The Baltimore Ravens are the kings of the football world. Alone at the top. Last men standing. The title winners. Ring bearers. Champions. At least a quarter million people flooded the streets of Baltimore and M&T Bank stadium today, to say one last goodbye to the team that brought us joy, and a Lombardi Trophy.
Joe Flacco has fans chanting “MVP” in his direction. Some of the games top players ever in Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk, and Haloti Ngata all won their first Super Bowl. You can never say “he was great, but didn’t win a ring,” about any of them. Of course there is the incomparable Ray Lewis. His storybook ending to a fantastic career. Only a handful of players can say they won the final game they played in. He did his famous dance one more time, then a slower version with the Lombardi Trophy in hand, careful to not pull a Billy Donovan. Then a third one. He didn’t want to leave, and neither did the fans. But as the cherry on top of the Super Bowl win came to a close today, so did a memorable 2012 season leaving us asking, “now what?” Does it get any better than this?
We will start to move on, back to work, back to school, catch March Madness fever, count down the days until Opening Day. Before you know it, our Ravens will be back to work in the sweltering summer heat, grinding out two-a-days, preparing to defend the castle. However, I give you fair warning that it will not get any better than this right here.
The bar has been set now so that anything less than repeating as champions is regarded as failure. We have made it over an entire calender year without having that sinking feeling of depression as the Ravens season ends in despair. It’s only realistic to say that we will feel that pain again one day. Later rather than sooner I hope. If the Ravens don’t walk out of New Jersey as champions next year, we will have felt that nasty feeling.
We want these days, these players, these joyous feelings to last forever. Quite a few players that were key in one way or another will not be back next year. Except for Ray Lewis, we don’t know who won’t be back yet, and we don’t know who will take their place. But you might say with the talent the Ravens possessed on this particular team, that this was as good a chance as any to win a Super Bowl. If there is no Anquan Boldin, Ed Reed, Jacoby Jones, Paul Kruger, Danell Ellerbee next year, can the Ravens still contend for the Super Bowl?
The precious moments that got us here will live in infamy. You can’t get much more special than converting 4th and 29 to get what turned out to be a needed win. You won’t see a 70 yard touchdown bomb with 30 seconds left to force double overtime in a playoff game again anytime soon. I’d be hard pressed to see Tom Brady get shut out in the 2nd half of a home playoff game ever again either. If the 49ers turn out to be as great as everyone is predicting they will be for the next decade, they didn’t beat the Ravens. 5-0 in Super Bowls no more.
The Ravens have grown and overcome so many obstacles. It used to be the Steelers, then it was Roethlisberger specifically. Then we earned a first round bye in the playoffs. This year we beat the unbeatable Peyton Manning. They did the unthinkable and won in New England in a January AFC title game. I’m convinced Joe Flacco can beat anybody, anywhere, anytime. There are no more hurdles. There is nothing else the Ravens have to prove they can do to be considered great. Every bit of success from here on out is expected. It will be celebrated, but will it be as passionate as this past run was, because now it’s what is supposed to be done?
This is why I say, It won’t get any better than this right here. Relish in it. Live it up. Scream it at the top of your lungs everyday until week 1, “The Ravens are Super Bowl Champions!”
This season was special, but the time off is minimal. Coaches and owners are back to work next week. So it’s not too soon for us to look into the future as well. In part 2, we’ll do just that, and ask the big questions regarding this off-season.