Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nevermind, Fall Just Brings New Pain

A few days ago I was reeling in the amazingness that was the Maryland comeback win, even though it was incredibly hard to watch, and rattling on about how all the fall sports happening somehow manage to make me forget or at least ease the pain of being an Orioles fan in September. I must have been setting myself up for heartbreak. And last night it happened. The Ravens lost 23-20 in overtime to the Steelers after dominating the first half of the game. Thus, the dull constant heartache caused by the end of the Orioles season was replaced by the stabbing heartache of losing a totally winnable game in OT.

So I started to think about some of the different types of losses and which is really harder? Watching a blowout is terrible, but at the same time, you usually see them coming. Or at least had an idea that the team was out of your league. It's like getting rejected by the young Brad Pitt look alike. It stings, but you saw it coming. And it's not that hard to get over. A blow out you didn't see coming is harder to accept. Just ask those any Georgia fan after getting routed by Alabama this weekend. Yeah, they came back in the second half to make it not completely embarrassing but still, they were predicted number one in the preseason, and were down 31-0 at halftime, at home, during a blackout. That stings. But at the same time, you know whats happening pretty quickly. Well before the end of the game you've sunk into despair and can start stages of grief.

But overtime losses have to be the most cruel. The Ravens weren't supposed to win this game. They have a rookie coach and a rookie quarterback, at his first road start, on a Monday night. They had only beaten the Bengals and the Browns, two of the worst teams in football, and were playing against a Steelers team that may have lost to the Eagles but are still ranked pretty high and were expected to run away with the AFC North this season. Which is why when Flacco looked poised, even after multiple sacks; when the defense forced Pittsburgh to kick two field goals instead of touchdowns; when Roethlisberger and the offense were being booed by the Pittsburgh fans; and when our offense managed to score a touchdown; I believed we could win. The hope started to grow. I thought we had a chance before the game, I was pretty sure it would be close, but after the first half I really thought we could win.

Then there were those 15 seconds in the third quarter where the Steelers scored two touchdowns. And my hope was dashed. But all of a sudden the score was tied again. And the teams were headed into overtime. Now, NFL overtime rules are possibly the worst in any sport. So much of it depends on the coin toss. Which is why when the Ravens won the toss I was excited. To be fair I was also excited that they won by calling tails because I always call tails. Hope was once again blooming. All we had to do was get into field goal range and we could win. And Matt Stover is one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL. I started to believe it could happen. We were going to upset the Steelers on Monday night with a rookie.

But then the Ravens screwed up the kickoff return and just kind of stalled. They couldn't stop the Steelers and as I was hoping for a wide right, I saw number one in our divison slip away.

That roller coaster of emotions is why overtime losses are so hard. You have hope, its gone, wait no, there's still a chance, nevermind, oh yes, maybe, maybe, it could happen.....NNNNOOOO!!!!! Overtime losses are like that on again off again relationship. Its good and you think it could work, but then somethings wrong and you part ways, only to realize it was good and maybe you too should try again. In the end you go back and forth a lot but end up there's just a lot of heartbreak. You tell people you learned something from the relationship, and maybe you did, but that doesn't make the heartache any less.

So in true heartbreak fashion, here's what I learned from the overtime loss. Flacco has a lot of potential and really could be our starter of the future. But he is still a rookie and I can't just go fall in love with him because he was nice on the first few dates. The Ravens are more for real than they looked in the preseason, but I can't start planning the wedding a.k.a the playoff run this early in the season, theres still tough times ahead, like the entire NFC East and 15 straight games. Mostly I'm hoping that this overtime loss isn't the first in a series of heartbreaks this season. Because I still haven't learned not to get overly emotionally invested in these games and in this season.