The last few days have been a whirlwind… and I am finally realizing that it is not a dream…the Ravens are World Champions. Sports and the City of Baltimore are very special to me, and the 2012 Orioles and Ravens seasons will be something I will never forget. I am 29 years old, but have never seen both teams be successful at the same time. But to me, 2012 was about more than just the success on the field.
Over the last 12 months, both franchises represented Baltimore in a way that hasn’t been seen around here in a long time. These teams did everything the right way off the field, and made me truly proud to be a Baltimore sports fan.
During the 2000-2001 season the Ravens came out of nowhere to win the Super Bowl. While the playoff run was occurring, the Ravens were very vocal, and often trash-talked the media and their opponents. The Ravens comprehensively won the Super Bowl, (so clearly they backed it up) but made it very easy for people outside of Baltimore to hate them. Personally, I don’t blame them.
A couple of seasons later we saw a supposed “leader” of the team pick up a penalty flag and throw it. Since the game was on ESPN, the whole world saw it. I will always support and love my team, but deep down inside it was hard to defend the Ravens antics. They had won a Super Bowl, but during Brian Billick’s tenure, they only made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons one time. So to say their brashness and cockiness led to consistent winning was not totally accurate. I do believe Billick deserves to be in the Ravens Ring of Honor, and I am thankful we had him as a coach for so many memorable years. But, when John Harbaugh took over, the team, the franchise and their reputation changed for the better.
During Super Bowl week it was blatantly obvious that John Harbaugh was more cordial, polished and friendlier then his brother Jim. Every time John spoke he was eloquent, prepared, and seemed to credit everyone but himself for the teams success. John even went as far as calling his brother the best coach in the NFL.
Anyone who watched media coverage that week had to realize that the Ravens were in good hands, and that their coach represented everything that was good about the game. Not only does John Harbaugh have this unselfish attitude, but his team embraced these qualities and put them on display during Super Bowl week. Sure, Terrell Suggs spouted off after the AFC Championship game, but what he said was not over the top. The real headscratcher came via 49er cornerback Chris Culliver who made a hateful, classless comment (Joe Flacco caught his mistake the second he said it) and it was also reported that several 49ers players seen going to a strip club before the game. The Ravens were the more humble and classier team all week, which was a far cry from Super Bowl 35, and it’s showed how far this franchise had come.
Ray Rice might do more for charity than any other player in any sport. Torrey Smith has been nothing but classy in the way he handled some very insensitive remarks from opposing fans about the tragedy of his brother’s death. Joe Flacco has let his play do the talking in the face of many who have crticized and doubted him. Also, when was the last time you heard of any Ravens player getting in trouble off the field, or calling out a coach or another team in public? In retrospect, it is obvious that the relationship between Cam & Joe was far from perfect, but no public comments were ever made to escalate the drama in the media.
I feel like much of this chemistry and professionalism surfaced last season when the Ravens lost in excruciating fashion to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game (remember Ray’s speech to the team after the loss). Like a man, they all spoke up and gave credit to the Patriots. The Ravens players blamed themselves for the loss, and that accountability and attitude continued into this season, where the team faced the adversity of losing 4 of 5 games heading into the playoffs. While I believe that Ray Lewis is the greatest leader of his teammates past and present, it’s ironic that he passed the torch to an unassuming, quiet, non-demonstrative personality. Joe Flacco is the exact opposite of Ray Lewis, and he represents the new identity of the Ravens on and off the field.
2012 was also a magical year for my other favorite team, the Baltimore Orioles. The O’s made the playoffs when absolutely NOBODY thought they would, but like the Ravens, it was the way the Orioles handled themselves off the field that made this season special. Sure it’s easy to say and do the right thing when you are winning, but Adam Jones set the tone at the beginning of the season before the Orioles showed they could contend . Instead of pointing fingers at the organization, Jones made comments saying that the Orioles believed they could win, and that it was nobody’s fault but their own for their lack of success the previous season(s).
The 2012 Orioles experienced the highs and lows expected from a 162 game season, and had to deal with a number of injuries. But even as they shuffled their roster , no player that was sent to Triple A, or any player who remained on the Major League roster, made any excuses during these times of adversity. Buck and this young team were always accountable, and carried themselves with class and professionalism. When Nate McClouth’s homerun was called foul in game 5 of the ALCS, it was Buck Showalter and all of the Orioles who gave credit to the Yankees instead of sulking over a borderline call that could have made the difference in the game. The 2012 Orioles never made headlines for the wrong reasons. They were always humble and let their play do the talking, despite the lack of respect they got from the national media and their opponents.
Buck Showalter and the Orioles supported the Ravens, and the Ravens supported the Orioles. They attended each others games, and both embraced that they represented the city of Baltimore. They were unified, and it’s no coincidence that this season, both were successful on and off the field.
The Orioles game 5 loss to the Yankees was devastating, but I took pride in being a Baltimore fan because of how they handled themselves in defeat. And, had the Ravens lost the Super Bowl, I would have been equally proud of them.
This was the best sports year of my life. My favorite baseball team made the playoffs, and my favorite football team won the Super Bowl. Both of these teams won with grace and dignity, which has not always been the case.
It truly was a special year for Baltimore sports fans, and I want to thank the Orioles and Ravens for making it so special.
They really put a stamp on the Charm in the name Charm City.