Saturday, November 29, 2008

Terp is a Four Letter Word

I'll admit I was totally unaware that a game was even going on Thursday. I was solidly in the grips of a food coma. And I really didn't expect much of the Terps playing agianst Michigan State, a team that came into the season with high expectations. So when I was out at the bar later that night trying to make sure I consumed the average 4500 calories, I was shocked to hear that Maryland not only beat Michigan State, but beat them by 18 points, 80-62. All of a sudden that damned hope started to seep back into my mind. My friend quickly pointed out that Maryland had to play Gonzaga the next night and would in all probability forget to show up. I nodded but the food/alcohol stupor numbed thoughts of a blow out the next day. All of a sudden I thought we could win the Old Spice Classic. I mean, Gary Williams could be an Old Spice spokesman. It would be fate.

I know that I caution everyone else agianst false hope about a flukie team. But I succumbed to it myself. So the next night I headed out with some friends to watch the game. Halfway through the second period, a large black box appeared on the screen of the TV I was watching, obscuring the game. The game was on several other TVs, all working fine, but they were all hard to see from where I was sitting. I am not joking. The TV I was watching censored the game. When the game ended, it went back to normal. I could see the edges of the screen but the game or the score. I chose to stay where I was sitting and forget about the end of the game. The Terps were outplayed the whole time I watched, I figured it wasn't going to get any better. I was right. Maryland lost 81-59.

Maryland shot a horrendous 37% from the floor and landed only one three point shot. I'm afraid that this team is going to take me on a rollercoster ride not unlike the Maryland football team. My problem is that I can't stop watching. It might be a depressing season, but everytime there is a bright spot, I'll be unable to suppress my foolish optimism and will get crushed once again. Gonzaga is a good team, there's no shame in losing to them. However, there's always a little shame in getting blown out. Hopefully, they'll use the Gonzaga game as motivation to play well agianst Georgetown on Sunday.

Sometimes I hate that I love sports so much. I'll have plenty of curses for this team as the season presses on. But I will still probably involuntarily finding myself defending them against naysayers. Even when I am saying the same things on a regular basis. I can't help it, as much as I hate this team some times, I will always hate Duke more. It's just the way it is. Stupid Terps.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Topsy Turvy ACC

So I'm home for the week and this means that I will be neglecting my blog while I do other important things like fill out my Bar application and stuff my face with as much Thanksgiving fare as is possible for a small girl. Yes, I'm one of those people that starves myself for a couple weeks before Thanksgiving so that I can come home and eat four times my weight in food in one day. This way after Thanksgiving, I really only have to starve myself for a short time before I resume the binge eating around Christmas. Yes, I am the epitome of 'healthy eater,' whatever, exercise is for people without the will power to just not eat.

Well, I'm back in Baltimore for Turkey Day and figured it was as good a time as any to give my thoughts on the ridiculousness that is ACC football this year. Now that Maryland has finally eliminated themselves, well I guess technically it was FSU that eliminated them, I can stop paying attention to college football and focus on the train wreck that is Maryland basketball. But I have some final thoughts about ACC football first.

All season, people have bemoaned the fact that there has been no clear front runner to win the ACC. Every week a new team was on top, I think before last week there were only three teams mathematically eliminated from playing in the ACC Championship game. And people seemed to think this was a terrible tragedy. I know I lamented about Maryland's incredible inconsistent play, and as a fan I wanted them to do better, but I think the conference is better for missing a clear number one.

Isn't this why teams are in conferences? They play other school with teams around the same caliber. The conference games are supposed to be competitive. Otherwise, what's the point? Just make it a free for all. Get rid of the conferences, the Big East is already trying to do this, why not just join in with them. While no one like their team to lose, everyone likes their team to be in the race, and a well balanced conference makes that possible. Maryland just had it backwards. They beat the good teams in the conference and were destroyed by the weaker teams. But what's the fun if there is no competition?

The ACC has never been a college football powerhouse. And honestly, it doesn't look like it's going to happen anytime soon. But at least most of the teams are competitive among themselves now. So complain about the lack of a juggernaut if you want to. I'm going to appreciate the even keel of this conference, even if it does make it topsy turvy. It makes me hopeful for next season. Because you can't be true sports fan if you don't believe in maybe next year.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Fun Times at Ravens Stadium

Yesterday the Ravens pounded the Eagles 36-7 for a thrilling 60 minutes of game time. Luckily, it wasn't a close game so we, the fans, were not subjected to talk of possible ties and players who may or may not know the rules of overtime. This was, on a personal note, the game I was looking forward to the most all season. In Baltimore, there are several teams we love to beat, including the Steelers, the Colts(though that never seems to happen) and the Redskins, among others. But Philadelphia was really the team I was most hoping to win against. I even took the energy to bundle up in 400 layers and spent the money to go to the game.

I live in Philadelphia for school, so I have to put up with Eagles fans pretty much all year round. And while I was happy for the citizens of Philadelphia to win the World Series, and happier to join in their revelry, I have no love lost for the Eagles. Mostly, I just hate that stupid chant that seems to emerge any time there are more than two Eagles fans in the room, no matter what the event. It just annoys the hell out of me. Also, I now have a lot of friends who are Eagles fans, and there is always competition and friendly rivalries between fans. I knew that no matter what happened the rest of the season, if the Ravens lost to the Eagles, I would be hearing about it for years. And I just wasn't ready to deal with that.

So thank you, the Baltimore Ravens, for allowing me to hold my head up high upon my return to the City of Brotherly Love. Those four interceptions, the safety, the high score, and pretty much the complete dominance of the Eagles allowed me to go basically the whole game without hearing that stupid fight song. The only slip up was the runback for a touchdown. But that was over so fast and was the only pause in the thrashing you gave Philadelphia, that no time need be spent dwelling on it. The Ravens even succeeded in getting McNabb benched, a rare feat.

I actually like McNabb, despite his inability to manage the clock, his lack of knowledge about the rules of overtime, and his puking on the sidelines, he has always been a very likeable guy. He's always smiling and composed. He appears to be trying hard despite the situation, and he never seems to be on the wrong side of his teammates or coach. (With the exception of T.O., who seems to put himself on everyone's wrong side.) So while I'm a little sad it looks like McNabb's legacy is going to be mired in his overtime incident instead of all the games he won for the Eagles and his years of consistent play, I can't help but rejoice in my team's overpowering performance.

The Ravens were able to rebound from last weeks abyssmal performance and show their resilience. This team is now still in contention to win the AFC North, at 7-4, only one game behind the Steelers. And if the season ended today, they would claim a wildcard spot and make the playoffs. But right now that doesn't matter to me. This team has won the game I really wanted them to win, and has done much better than I expected this season. So right now I'm just going to bask in the glow of this win for a little longer.

Photo from the Baltimore Ravens

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Vasquez Steps Up, Terps Stay Perfect, Fans Still Have Doubts

A win is a win right, even when it comes in overtime against an America East Conference team. The Terps beat Vermont last night when Vasquez managed to tie the game in the last few seconds to force overtime. I would like to take a moment to say that this is disgraceful. While, I'm happy Maryland won, but they shouldn't be forcing overtime against small conference teams. They should b winning outright, by a large margin. I shudder to think about what's going to happen next Thursday when they play Michigan State. Hopefully I will be in a complete food coma by game time and won't notice the pounding my Terps will be receiving.

Right now though, I guess I should be basking in the fact that after playing three sub par teams we are still undefeated. Because the losses are going to start piling up pretty soon. Well maybe not that soon, maybe not until conference play, but they are going to happen. Maybe this team of youngster will surprise me the way Maryland football surprises me every weekend. Which could be a good or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.

The upside of this team is that it is relatively young. With only one senior, hopefully they will be returning almost the entire squad next year. So as long as they can make progress through this season, next season should almost certainly be better. I know it's a little early to write off this season, but I think I might have a happier winter if I don't get my hopes up with this team. I'm just going to enjoy the wins, inevitably there will be one over a big team that we are not supposed to beat, and ignore the losses.

I know this is a pessimistic way to start the season, especially for one of my favorite sports, but I just don't have faith in Gary any more. He's let me down the last few years. He got my hopes up and then crushed them. I not ready for that type of heartbreak again. I'm not even ready to be cautiously optimistic. Maybe the Terps can show me that I should give them another chance. But I'm not counting on it this year.

Photo: Damian Strohmeyer from the Sports Illustrated Vault

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Journey to Hockey Fandom

So this is my first full season as a hockey fan. I guess I picked the right time to start being a Caps fan, they made a huge turn around last season and somehow made the playoffs, but left after losing the seventh game of the first round to the angry Flyers. Right now they are leading the Southeastern Conference with an 11-4-3 record. They lead with 25 points. I haven't actually watched any hockey this season, but I have been trying to follow the Capitals through news and standings. Yes, I'm a sorry fan, but I am trying.

I know how Alex Ovechkin left the team for a few games to be with his ailing grandfather in Russia. I know how Alex Semin stepped up in his absence and is maturing into real leader on this team. I know how Ovechkin has found his stride again and has become a point scoring machine. And I know that I should be paying more attention.

Hockey fandom is new to me. I forget that I like it until I start paying attention, then suddenly I realize that I missed it. It's weird to think a year ago I probably couldn't have told you a single player on the Capitals. Now, I try to follow what's happening with them on a regular basis. I'm not at the point where I go out of my way to watch games yet, but who knows what will happen as the season wears on.

The Capitals are shaping up to be a formidable team this year. Not just the Alex the Great show, well maybe the Alex the Great and Alex the Awesome. As this team matures and players come into their own and still work great together, this is a team that is built to win. And after a heartbreaking loss in the first round of the playoffs last year, they will have the experience to go farther and do better this year. I don't know what's happening around the rest of the league but according the the ESPN power rankings the Caps are 6th. But that's the same world wide leader in sports that didn't have hockey power rankings for two weeks with no explanation. So, take them with a few grains of salt.

I don't know what's going to happen. But so far I'm enjoying becoming a hockey fan, and I will really try to go to a game soon. I really want to be a better fan.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sports Czar

So, I've tried to avoid talking about politics on this site despite my mild obsession with it. But this is an issue I feel comfortable weighing in on and espousing my views since it does not seem to be a very partisan issue. Yes, I'm talking about the BCS playoff system and President-Elect Barack Obama's statements that the will through his weight around to get one. Several other sports bloggers have thrown around the idea of a Sports Czar or Playoff Czar. Since I am graduating in the spring and will have a law degree and need a job, I would like to throw my hat into the proverbial ring.

I'm sure when Obama says he's willing to throw his weight around, he actually means he'll tell someone to bug the BCS guys and make them fix this under some imaginary threat and the watchful eye of the president. Hey, if I was president I would use my newfound power to get random things I want done that would also make a bunch of people happy.

I would be happy to fill the role of person who works for President Obama with the BCS to get this playoff system into action. He will have a lot of other stuff to worry about, like fixing the economy, resolving the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in a reasonable manner, fixing healthcare, balancing the budget, fixing Social Security, all the while saving the environment, and increasing the standing of the United States around the world. So, I'd say playoff shouldn't be his top priority. However, all those are going to take a long time, so anything that can be done definitively and quickly will remind people that they still like President Obama, and that his administration can get things done.

The problem with the BCS system is that there is no clear champion. There's a championship game, but just some formula and voting system that no one really understands to decide who gets to go the bowl game. However, colleges like bowl games. They generate revenue for the schools and raise awareness for the programs. No one believes that the team that wins the Tire Bowl is a Champion of anything, but schools and alumni like it. They get to feel good about their teams.

So here is my proposal. First, a playoff system is not going to happen overnight, television contracts and whatnot. So before next year lets make the formula better. I would put Nate Silver in charge of this. He's a stat genuis who happens to like sports and politics and is a big supporter of President Obama. If he was able to predict the popular vote percentages within .1% then he should be able to come up with a better formula for the rankings. And we can keep the rankings. Everyone likes to see their team ranked, even if it doesn't mean much. Right now, there are power rankings for every sport for all sorts of random categories. So if we keep the rankings, we need to make them better.

Next, take the top eight teams for a playoff bracket. The top eight teams are usually pretty easy to figure out. I will talk to some consultants about whether all these teams have to have won their conferences or whether they are the top eight teams. This issue can be fully debated at another time. An eight team playoff will add three weeks onto the season. And only for a few teams. So schools could cut the season by one game and eliminate one of the cupcake teams they play. This will make college football more competitive and fun to watch anyway.

Also, lets keep the other bowls. Colleges still get to keep the promotion and the revenue. Fans still get to say they won a bowl. Those games are meaningless anyway, so why not keep them. They bring plenty of fans such as myself much joy from watching.

That's my platform on changing the college football system. I have already addressed the NFL overtime situation. So if there is anyone out there who would like to appoint me to be the Sports Czar or wants me to meet with the President-Elect, just let me know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ravens Get Giant Beating

The Ravens lost yesterday at the Meadowlands to the Giants 30-10. They were outplayed in pretty much every aspect of the game. The Giants ran all over the Ravens' top ranked rush defense. They threw the ball well, and they shut down the Ravens' running game, putting more pressure on rookie Joe Flacco. But honestly, I'm not that upset.

Usually, I'm painfully pissed off after a loss, but yesterday, I just didn't have my usual ire. Maybe it's because Maryland has actually been winning recently and still controls its destiny in the ACC Atlantic Division. But maybe, it's because this Ravens team has already way exceeded my expectations. I picked them to go 5-11, they've already done better than that. This team has come a long way since the first preseason game where Flacco didn't have a clue.

Right now the Ravens are one game behind in the AFC North and well situated to get a wild card spot even if they don't win the division. Really, at the beginning of the season were we even talking about the playoffs? No. This was a rebuilding year, new coach, new quarterback, young offensive line and lot of injuries in the secondary. This team isn't giving up, they are going to continue to play solid the rest of the season, and next season is going to look even better.

The Giants beat the Ravens. The Giants looked like a better team. Really, the Giants looked like the best team I've seen all year. They are the defending Superbowl Champs. And they only have one loss and are leading what is considered the toughest division in the NFL, the NFC East. There's no shame in losing to the Giants, it's not like we tied the Bengals. That would just be shameful.

So instead of being angry about this loss, lets focus on the next game. The Ravens need to win against the bumbling Eagles team. I mean they tied the Bengals. And their quarterback was not aware that an NFL game could end in a tie. I mean it hasn't happened in six seasons, but that doesn't seem like much of an excuse.

So Ravens, please, try to learn from last week, and then go out there and pummel the Eagles in Baltimore. Otherwise, fans will have a real reason to be angry.

END NOTE: My ticket to the Ravens-Eagles games seems to have fallen through. So I am now in the market again for a ticket. Shoot me an email at if you have an extra you are looking to get rid of. Thanks.

Photo: AP courtesy of the Charlotte Observer

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Maryland Football Beats Yet Another Ranked Team

The Maryland Terrapins have been perfect at home this year. And they kept up their unlikely streak of beating ranked teams by beating University of North Carolina yesterday 17-15. So after beating 4 ranked teams this season; Clemson, Cal, and Wake Forest, they have managed to climb their way back into the BCS rankings themselves. They are ranked 25 in the BCS poll and 22 in the AP poll. Most important though, is that the Terps control their own destiny.

Maryland plays next week against Florida State, who fell from the rankings after a loss to Boston College yesterday. The Terps are playing at home, in Byrd Stadium, so even though Florida State is no longer ranked, the Terps still look good to win this next game. Hopefully, it will be sunnier next week and for the sake of the fans in attendance. This week was the second miserable rain soaked game loyal Terps have had to sit through. And they were both close wins, the first being the Homecoming game against NC State. I'd be happy to keep winning in the rain, but it makes for sloppy play and discomfort for the fans who are a big part of the reason the Terps are undefeated at home.

Next weeks game is very important, because with a win give Maryland some seperation in the ACC Atlantic Division race. The ACC is such a mess that it could be a game to clinch the division depending on what happens in several other games. It would give them larger lead over Florida State and set them up nicely for their last game against Boston College. Could this team that has been hard pressed to string together two quality games actually compete for the ACC title?

Hopefully, the Maryland team that played yesterday is the one that will show up on Saturday. This team has lacked consistency all year hopefully they can find it for the last few games. It would renew my faith in Fridge and Maryland football in general. The last few seasons have been rough and it's nice to be able to watch a winning team again. It's really amazing how much a Maryland win improves my mood.

So here's hoping for a good game next week. GO TERPS!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Terps Are Undefeated

Last night, the Maryland mens basketball team had their season opener. They beat Bucknell 81-52 and are now undefeated on the season. Hopefully they will be able to continue winning on Tuesday when they play the Youngstown State Penguins. And since this is a team I've never heard of, I'm confident that the Terps can start the season 2-0. In fact, the Terps don't run up agianst any real competition until the fourth game of the season when they play against No. 7 ranked Michigan State. That will game will be a real test on these young Terrapins.

Regardless of how we do this year, it's always nice to start the season off with a few wins. It gets the confidence up and allows the team to find a good chemistry. And with the win over Bucknell last night, hopefully the team is finding a way to come together. Maryland was able to shoot 43% from the field and even managed a respectable 73% in free throws. For anyone who has watched this team in recent years, you have seen how terrible Maryland's free throw shooters have been. It's almost been like they don't want the easy points.

With only one senior on the team this year, David Neal, who isn't even a starter, the Terps are going to have to look elsewhere for leadership. If Vasquez has matured then he is the obvious choice. He has started since his freshman year, and led the team in minutes, rebounds and assists. He was second in scoring with 13 points, however he made only 5 of 16 shots, which probably means he still has work to do on his shot selection. Last year he had a tendency to try too hard and just throw the ball up there and make something happen. Hopefully this season he can learn to take less shots but score more points.

I'm hoping this team can come together during the beginning of the season and develop some great chemistry before heading into ACC play. The ACC is pretty stacked this year, with four teams ranked including the unanimous number 1. The Terps need to find their way before ACC play begins in January, otherwise, it's going to be a long spring, and another miserable March.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Uniforms Hopefully Not the Only Change Before Next Season

Today the Orioles unveiled their new uniforms. While I'm happy to report they have not only put Baltimore back on the away uniforms, they have also added a Baltimore sleeve patch to their home and alternate uniforms. I'm glad to see this change. When you have 11 losing seasons, you should try to placate your fans in whatever way you can. But hopefully, these new uniforms will just be one of many changes as we head into the new seasons.

The change the Orioles need most is a new shortstop. Baltimore went through one lousy shortstop after another last year. I'm pretty sure one game, one shortstop had 3 errors, including a ball go through his legs. I can't even remember which one, a testament to how bad they all were. For a team that has had historically good players in the shortstop position, it's hard to fathom how we have went from All Star to Single A players.

The uniform changes are a good analogy for Baltimore management. They waited too long to address the fans desires, and then made just enough changes to show that there has been some change. While they addressed the need to put Baltimore back on the away jerseys, they altered the oriole bird, but kept it as an ornithological correct depiction. I love the old cartoon bird and wished they would have gone back to that. Maybe it's about small steps. The bird was changed slightly so maybe, next year they'll make big changes.

I'm hoping the biggest changes are on the field and on the mound. In addition to a new shortstop, the O's should also be looking for a new first baseman. They have good catcher coming up in the farm system, so really shouldn't worry about that right now. And hopefully some of the pitching prospects will work out. But the Orioles shouldn't be tempted by some of the big names on the hot stove. Yes, it would be nice to think about Manny or Teixiera, but that big money could be better spent on some lesser known young players that will stay in the system a long time. And money definitely needs to be spent on some pitching before a first baseman or outfielder. While they are talented players and big bats, right now solid fielding and pitching will do more good for this team than big names.

I personally would love to see Teixiera return to the Baltimore area and play for the team he grew up cheering for. But, unless Baltimore is one piece away from contention, it doesn't make sense to splurge on him. And it would take a big splurge, because he's not going to come to a losing team willingly, when he can make good money with a contender. I'm just trying to be realistic. Also, anyone who watched this team at the end of the season last year knows they are way more than one piece away from a contender, though they seem to be trying to give up their losing ways.

I'm excited to see what other changes are in store for O's faithful over the off season. And hope that Andy McPhail continues to make smart moves and address the changes that need to be made as well as changes the fans want to be made.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

College Basketball Season Starts, Feelings of Trepidation Begin

Last night college basketball season tipped off with Duke beating some cupcake team. I know that's how big college programs start their seasons in every sport. Whatever, I'm fine with that, I like to see a win in the season opener as much as anyone. And with the Maryland team this year, we're going to need all the cupcake teams we can get, or maybe not.

Last season, Maryland gave up some easy wins to not very good teams, including American and Ohio. Yet, they managed to beat UNC while healthy, one of the few teams to do that. I fear that Maryland basketball might suffer the same problems as Maryland football, they play to the level of their opponent and forget to show up sometimes. This is a young team that is lacking in leadership and big men. Yes, they have Vasquez and Hayes as solid guard options, and that new freshman who was magically declared eligible, but this is a team that is going to struggle with consistency.

I know I'm sounding pessimistic again, as I tend to do at the beginning of any season for a team I follow, but lets be fair. I haven't had a reason to be optimistic before any season started this year. And with the Terps missing the NCAA Tournament 3 out of the last 4 years, and having an epic collapse last year, can I really get excited. I'd rather be surprised if Maryland does well than disappointed if they play terribly.

I believe that the ACC is the best conference in college basketball. Yeah, some people will argue that the Big East is the best, but I think they lose credibility when they have so many teams, they can't all play in the Big East tournament. The ACC was a little weaker than normal last year, but it's still a force to be reckoned with. And with 6 teams from the ACC ranked in the top 40 on and 7 teams in the top 65.

This seems to be yet another rebuilding year for Maryland. Though I hope Gary will be able to motivate the team to somehow make the tournament. I'm tired of getting excited only to wind up watching the NIT every year. I'd rather go out in the first round to the Tourney than go deep in the NIT. And I think most people would agree.

I'm not going to make any preseason predictions as to what the Terps record is going to be. I really haven't put that much effort into analyzing the schedule and looking at how other teams are doing. And I really just have no idea what's going to happen. Maybe, Gary will get his alcoholic ass together and be able to motivate this young team and coach them into solid play, while showing the fans and alumni that there is a lot of upside for this young talent. And maybe, Gary will get so drunk he'll pass out mid game, leading everyone to think he finally had that heart attack everyone sees coming. Or maybe, he'll actually have a heart attack during an ACC game. Really, I can see any of these possibilities happening.

One thing I'm pretty certain of though, this whole, I won a Championship seven years ago routine is not going to fly much longer if the Terps keep missing the tournament. Maryland fans expect this team to be competitive every year and are getting tired of going to the NIT. If Gary doesn't turn things around this season, a lot more people will be calling for his head.

Photo: AP and found on the Baltimore Sun website

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ravens Are Bowl Eligible

Well, I was wrong. Before the season began, I predicted the Ravens final record to be 5-11. As of right now the Ravens are 6-3 are tied with Pittsburgh for first place in the AFC North after a 41-13 win over the Texans. And the Ravens are looking better than anyone I know expected and have compiled four straight wins. The Ravens are taking advantage of the weaker teams they have to play and getting the wins they need to get. They have only beaten one team with a winning record, but two of the three games they have lost were very close. And as the Ravens seemingly get better each week, they will probably have a good chance to make the playoffs.

A lot of this renewed hope in Baltimore is due to the 'three headed monster" running back approach. Call me an elitist if you will, I am going to rename this the Ravens' Hydra. I think it sounds better, and makes sense. Running backs Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and Le'Ron McClain combine to tear apart defenses week after week. It seems as if a team tries to shut one down just has to worry about another. In a way, if you cut off one head, another grows back in its place.

One reason that the Hydra is so effective is the offensive line good play. This line was suspect coming into this season. Plagued with injury and inexperienced players, the O-line has overcome these obstacles and come together quite nicely. They open running lanes and help to make the big plays. They will however face a big challenge next week against the Giants' defense. And we'll get to see if the Ravens' offense is really coming together or has just capitalized against weak defenses.

The Hydra and the offensive line also allows Joe Flacco to excel. The Ravens are able to run the ball so there is less pressure on Flacco. And the offensive line relieves pressure by giving him plenty of time in the pocket. He's been able to mature from game to game and can lead the team down the field. He can spread the defense by throwing the long ball, man, he has a rocket for an arm. And it turn, this helps the Hydra to succeed. If a defense stuffs the box to block the run, he can throw a long pass and open up the field.

Every part of this team seems to be working together to make the other parts better. The second string quarterback, Troy Smith comes in and runs the option, he creates another threat and adds another highly skilled player to the offense. He enables Flacco to become a receiver, which helps to confuse defenses. And receiver Derek Mason has been running great routes making Flacco's passes look even better because Mason keeps coming down with the ball. Even Todd Heap was getting in on the action last week, reminding everyone why we used to love this tight end.

Cam Cameron has done a great job this year making this offense work. He deserves some type of award for finally giving Baltimore an offense. I'm happy Miami was so bad last year so the Ravens were able to pick him up. I guess something good came out of the 1-15 season.

But this is still a very good defense. Ray Lewis, who people were saying was past his prime, came down with two interceptions yesterday. He continues to be a dynamic force on the field and great leader on the sidelines. Even in his 13th season he continues to be effective in leading the defense which has not allowed a 100 yard rusher in recent memory. Only three teams this season have scored over 20 points on the season and only one team, the Colts, have scored over 30 points. Those are impressive numbers. This is a defense that cannot be overlooked, even though the offense has been shining this year as well.

Expect the defense to play a big part next week against the Giants, the defending Super Bowl Champions are 8-1 this season and are pulling away from the NFC East, considered the best conference in football right now. They are looking to be serious contenders again this year, and a win by the Ravens would be a big statement about how far this young Baltimore team has come.
It should be an exciting game next week. We'll see if the Ravens' Hydra combined with new dynamic offense and brutal defense can shut down the Giants' own three headed monster. It'll be a good test for the Ravens who have so far this season exceeded expectations. While playoffs this year would be great, knowing that we are able to compete with the best teams in the league will be a good enough result for me.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fear the Turkey

Last night Maryland went out on the national stage to make a statement. Unfortunately that statement was "this is not our year." Maryland has played well some games and dismally others. They are only half a game out of first place in the ACC Costal Division but they were outplayed in every way by Virginia Tech last night. All night they traded touchdowns for field goals or punts. They wasted excellent field position time and time again. And they put almost no pressure on the VT quarterback Sean Glennon, who is still recovering from a high ankle sprain. Maryland can't even rush a gimpy guy. That is not good.

The only glimmer of offense came when Heyward-Bey caught a pass from Turner and ran 63 yards to the end zone. It finally looked like there was a change in momentum. After that, a VT player was hit by the kickoff and Maryland recovered. But even with such great field position all the Terps could muster was a field goal to make the score 20-13 VT. And that was the end of the comeback for Maryland. The final score was 23-13 VT. I know that Da'Rel Scott is injured and so we have to rely more on the passing game. But this was a game of wasted opportunities much like this season has been one of wasted potential.

It's possible that Maryland could turn around and win the next three games and go to the ACC Championship game. As of now two out of the last three teams they play are ranked. And the Terps have been prefect this year against ranked teams. But last night showed that they are undersized and inconsistent. The defensive line averaged about 50 lbs. lighter than VT's offensive line. Fifty pounds is almost half a person, not a football player, but a person like me. Why are we so small?

The reason is that our recruiting sucks. VT is in Blacksburg, VA. It's a nice town, but it's in the middle of nowhere. And they recruit way better than Maryland, which is right outside of DC. How is this possible. Is our team that terrible that players are willing to go live in the middle of nowhere rather than play for us? Why can't we get bigger recruits? I know the ACC isn't really a football conference, and I can understand players wanting to live in boondocks to play for a SEC or Big 10 team. But we're losing these players to VT. Come on.

I know that it's not normal to do this with a winning team that has beaten a bunch of big teams this year, but I'm calling for Fridge's head. Or at least calling for some better recruiting. Yes, we've won the big games, but imagine how great we'd have been this year if we'd actually won the games we were supposed to win as well. It looks to me like there is a problem with the leadership. And maybe it's time for some new blood.

Maryland had the opportunity to be great this year. They could be dominating the ACC right now if they would just show up all the time. I know the team has made big steps since last year and I appreciate that. And maybe it'll continue next year. But it's just as likely that next year Maryland could finish at the bottom of the ACC.

So come on, I'd like a little consistency. And a bigger defensive line. I hope the Fridge is listening, because I doubt I'm the only Maryland alumni to feel this way.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Not So Fantasy Thursday

Now I like football as much as the next girl, well, maybe more, but I don't really like NFL games on Thursday nights. Besides the fact that the games are on a channel that no one gets, I almost feel like it's too much football. I know, this sounds like crazy talk. How can one have too much football? I'm not exactly sure, but I think the answer is by having Thursday night NFL games.

Now, I'm perfectly happy with Thursday night college football games. In fact, I love those. (This might have something to do with Maryland playing Virginia Tech tonight.) But Thursday seems to early in the week to have NFL games. It gives team an extremely short week unless they are playing after a bye. And as a result I think the football viewers suffer.

The NFL already has all day Sunday and Monday night. Do they really need Thursdays as well. I like to spend my Thursdays either watching college football or Grey's Anatomy. Whatever, you know you've watched it too. Now I'm expected to go to a bar and try to watch some NFL game just so I have an idea whats going on because it's a nationally televised game and therefore a big deal? Boo to that.

The other problem is that Thursday night games are terrible for fantasy football. I now have to remember to make my picks before Sunday morning. I guess I can deal with that, but I also like to play around with my fantasy roster all week. What can I say, I have a few mediocre wide receivers, and I usually decide to go with my gut at the last minute. Now I'm being forced to commit to a few players by Thursday. What if I want to pick up someone off waivers only to find out they've already played? I don't like this at all.

This week its not a big deal. Jay Cutler is my starting quarterback and that's not likely to change. But what happens when I have someone who I decided not to play or totally forgot about and has a huge week. I have to stare at that stat for a few days and have it eat away at my confidence.

One plus, is this week I have my quarterback starting on Thursday and my opponent has no one. So I get to be in the lead for at least two and a half days. Which will be nice, but could easily come back and bite me in the ass. Also, I get annoyed having to wait until Monday night for a winner to be decided. This is just going to be worse.

Fantasy participation is up over the last few years. Again I have no stats for this but I feel like everyone I know now has a fantasy team. This was not the case a few years ago. So I'm going with my observations. And I have to believe that as a corollary, people are paying more attention to football. Now I'm not saying the NFL should base its schedule on fantasy owners. But a lot of these owners are fans. And the NFL should schedule games around the fans preferences. And I'm not sure most fans want Thursday football. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's just me.

I know that no one wants to hear about anyone else's fantasy team. But this complaint is a fantasy team owner complaint, not so much about my actual team. So thank you for listening to my little rant. Let's leave Thursday football to the NCAA.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Flacco for President

For years, Ravens' fans have watched our beloved defense win games and haven't complained too much. But this weekend we saw something different. The offense actually came from behind and won the game. When the Ravens were down 27-13 in the third quarter I thought it was over. Yeah, I was ready to call it quits and go take a nap. But I hung on and something wonderful happened. We cam from behind and won. The Ravens scored 24 unanswered points in the second half.

There have been many games over the years where the Ravens have scored 24 points over the course of several games. So this is a big change for us loyal fans. All of a sudden, we're not out of the game when down. All of a sudden, we can come from behind. This is a huge change. And its something to get excited about. Games will be more fun to watch because everyone loves offense. People will have more reasons to cheer. And Baltimore will have a much better chance to not only have a winning record but make the playoffs.

Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we have found a franchise quarterback. He has a cannon for an arm, can run if need by, and even has pretty good hands for any of those crazy trick plays. I doubted him in the beginning. I didn't think he was ready. But it goes to show that a level head, poise and steep learning curve can count for more than experience. Experience doesn't hurt. With every game he gets better and better. And that has to have something to do with experience, but I guess it could also be comfort within the system.

Flacco now has my full vote of confidence as a starter. And if there are any fans still not behind him, I think you should take another look at his accomplishments. He has no interceptions in the last three games while having four passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. He's not afraid to take risks and throw the long ball to spread the field. He stays calm in a crisis and can orchestrate a come from behind win on the road. He even runs a no huddle offense with only minor snafus.

So as a Ravens fans, I think I've found change I can believe in.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Maryland Wins Big on Bye Week

For the mercurial Terps, the bye week might have been there biggest victory so far. They did not have a chance to play while Florida State and Georgia Tech slugged it out. Luckily for Maryland, Georgia Tech won, which places Maryland on top of the ACC Atlantic Division. Which means, Maryland is now in control of it's own destiny. If the Terps continue to win, they could go the ACC title game. That's right, the team that barely beat Delaware and lost to Middle Tennessee is now a legitimate contender for the ACC title.

Maryland is now 6-2 overall and 3-1 in conference play. They go to Virginia Tech this Thursday for a nationally televised game. Virginia Tech is no longer ranked but maybe Maryland will step up because this is a nationally televised game and play the way they have in big games. Maybe they have finally gotten their act together and will continue to play to their potential. Since their first bye week, they have won two in a row. One to an unranked team, in the pouring rain. So maybe this will continue. (By the way, can someone explain to me why they get two bye weeks, I'm not complaining, I just don't remember this happening before.)

Maryland is now ranked 23 in the BCS poll and the AP poll and 21 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. They are bowl eligible and keep up the good play could be looking at something better than the Tire Bowl or Toilet Bowl or whatever lame bowl games they've gone to in recent years.
I know this is a lot of optimism and hope to put on the line when talking about a team that sometimes fails to show up, but I've been very pessimistic lately and am trying to see the glass as half full.

The ACC has been wide open and very volatile this year. The standings change pretty dramatically every week and Maryland has a tough schedule for the last 4 games playing VT, UNC, Florida State and Boston College, all of which have winning records overall and only Boston College has a losing conference record. I think this is actually a good thing for the Terps. They tend to play to the level of their opponent. So when they have a tougher opponent, they tend to play better than against a cupcake team.

No matter what happens throughout the rest of the season, I've been pleasantly surprised by the Terps this year. Despite their struggles and some ugly wins, they have done better than I expected. This probably means I've jinxed them and they will go off the Lithium and go back to being bipolar, but I guess I can live with that. I mean pretty much every team that is bowl eligible gets to go to one now. Even if it is the Toilet Bowl.

Whatever, I'm still excited for Thursday's game. GO TERPS!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Audacity of Hope: Life as a Sports Fan

On Friday a friend asked me when the parade started so that she could avoid it. She then went on to say that she thought sports fans were the dumbest people out there. They get all excited because they have no lives and root for sports they can't play. And then get feel like they have achieved some sort of personal victory because "their team" won. I thought this was an odd thing to say to me, since I'm probably the biggest sports fan she knows, and I spend way too much time watching, reading and writing about sports. But it got me thinking about why do people invest so much time and energy and emotion into their sports teams.

Sports allow people to invest in something bigger than themselves. When you are a sports fan, you are part of something. There is a large group of people who bond over the triumphs and failures of a group of athletes playing a sport at any level. You watch a game that you love and forget about everything else. They are an escape where you can focus on two teams or athletes fighting it out. They are an alternate reality where everything can be broken down to x's and o's or simple mechanics.

Sports are a reason to get together with your friends. They are a reason to party and celebrate. Be it the Superbowl, the World Series, March Madness or just a Sunday afternoon. There is always a reason to meet up with people and hang out and talk.

Fandom can be a family tradition. Even if you don't support the same team as your parents, many times they are the ones that instilled the love of the game in you. I may complain about how long the baseball season is and how terrible the Orioles are, but I get a little teary eyed every time I drive past the spot where Memorial Stadium used to stand. I'm not the worlds biggest baseball fan, but the sight of that stadium's old spot are enough to flood me with memories. And I have my parents to thank for that, for instilling a love of sports in me.

Sports also give people something to talk about. During a lull in the conversation, sports are an easy topic. While people harbor strong feelings about their teams, they are usually willing to talk about sports in a mostly civilized manner, unlike religion or politics. They are a common ground among most people. Everyone has at least one sport that they at least half way care about even if it's rhythmic gymnastics.

If you're like me, they are also a way to pick up guys. Yeah, I use sports to pick up guys. It's easy to butt into a conversation about sports, rattle off a few facts, and then apologize for butting in. Usually guys are then confused by a girl with even a cursory knowledge of sports, so they forget you rudely interrupted and happily accept you as part of the conversation. And it's an easy way for them to talk to a girl. So everyone wins.

But I think most importantly sports give people a sense of hope. I sense of anything can happen. And a sense that if you keep trying long enough and work hard enough, you will persevere. There's always next year. It could happen. America is still a country that loves an underdog or Cinderella story. Don't believe me, look at every sports movie in recent history, see any stories about how great a dynasty team is? People believe that you can rise above your place. Sports are a reason to hope. A reason to cheer. A venue for heroes to arise and villains to be defeated. Dramatic story lines are created. No one stays on top forever. And for that reason, your team could be next.

Sports often lead to heartbreak instead of championships. But there enough victories during a season that its worth watching. And the little victories of beating a rival or making the playoffs are usually enough to tide a fan over. Besides, there's always next year. Sports give people a reason to hope and if for no other reason, it's great to be a sports fan.