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The “P-Word”

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By: Tony Lombardi

It Ain’t What it Used to Be


The Ravens are in the playoffs.

Let that sink in.

The Ravens are in the playoffs.

They’ve punched their ticket to the postseason dance – at the very least, a secondary goal of all 32 teams when they take the field during the sweltering days of training camp. For the 10th time in 15 seasons, John Harbaugh has guided his team to the tournament, the winner of which will hoist The Lombardi Trophy.

Yet throughout The Land of Pleasant Living, there’s little in the way of excitement. If anything, there’s apathy, the kind that my colleague Kevin McNelis wrote about earlier this week. And for the Ravens, that’s has to raise concerns at The Castle. Big concerns!

Dial the clock back with me if you will, to December of 2000. The Ravens weren’t allowed to say the “P-word”, aka, playoffs. Not until that playoff berth was earned. And when the Ravens clinched their very first appearance in the postseason, Festivus was born. Baltimore was jubilant!

The utter despair, born out of all the years the city was without football since the Colts left; the heartbreak of the futile attempts to acquire an expansion franchise; the frustration of being told to take the money for an NFL team and build a museum instead; the disappointment of all those losing seasons – all of the winters of discontent, came crashing down in one glorious moment when the Ravens defeated the San Diego Chargers, 24-3 on December 10, 2000. Twenty-three years after the town’s last playoff appearance in 1977, Baltimore was back in the playoffs.

It was time to shout the “P-word”.

Since 2008, covering less than 15 years, the Ravens have been to the dance ten times, winning 11 of 19 playoff contests. They’ve been to 3 AFC Championship Games, 1 Super Bowl and they’ve added a second Lombardi Trophy. The Ravens are among the league’s most prestigious franchises. Yet today, hearing the words, “the Ravens are in the playoffs” triggers less than flattering responses.

“Big deal”

“So what”

“They’ll be one and done!”

People who work at The Castle think the fan base is spoiled. And perhaps to some extent that’s true. Fans have come to expect the playoffs. After all, we hear, year in and year out what a deep roster the Ravens have; that their draft was an A+; that John Harbaugh is among the best head coaches in the game; that GM Eric DeCosta was named Exec of The Year by his peers in 2019; that Steve Bisciotti is one of the game’s best owners.

Much or all of that may be true.


On the heels of all these accolades comes a certain level of expectation. And lately, those expectations have fallen short, repeatedly. Consequently, fans become jaded. They begin to lower expectations so as not to set themselves up for disappointment. But there’s more to the apathetic vibe that permeates Baltimore these days than just disappointment in the playoffs. A playoff loss isn’t great, but it isn’t horrible. At least they were there. It’s a bit like bad pizza or bad sex. It’s still not bad, right?

No, there’s more to the developing apathy than losing in the playoffs.

Fans are worn down by a boring brand of football. They’re hardly moved by a passing game in a passing league that gets shredded by analysts worldwide but nothing is done about it. They’re tired of hearing about Lamar Jackson’s contract status. They’re tired of being talked down to by the team’s head coach. They’re tired of the disingenuous and misleading injury updates. They’re tired of the injuries too. They’re tired of hearing the coaching staff brush off repeated failures with statements like, “We’ll get back to work on it and try to get better each day.”

They’re tired, tired, tired!

Ravens playoffs
Photo Credit: Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun

Many of you are still passionate. That’s why you’re reading this. But are you as passionate as you once were? Do you own a PSL that has about as much value as a Blockbuster membership?

Others aren’t as patient as you. They’ve thrown their notifications for playoff tickets and next year’s season tickets in the recycling bin, even at the risk of losing their downtrodden PSL investment.

The Ravens as an organization need to wake up and look around. Look around the league; look around at the empty seats at the stadium; look around at their quarterback who won’t take the field with a knee brace given his contract status; look at the dearth of playmaking talent on offense; look at other offenses that seem as if they’re playing a different game than the Ravens.


And then listen. Listen to “the people sitting at the end of the bar”.

Clearly they don’t know as much as the beautiful minds at The Castle. But they do tell a story and it ain’t too good.

The playoffs just aren’t the same.

They’ll be talking about it at the end of the bar.


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Originally posted on Russell Street Report