You learn so much by listening to sports talk radio call-in shows. In just the last week I've learned that the Ravens were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs in week one; the Super Bowl champs have officially become the most embarrassing thing about Baltimore, beating out the time the Jones Falls river blew up and our citywide infatuation with syphilis. I learned that when Joe Flacco signed his $120.6 million contract, he was overpaid by roughly $120.59 million, and that he might be the worst quarterback since that canine QB took a turn at the option in Air Bud: Golden Receiver. John Harbaugh couldn't coach his way out of a paper bag (though, in his defense, coaching is an odd choice of paper-bag exit strategy), and Ozzie Newsome has traded in his genius hat for a dunce cap full of stupid juice which he beer bonged before trading away Anquan Boldin, the greatest receiver of all time.
Oh, and how about them O's? Get your forks, boys and girls, they're done. Remember when Buck Showalter was a hero in this town? The guy who saved the Orioles? The callers sure as hell don't remember it. The Birds lost series to the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox and fell out of contention in the AL East. Nothing they can do now but fire the bullpen, bench all the starters, and start over with just Chris Davis and Manny Machado. Oh wait. They took three of four from the last-place White Sox, a team whose MVP is the Houston Astros for making them look, well, not good, but not historically bad. World Series, baby! I'm packing my bags for . . . where do they have the World Series? Is it in New Orleans this year?
Hey! Baltimore sports fans, let's take a deep breath, maybe focus on our third eyes, ohm it up, and say a few Hail Marys for good measure. In the classic Baltimore sports health rubric created by great sage Mr. Chuck Thompson, the beer remains pretty damned chilly. First off, for all of the people lamenting the loss of Boldin and ready to crown him the new and improved Jerry Rice, let's give it a few weeks, shall we? It's hard to argue with Boldin's numbers: 13 receptions for 203 yards and a TD in his 49ers debut. Sure, those stats would have looked swell coming against Denver, but first off-and it may sound like an excuse-but no one could have predicted the fluke injury to the sturdy Dennis Pitta. With Pitta still in the lineup, Boldin isn't missed so much. It's easy to think, For a few million, we could have kept Q in the lineup. What the hell was Ozzie thinking? Well, for one thing, he was thinking the defense needs help. With Boldin in purple, the Ravens don't have cap room for Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty. We saw flashes of what the Ravens pass rush will be in week one, but mark my words, these guys, along with Terrell Suggs, are going to be terrifying. With Boldin here, no pass rush. And yeah, he had a great week. Let's check in after he's played Seattle twice and the Texans. Boldin is very good, and he can eat the lunch of most corners, but against the big boys, he disappears.
One week into his title defense and fans want to label Flacco a bust. "He's not in the same class as Brady, Manning, Brees, and Rodgers." Let me search for a bit of subtlety in my response. . . . "No shit!" He's not in the conversation for the greatest to ever play the position. Does that mean he's a bust? Hell no. The guy can play. He had 183 yards and a TD in the first half playing a stout Denver D, despite throwing to a receiving corps with Hall of Fame hands. And if you think that is praise for the hands of Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark, Hall of Fame busts are made of bronze. I think there's a fair bit of hardened metal in those hands. Yeah, yeah, Flacco was a spot of luck from three picks and a turnover TD, but he was just as close to three TDs. The league did the Ravens no favors sending them into Denver, a mile up and gasping as they faced one of the best teams in the league, and one with a score to settle at that. Halfway through, however, this was a game. If Clark catches the TD at the end of the half and Harbaugh throws the challenge flag during Denver's first drive of the second, we could be talking about a Ravens upset win. And remember, it would have been an upset. So they lost by 22. It's still just one in the loss column, and, BTW, they remain tied at the top (or bottom) of the AFC North after the Steelers (who looked AWFUL), Bengals (who blew a big lead late), and Browns (who are still the Browns) each lost.
And as for the Birds, they are not going to win the East, but at the time of this writing, they are just two games in back of the Rays for the second Wild Card spot. We know this team is flawed. At 142 games in, the starting rotation has produced just one complete game and the bullpen that was a juggernaut last season has got a jaw by Faberge this year, but, man, this club can hit. It's easy to doubt Buck this year, as Baltimore, being a fickle town, has put its expectations through the roof. Last year, every move was magic, this season? Hey! It's September and the Orioles are still in it. The Rays have shown a few chinks in the armor and the Birds are right there if they stumble.
So radio-show call-in fans, come out of your mothers' basements, sit in the sun, and maybe do a sun salutation or two (in yoga, mouth-breathing is encouraged, so you'll fit right in) and take a look at what's really going on. There is still a hell of a lot of football to play and, at the end of it, Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh, and Ozzie Newsome will be going to the playoffs for the sixth straight year. Once they're there, it's a crapshoot. And the Orioles, after 14 straight losing seasons are about to finish with their second straight winning record. No guarantees here, but I'm putting my money on the Birds catching the Rays and making another playoff appearance. Any $10 takers? Now excuse me, my beer is chilled and ready.