If you’re like me, you are aware that the Ravens are good this season. But watching a game didn’t make your to-do list over the past 18 weeks. Maybe ever.
So how do you survive the next few days or weeks as the Baltimore NFL team — let’s spell that out, just in case — makes a run for Super Bowl LVIII (the championship)? Nattering nabobs will be everywhere, going on and on (and on) about Lamar this and Odell that.
What can you say to hold up your end of the conversation? I’m here to help, my fellow fair-weather football fans.
Here are nine things you can drop into any fan chat, in the office or at the bar, and sound Ravens-literate.
(First, a word about being a BS artist because that’s what we’re talking about here. It’s best to fire a spiral downfield in your verbal long pass and then walk off the field without waiting to see how it’s received. The answer to anyone who throws a flag on your fakery is always a knowing shrug and wry facial expression as if to say, eh, that’s how I see it.)
1. Lamar’s mom turned out to be a pretty good adviser.
The backstory: After a few seasons without a Super Bowl ring and some grumbling about money, quarterback Lamar Jackson said he’d like to be traded to another team. Nobody seemed interested, so he settled in to negotiate a new contract with the Ravens — without a professional agent. Instead, his mother, Felicia Jones, appeared to be his key adviser.
He signed a five-year, $260 million contract to stay with Baltimore in May. He’s the leading candidate for the NFL Most Valuable Player award. Many teams currently noodling over why they’re out of the playoffs would still be playing if they’d acquired him.
Which brings me to:
2. Baltimore plays better with a chip on its shoulder.
Here’s why: As someone who grew up in Ocean City and has lived in Annapolis for almost 40 years, I’ve grown weary of Baltimore’s braggadocio. Honestly, you’d think they invented steamed crabs and beer. (To be fair, Old Bay did start there. It was created in 1940 by Gustav Brunn, a German Jewish refugee).
Lots of Marylanders who live outside the city — that’s most of us — see it this way. Consider this joke posted a few years ago on the Baltimore Beatdown fan page:
“Why doesn’t Annapolis have a professional football team?
“Because then Baltimore would want one.”
It only serves to spur Baltimore on to a greater sense of destiny.
After the Ravens trounced San Francisco 33-19 on Christmas Day, the 49ers remained the favorite to win the Super Bowl. True to form, Jackson told seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady on the “Let’s Go” podcast that he’s got something to prove to all the doubters.
“I definitely do have that chip on my shoulder,” Jackson said. “I haven’t accomplished what I wanted to yet, so that’s why that chip is still on my shoulder. I want that Super Bowl.”
3. I wish the Browns had won.
Say what now? If you’re a Ravens fan, you know the Cleveland Browns are a division rival — along with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. Why would you wish for a Cleveland win?
Joe Flacco. The 39-year-old quarterback led the Ravens to their second Super Bowl win in 2013 (the first was in 2001). He’s been gone for a while, playing poorly for other franchises. He couldn’t find a slot at the start of this season but then got picked up by the Browns when they had a meltdown at the position.
He led a surprising end-of-season surge into a wild-card spot, only to run headfirst into a rejuvenated Houston Texans squad last weekend.
Can you imagine if Flacco had returned to Baltimore playing for a rival? Talk about mixed emotions.
But Flacco was always an under-loved figure in an under-loved franchise in an under-loved town that credited Ray Lewis and the defense for its Super Bowl wins.
4. I prefer Jim to John.
Football is a family affair: You should walk away quickly and be prepared for blowback if you can’t escape.
John Harbaugh is the Ravens coach, and his brother Jim has the same job at the University of Michigan.
Jim’s Wolverines just won the College Football Playoff national championship in a game John attended in person.
John and the Ravens beat the 49ers 34-31 when Jim was their head coach and the teams met in the 2013 Super Bowl. Jim accepted and served a three-game suspension this season after an NCAA investigation into a former Michigan team analyst who allegedly used “illegal technology” to steal signs used by other Big Ten teams.
You get bonus points for wondering which brother Mom loves best.
5. What’s the deal with Roman numerals?
Sometimes, it’s good to pose a question. It makes you sound like a student of the game.
Super Bowl LVIII will be played on Feb. 11 in Las Vegas. That’s 58 using Roman numerals.
According to the NFL, it’s spelled out this way because the game occurs after the end of the year in which the regular season takes place. This is the 2024 Super Bowl, the championship game for the 2023 season (which actually extended into January 2024). Confusing.
Resist the urge to say the Roman numeral out loud (ell-vee-eye-eye-eye) unless you can pull off a knowing irony when you really know nothing. If you are feeling cocky here, point out that the Romans spoke Latin, so they would have called this game “Super Crater Duodēsexāgintā.”
Interestingly, the Detroit Lions are still in the mix.
6. I can’t wait to see the Ravens on Nickelodeon.
No. Seriously. Paramount will carry a traditional telecast on CBS but plans to simulcast the game on its children’s network. SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star — an animated sponge and starfish who live under the sea in their long-running show — will offer color commentary for the game on Nickelodeon.
Last year, I bought a lot of cannabis for a column I wrote about the weed market in Annapolis. This might be the right moment to use some of it.
7. I’m going to watch the game at home.
Home-field advantage. Going to the Ravens-Texans game on Saturday would be fun, even with the high-temperature forecast at a chilly 27 in Baltimore. You can find tickets for as little as $108, but they’ll be way up in the top sections where the wind chill of 5 degrees would be pretty noticeable.
Watching the game in a bar or other crowded locale can be fun, too. It helps to have some gear, even just a purple-and-black scarf or cap (same-day delivery is your friend). If the bar crowd chants “Whoa, Oh, Oh, Oh,” it’s because the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” is echoing through M&T Bank Stadium after a touchdown.
The best place for the fair-weather football fan, however, may be your couch.
You can take a nice nap, wake up and read all you need to know thanks to members of The Banner sports team, who know a ton about football.
8. If the Ravens win.
If the Ravens win Saturday and again in the AFC championship on Jan. 28, you must say something to show you care. It’s the right time to try your faux (pronounced f-eh-ew) Baltimorese accent.
The simplest may be the best: “We’re on the way, hon!”
And if Baltimore brings home the Lombardi Trophy (named for early-days coach Vince Lombardi), there’s one sure way to show you’re a fan.
“Now, how ’bout dem O’s?”
9. Be ready for the unthinkable.
And, if the Ravens somehow lose on the way to that trophy, you can always misquote Edgar Allan Poe — wryly linking the team’s namesake poem and its author’s sudden death in Baltimore to lament what would be another frustrating moment for genuine fans.
“Baltimore, you’re killin’ me.”