Monday, February 4, 2013

Guest TigerBlog - TB-Baltimore Celebrates A Super Win

 Okay, here's TigerBlog's quick take on the Super Bowl:

* Beyonce is hot
* while all of the commercials were basically awful, the one with Bar Refaeli and the computer nerd kid was gross and disturbing and caused TB to look away and definitely hit the mute button
* Jim Harbaugh is a child
* CBS couldn't figure out who the guy John Harbaugh was yelling at was and why?
* Ray Lewis said "when God is with you, who could be against you" and either didn't realize or didn't care that not one person watching thought anything other than "fraud" while remembering Lewis' role in a double homicide and how he has six kids with four women, none of whom he is currently with
* Joe Flacco is pretty good 
* Baltimore's Ed Dickson caught a pass, held the ball out to signal first down and then, when one of the officials reached out for it, dropped it on the turf. Feeling badly, Dickson went to retrieve it, except another official had picked it up already. The next time he caught a pass, Dickson handed the ball directly to the official

Mostly, TB will remember this Super Bowl as the one where even as the 49ers had fourth and goal with less than two minutes to go, he still couldn't figure out if he was rooting harder against Jim Harbaugh or Ray Lewis. 

Ultimately, he figured he was happier that the Ravens won, largely because of TB-Baltimore (Princeton OAC Hall-of-Famer David Rosenfeld). 

As such, TB wasn't surprised when he had an email from Rosenfeld this morning asking for the floor. His thoughts:

So the euphoria hasn’t quite died down yet here in Baltimore, and any lull in the excitement will end Tuesday morning when the victory parade and celebration winds through downtown. Seemingly, despite raucous postgame celebrations in the streets Sunday night, there were no major incidents, a rarity in today’s world. It’s been an insanely liberating few months for Baltimore sports fans, starting with the Orioles’ surprise season and ending with the Ravens’ Super Bowl run.

If there’s one thing I would tell the world outside Baltimore, it’s that the Ravens have particularly great fans, so at least be happy for them. It’s a hyper-local fan base from an often-maligned city (check out this map from Deadspin; essentially, the entire group of Ravens fans make up five suburban counties and the city, the Eastern Shore has a very small population) —which leads to an us-against-them mentality that cannot be escaped during football season. Ravens fans are somewhat like Eagles fans, only nicer. It’s an extremely youthful fan base: the Giants, Steelers, Cowboys and Packers have fans because of tradition; the Ravens are 17 years old — their core group consists of folks who have grown tired of listening to their parents talking about Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts.

Plus, from the game-day perspective, the fans are simply loud and enthusiastic; maybe Seattle beats out the noise at M&T Bank Stadium as far as outdoor stadiums go, but it’s a close call.

As for the game, as usual, two weeks of over-analysis proved to be pretty much wrong, except for the fact that it finished as a close game. I saw the great Hank Goldberg on ESPN enthusiastically take “the under.” Meanwhile, the teams combined for 835 total yards, which probably would have been closer to 900 had Jacoby Jones not run back a kickoff for a touchdown. Forgotten among the thoughts of a tight, defensive showdown was the fact that the Ravens scored more points this season than any in franchise history and that much of Baltimore’s struggles during the season were on defense, despite the fact that it was the offensive coordinator who was let go. Speaking of Cam Cameron, if you want to read about an entirely decent person, as opposed to say...Jim Harbaugh, you should read this story.

Of course, kudos to the Ravens offense start with Joe Flacco, one of three starters for the Ravens who played college football in the FCS, or what was then called I-AA. The center who snapped the ball to Flacco during the game was veteran Matt Birk who, as Princeton fans may remember, played for Harvard. In addition to Flacco, Birk and cornerback Corey Graham, who played at New Hampshire, the Ravens also got huge contributions from Jones, who went to Division II Lane College, and Cary Williams, who played at Division II Washburn after transferring from Fordham.

Watching a player like Flacco perform in the Super Bowl is a great reminder of why athletic programs like Princeton’s, for instance, matter just as much as Alabama in every aspect besides the number of fans who attend the games. He was determined to not be good enough to start at the University of Pittsburgh – hardly one of the top programs in Division I – yet watching these highlights from his senior season at Delaware make you wonder who made that decision.

And the fact that he’s “boring?” Frankly, it’s a refreshing change from the athletes who usually get the attention and the acclaim. For as much as a team needs a Ray Lewis or a Terrell Suggs, it needs guys like Flacco just the same. Honestly, there was no chance that he would be nervous entering the game. And I still don’t understand the backlash against Flacco for saying he thought he was the best quarterback in the league. What coach or fan or teammate wouldn’t want their quarterback to think that, as long as he was working as hard as he could to accomplish that goal?

The night before the game, I watched some of the Princeton basketball game against Columbia, and I was once again reminded of the talent that lives in teams that get their national television chances on the NBC Sports Network at 6:00 instead of ESPN at 9:00. Even on television, it’s easy to tell that Ian Hummer could play for Michigan or Indiana. The way that Princeton runs its offense is akin to the “pistol” offense run by the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick, a constant read-and-react scheme that makes it difficult to take away every option available; sometimes, the only hope for the defense is that you miss the wide-open shot, or overthrow the wide-open pass.

Anyway, I hope that Princeton fans are happy for the Ravens today. This victory was never about Lewis and his retirement or the happiness of one brother and the despair of the other.

Like Flacco said after the game, it’s proof that a good team is a good team, even if 99.9% of the country doesn’t see it that way.

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