by Pat Smith
Enjoy one last week, Ravens fans. When you rest your head on your sad pillow Sunday night, there'll be a new king, a new champion.
All those purple lights last year, all those people who showed up for work with purple wighats and camo pants. Seems like forever ago. Hell, that Week 17 loss at Cincinnati feels like years ago. Quick - who was the Ravens center this year? Admit it; you already forgot.
It was Gino Gradkowski. You're forgiven.
So, the Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos. Those are your choices. For whom or what shall we root, Baltimore fans?
Well, for starters let's root for terrible weather. After 45 years of warm-weather cities and domed stadia, the NFL decided to hold Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey, at the ridiculous arena shared by the Giants and the Jets. (Fun Fact: there have only been two other Super Bowls in history with SEVEN ROMAN NUMERALS!) Only Hackensack, Secaucus, Union City and the Lincoln Tunnel stand between MetLife Stadium and fabulous Manhattan.
That's way better than, say, South Beach or Bourbon Street, right?
Lemme tellya, if I'm a Seattle fan -- or rather, the kind of Seattle fan wealthy enough to afford a Super Bowl ticket and a plane ticket across the country -- I'm mad as hell. Since Year One of Seahawk existance, they've been to one other Super Bowl, in February of 2006, when they lost to the Steelers.
You know where they played that one?
Sorry. That's some tough luck, weathly Seattle fans. Detroit and New York in February. But at least the Detroit game was in a dome.
Allow me to run through a few of the other US cities who have graciously hosted Super Bowls.
Pasadena. (California, not Anne Arundel County.)
Jesus, even Jacksonville would be better than East Rutherford, New Jersey.
But hey, NFL - have it your way! The Super Bowl just happens to fall in the middle of a historic run of single-digit temps in the northeast. Suddenly those Days Inns on the Turnpike are worried about their $1,100 rooms.
So now that we've established that, above all, we'd like to see a paralyzing winter storm on Sunday evening, let's get to the game itself.
Baltimore fans are famous for hating the ancestors of anyone who's ever wronged them. So, obviously, the Broncos are prime for the hatin'.
"But wait, Smitty. The Ravens beat the Broncos in the AFC Championship last year! Remember when Champ Bailey fell down and Jacoby Jones caught that 70-yard bomb from Flacco to send the game to overtime? You're gonna hate on Peyton Manning for that?"
Manning? Who cares about Manning? I remember HorseFace Elway forcing the Baltimore Colts to trade him as soon as they drafted him out of Stanford. A year later, the Colts left. Today, Elway is the Exec VP of football operations for Denver. So, no Denver.
OK, then. Seattle it is.
Not so fast. Remember Steven Hauschka? The kicker who inherited Matt Stover's size 4 kicking shoes? Hauschka last shanked for the purple and black when he missed a 36-yard field goal try on Monday Night Football in November of 2009. Tuesday morning, he was kicking in the unemployment line. Today, he kicks for Seattle and he's good. Pro Bowl caliber, even. Ravens fans hate when a guy who used to suck in Baltimore succeeds somewhere else.
And speaking of Hauschka, know where he went to school? NC State.
The University of Maryland hates their foes from Raleigh. And it's beyond a rivalry. It's very personal. When State was looking for a basketball coach a couple years back, Wolfpack athletic director Debbie Yow - who, as AD at Maryland, feuded bitterly with legendary Terps hoops coach Gary Williams - accused Williams of poisoning her coaching search. Even though Williams was long retired from courtside, Yow was sure he was calling behind all her interviews and badmouthing the job. And now, as UM leaves the ACC for the Big Ten, there are lawsuits on top of lawsuits in a tangle of exit fees and withheld television revenue. NC State is just a reminder of that.
The Seahawks might lead the NFL in Wolfpack alumni. In addition to Hauschka, offensive guard JR Sweezy went to State. And so did quarterback Russell Wilson, until he bolted for Wisconsin in his last year of eligibility.
"I don't know, Smitty. That seems like a stretch."
Sure, it's a stretch. But Baltimore fans are like that. No distance is too far to travel to find a good, strong grudge.
Anyway, tucked all the way out there in the NFC West, the Seahawks don't have much of a history with the Ravens. The teams are 2-2 in head-to-head matchups, with Seattle winning the last two, in 2007 and 2011.
Ultimately, after an 8 and 8 Ravens season, this is kind of a who-cares Super Bowl. I know Ravens fans who are still hungover from that debacle of a parade after last year's win over San Francisco. This was an off-year, a season to take a breath.
So, gun to your head, who will you root for Sunday?
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