By Jordan Mayblum — Co-Editor-in-Chief
There are no words.
Actually, there are nine words: The New England Patriots are going to the SuperBowl.
That sentence breaks my heart. And it’s a feeling I’ve gotten used to over the last decade or so. I’m a Baltimore Ravens fan, and I’m beginning to wonder if there’s something wrong with me.
As numbers on the game clock in yesterday’s AFC Championship Game shrunk, it looked like—for the first time since I was in the fifth grade—the Ravens would be going to the SuperBowl. Joe Flacco led a drive that, as CBS color analyst Phil Simms said before it began, was reminiscent of Baltimore’s huge win at Pittsburgh in November.
Joe Flacco outplayed Tom Brady, and he threw the winning touchdown pass to send the Ravens to Indianapolis for the big game. But Lee Evans didn’t hang onto it. What happened next seemed as inevitable as the sunrise: Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard chip shot, and it was over.
The Ravens did everything the experts said they needed to to win that game. Joe Flacco was better than he was against the Texans. The Ravens made the stops on defense when they needed them, and even mixed in a few turnovers, including one huge interception to nullify an errant Flacco throw shortly before.
It’s been a long 11 years in Baltimore. After that SuperBowl victory against the Giants in late January 2001, there has been hardship. The Ravens made the playoffs each of the next two seasons, but never got further than the divisional round. Then, the Kyle Boller experiment began in full force, with two dreadful seasons to show for it. Then, with possibly their best team since 2000 and before the one that took the field yesterday, the Ravens in 2006 were stunned at home by the Indianapolis Colts. They didn’t even give up a touchdown.
The next year saw the return of Boller, and a 5-11 finish in which they seemed to play just below the level of their opponents. They lost an overtime thriller to the 1-15 Miami Dolphins, and a few weeks before pushed the then-undefeated Patriots to the limit on Monday Night Football. I was there for that one. I could feel the sting of Boller’s hail mary being caught at the four yard line all the way in the upper deck.
In the four years since, the Ravens have won a playoff game in each season, advancing to two AFC title games. The 2008 title game wasn’t a surprise. A rookie quarterback couldn’t beat a tough Steelers defense that went on to beat Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals in the SuperBowl.
In 2009, they crushed a weakened Patriots squad on their way to being beaten by the Colts again. And last year, they let a comfortable lead in the divisional round disappear into the cold Pittsburgh night.
It never gets any easier.
Between now and September, I’ll occupy myself with my other team of choice: The Boston Red Sox. The same Red Sox who let a nine game wild card lead fall out of their hands in much the same way that Lee Evans let the AFC trophy be punched out of his hands by Sterling Moore. At least the Red Sox gave me a month to prepare for that one.
The Red Sox have brought home two championships this century after an 86 year wait. I wasn’t around for most of it, but I was around for some, and more recently they’ve reverted back to their heart-shattering ways.
In 2008, they were one run away from returning to the World Series. Everyone knows, or at least I know, that the third strike that the Rays’ David Price threw to J.D. Drew in the 2008 ALCS was a ball. Jonathan Papelbon failed to record the final out of the third game of the Division Series in 2009, and again on the last day of the season in 2011, his last as a member of the Red Sox.
Most Patriots fans share the same love for the Red Sox that I have, but they can’t understand what it’s like to have two knockout punches of this magnitude in the span of just a few months.
The Red Sox struggled for a long time, but, since former Ravens QB Trent Dilfer returned home from Disney World in 2001, Boston has been on top of the world. The Patriots won the SuperBowl that next season, then again in 2003 and 2004. The Red Sox won in 2004 and 2007, the Celtics in 07-08 and the Bruins got involved this past summer.
The same can’t be said for Baltimore. The Orioles haven’t had a winning season since Austin 3:16 was a household name. The Baltimore Bullets moved to Washington ages ago. We’ve never had a hockey team.
Patriots fans did have to suffer through the imperfect end to what had been a perfect season in 2007, but there was still a Red Sox parade to soften the blow.
Now, with baseball season looming on the horizon, all I can do is worry that this vicious cycle will continue. The Red Sox have done little to improve upon the roster that disbanded two months before they were supposed to, and the question now is: how long will they wait to deliver another blow? Will they miss the playoffs for the third straight year? Will they lose in the first round of the playoffs? Or, will they make it to the point of no return, and have nothing to show for it?
I want the Giants to win the SuperBowl for a few reasons. Obviously, I can’t root for the team that showed my heart to me before slamming it to the ground yesterday. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to see Eli Manning come into Peyton’s house and win the second ring that has eluded the elder brother to this point? Maybe it’s just me.
The biggest reason, and it’s a selfish one, is that I want the Patriots fans that I have to see on a daily basis to be as miserable as I am today. After all, misery does love company.
27 days until pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers.