Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ravens Not Getting Respect, but Winning Because of It

So I spent the morning scouring the news to find that gem of an article about the Ravens in the national media- something huge and detailed about the rise of a team that most expected before the season to finish under .500 and some expected to be downright awful*. No matter what happens the rest of the way, the latter won’t have happened. If things continue as they have been, they might even crack the playoffs. However, aside from a brief article on Yahoo sports, there has been nothing in the national press about the Ravens. Trust me, I’ve looked. Not even Clark Judge of CBS Sportsline has something on the Ravens resurgence. For whatever reason he seems to usually jump on the chance to write a positive piece on the Ravens, but there was radio silence on that front.

What are they talking about instead? Well there is the Falcons with the other rookie quarterback; most TV and print articles about the rookie starters write glowing appraisals of Matt Ryan for roughly 90% of the article and then mention at the tail end that “Joe Flacco is doing pretty well in Baltimore too.” They talk about what a great job Mike Smith has done, and give the same offhand remark about John Harbaugh to close it up. I watched ESPN for about an hour and a half right after the afternoon games let out on Sunday to catch a peak at the carefully tailored recap and a 5-minute rundown of the rising team from the Old Line State. Nothing. If there was a recap it was during the 1 ½ minutes I desperately flipped to the NFL Network to get some analysis. Unfortunately they were talking about the Falcons, too.

Look, I know the Ravens aren’t a big market team, and I know that the Ravens had some solid elements going into the season, but they are currently in the top wildcard spot in the AFC and are approaching a brutal stretch in their schedule that will determine whether they are true contenders. They also happen to be a tiebreak away from sole possession at the top of the AFC North. The Falcons (I hope y’all are noticing the theme here) are, for all their wins, are still a tiebreak out of second place in the division and sit behind a Carolina team on a mission. It can’t solely be the market, either. Buffalo got dap for their 5-1 start (and attention for their 0-3 streak since), and they can hardly be considered a major market franchise.

For as much as we want to hear Ravens analysis or detailed recaps, we should remember that for this team, attention is probably not a good thing. This is a team that has struggled notoriously in primetime in recent years and when expectations are particularly high. With a rookie quarterback and an offense starting to find its momentum, the last thing this team needs is to enter games against top-flight competition as the favorite, especially since this team hasn’t yet beaten a great team with a winning record aside from 5-4 Miami.

I would love to see the Ravens as the top story on ESPN, the front page of the USA Today sports section, or even get an article on page 8. However, the Baltimore Ravens have thrived on lowered expectations, flying under the radar and shocking opponents even as their record gets better and better. The year the Ravens won the Superbowl they were 60-1 long shots going into the AFC Championship game, far and away the worst odds of any of the 4 remaining teams. If the Ravens win against the Giants, the spotlight might be unavoidable, but for now living in a media blackout might be just what this team needs to remain successful.

*Okay, maybe I did predict a 4-12 finish before the season...

P.S. It took every ounce of energy I had not to insert a Rodney Dangerfield picture somewhere in this post... screw it, I can’t resist.
*UPDATE* Okay, so apparently the Baltimore Sun blogger Ray Frager had something about Ravens fans upset with the team not getting respect, quoting Bruce Cunningham on his radio show talking about how all fans talk that way. It says it was posted at 8 AM, but as soon as this post went up it heads to the front page of the sports site. I'm not saying I'm suspicious, but...

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