could still be considered a success.

Football fans have had slightly higher hopes over the last few years, but the 2000 title run caught most of the city by surprise, and the 2001 team had a championship ring in their pocket to temper the depression dealt to the Ravens in the Divisional Playoffs. The salary purge that followed kept expectations in check, and two AFC North Championships in the last four years satisfied our voracity for victory.

But this year is different. Although the team is not as old as most pundits would have you believe, the combination of rising stars and veteran superstars is special. And sportsnation has taken notice. Many publications put the Ravens as the 4th best team in the entire league. And if it wasn’t for Peyton, Brady, and LT, we might be sitting atop those same rankings. Talk about respect.

Of course the schedule makers decided to have a little fun with the purple and black this year as they’ve staged a non-elimination, character-evaluation triple header for the second half of the season when the Ravens face the Chargers, Patriots and Colts in succession. But again, at least two of those games are slated for nationwide viewing, including back-to-back weeks of playing host to Football Night in America and Monday Night Football. Talk about respect.

Further proof of the reversal of fortune, just this week, both Ray Lewis and Bart Scott were featured in Sports Illustrated’s cover story about big hits in the NFL. Ray’s quote landed on the cover, however, Bart’s quote about his legendary hit on Ben Roethlisberger was brilliant, “He was weightless, like I hit him in outer space.”

That weightless feeling isn’t reserved just for Big Ben or any of the other signal callers sacked by Scott, Sizzle, and the boys last year. It’s the same feeling all of RavensNation feels right now heading into the 2007 season. After 13 wins in ’06, our ascent to the top has already taken off, but we haven’t reached the pinnacle yet. We find ourselves somewhere between satisfied and salivating. Between anxiety and anticipation. Grounded and just plain giddy. Because this team is special and all we ask, in the words of Mr. Matthews, “If you could keep me floating, just for a while…

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