For all those disappointed in the Baltimore Ravens’ playoff loss, 23-17, to the Los Angeles Chargers on Jan. 6, I have only one point of perspective: last summer, the Orioles lost 115 games.
The Ravens won six of their last seven regular-season games this year. They won their conference title. In a stereotyped, pass-happy era in the National Football League, they came up with a kid quarterback, Lamar Jackson, and a bunch of electrifying running backs, and a smothering defense, all of whom helped bring an enthusiasm back to Baltimore football that was missing the last several seasons.
And that enthusiasm is what we should carry away from Sunday’s loss.
Looking over-matched and dispirited until the final minutes, the Ravens almost pulled off a miracle. Let’s make that our lasting memory.
Everybody wants to win, but every team except one goes home disappointed when the blocking and tackling and grunting are all done.
For the last couple of months, it’s been nice to feel like a winner again, to feel the juices flowing a little bit. And it’s not just the comparison with that disaster of a baseball season.
Every community draws its self-image from a variety of factors. Sports is part of it, but so are local politics (we have a mayor who’s still reaching for a positive narrative about her administration); local business (downtown merchants claim they’re still trying to recover from the Freddie Gray troubles); local crime (309 homicides last year.)
In every example, we’re left thinking: Oy.
But sports lifts us out of that morass, at least for a few ticks of the clock.
As for the game itself, the Ravens seemed awkward and over-matched from the opening minutes. It wasn’t just the three early fumbles, although they hurt. There was the sense that the Chargers had figured out the Ravens’ secrets.
For the last half of the regular season, as the Ravens unveiled their run-first offensive style, their opponents clearly had trouble adjusting to the new look. But the Chargers had seen it before – in fact, seen it only a few weeks earlier.
They weren’t fooled by the new look, or any old looks, either. Until the final minutes, the Ravens had only three points and three first downs. So the question becomes: if the Chargers could figure out the Ravens with the benefit of a second look, what does that portend for next year, when every opponent will have had a chance to adjust?
We’ll see. But, in the meantime, let’s hold onto the memories of six straight wins to wrap up a title, and a near-miraculous playoff win – and realize it was all much better than losing 115 baseball games.
Also see: Ravens Players Thank Fans for Support This Season — PressBox
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” was reissued in paperback by the Johns Hopkins University Press.