As I sat on the roof of my friend’s house, I watched a flock of birds circle several trees and then proceed to land all at once in their spot of choice. As I sat there, enthralled by their seamless flight pattern, my friend looked over at me and said, “Where do you think birds go to die? I always see dead rats, squirrels and other road kill lying all around, but I never see dead birds.”
His comment got me thinking. After moseying over several potential philosophical responses, it occurred to me that his question held a double meaning in my life. I looked back at him with a slight smile. “Well, as of late, apparently they die in the heart of Baltimore.”
The Ravens have spoiled my friends, family and me over the past six seasons. By making the playoffs in all of these seasons but one, the Ravens have given the people of Baltimore an inflated sense of what a typical season should be. The John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco Era has been one of success, and the Ravens have soared through the clouds ever since.
However, like the ancient tale of Icarus and Daedalus, sometimes the ones who fly too close to the sun have the longest and most substantial falls back to reality. With all the prestige of a Super Bowl win and praise from their unbelievable consistency, it seems as though the Ravens have come back to Baltimore this year in order to die.
This past Sunday, the Ravens went against the Cincinnati Bengals, and that game may have been the determinant of when to start writing their obituary. Although the game was close, the Ravens ended up losing and are now 0-3 for the first time in the history of the franchise. I’m not a very superstitious person but I’m a little stitious (thank you to Michael Scott from The Office), and the preseason poll definitely did not help our cause. The Ravens thrive as the underdog, and usually critics never give us the time of day. However, this year the Ravens were projected by Sports Illustrated to be the team to win the Super Bowl.
Hubris is an interesting thing. For those of you who don’t know, hubris refers to excessive pride, which was considered the key downfall of many heroes from Greek tragedies. The Ravens have enjoyed their success, but possibly to an extent beyond their capacity. A team that starts the season at 0-3 has traditionally had a three percent chance of making the playoffs, not to mention a team that already has a divisional loss.
I never truly understood the reasoning of the organization in their decision to release their three best receivers only a short time after their Super Bowl win. All of this relates back to their innate hubris resulting from their success. Although Joe Flacco has been dominant in the postseason, his substantial contract has hindered them from strengthening the team as a whole. Flacco can only be as successful as the team surrounding him and with only Steve Smith Sr. in his arsenal, it’s hard for the Ravens to find any true success.
Although I’ve been down on my beloved team, to reference Al Michaels, I believe in miracles. The Ravens have shown flashes of greatness in their first three games this year, but have just not been able to put everything together. Their flight path may contribute to their substantial fall at the beginning of this season, but this slow start does allow them to have the potential for a season that people could remember for all of eternity if they can turn things around and prove Sports Illustrated right.
The road to success will be difficult, however, with the Ravens going to Pittsburgh for a Thursday night bout against a team that, even without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, has arguably the two best skill position players in football in Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
Following this game, the birds have the pleasure of hosting a weak Cleveland Browns team at home before having to go on a two game West Coast road trip to duke it out against the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals.
If the Ravens can emerge from this four game span, before returning home for three games in a row, with four wins and a 4-3 record, then they have a legitimate chance.
Unfortunately, with the way the team has performed so far this year, an 0-7 start is just as possible as well.