Monday, November 14, 2011

Groundhog Day

"Don't blog angry...
don't blog angry."
I recently noted that, due to our limited options, the hierarchy of Baltimore's rooting interests goes like this: (1) our kids' little league teams, (2) the Ravens and (3) Michael Phelps.  So I should have been on guard yesterday when my 8 year old son's team lost its playoff game in a shootout after scoring the tying goal with 20 seconds left in regulation.  (Don't get me started on having 8 year olds playing games with anything more at stake than the five minutes of satisfaction they get between the final whistle and the post-game cookies.  I'm just glad my son wasn't playing goalie but hey, the haunting memory of that loss will make that kid a better man in 15 years.  I will now step down from my soapbox). 

There was no way the Ravens would ruin option No. 2 for me because, as all of my critics have been telling me, Joe Flacco turned the corner with that clutch drive last week and the team was ready to go on the road and prove they were worthy of being called the AFC's best team and Cam Cameron was going to take it one step further and prove they could win without handing the ball to Ray Rice.  (Cam either panicked and ditched the game plan by the end of the first quarter resulting in a 53-12 pass/run ratio or that WAS the game plan.  Both are scary.  More on this later in the week). 

"Let him catch you
on the backstretch."
The first sign of trouble came when the Steelers beat the Bengals clearing the path to first place in the AFC.  Ray Lewis and John Harbaugh have been playing the "no one believes in us" card for so long, I'm not sure deep down in their hearts they even want to be a frontrunner.  Am I saying they didn't want to win yesterday?  Of course not but I believe that some people are more suited for the underdog role and that becomes part of their DNA....like Seabiscuit.  Ray Lewis was the 26th player and the 5th linebacker drafted in 1996 because he was thought to be too small.  John Harbaugh was never more than a special teams coach in the NFL until he got the head job with the Ravens but that was after Jason Garrett teased them for a week and then sent them home for a cold shower.  Many of his players probably still wish the team had promoted Rex Ryan instead of hiring him and, oh by the way, his brother, who is on his way to winning coach of the year, played in the NFL and he didn't.  That's not a chip on his shoulder, it's a concrete slab. 

"Don't you think this
guy's overdoin' it a bit."
Anyone who follows the Ravens closely can see that the underdog mentality that drives these two guys permeates the entire team and you have to wonder if part of the reason they give games away to the Titans, Jags and Seahwaks in between crushing teams like the Steelers, Jets and Texans is because on some level, they've developed a slight inferiority complex and aren't comfortable breaking free from the pack.  Check out how John Harbaugh always seems embattled, even when his team wins. 

For the record, I like Harbaugh and think he is one of top five coaches in the league even if he tends to go over the top like he did with his Teddy Roosevelt quote last week (http://www.csnbaltimore.com/sportsnetBaltimore/search/v/48438891/john-harbaugh-quotes-teddy-roosevelt-11-7.htm).  I buy that ra ra crap but, at some point, you have to recognize that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.  I don't know how he is preparing his team for these games after emotional wins but it ain't working and the problem is that the propensity to fall flat under these circumstances keeps manifesting itself in the playoffs where every win is emotional. 

Hopefully the Seabiscuit analogy will play out.  For now I'm left sucking on a Sunday's worth of losing and bracing for news that Michael Phelps drowned in his hot tub last night.