I submitted two or three columns for consideration to Splice Today before I understood that the website is based in Baltimore. I’d followed a link from Instapundit to a piece I was interested in and sent something in. For a California native who’s been all over the Western United States but never east of South Dakota, the haunt of Edgar Allan Poe and home of the former Baltimore Colts—a city now represented by the Baltimore Ravens—it was an unlikely locale for a writing side-gig I’d been working for years.
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and so had two NFL teams to root for, the Raiders and the Niners. Win or lose, my allegiance to these teams never wavered. Regarding the Old Line State’s largest city, there were but two strong historic resonances (aside from Maryland’s role in the nation’s founding): Johnny Unitas and the Colts, gridiron legends of the 1950s, and Poe, whose stories and poems captivated me as a youth.
Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 brought a new Baltimore resonance to my attention when the Ravens knocked off my Niners in the famous “Blackout Bowl.” Jim Harbaugh was set to face John Harbaugh (the only brother vs. brother head coach tilt in Super Bowl history) when I got the invitation to join a large group of my son’s young friends for a viewing party. Needless to say, to a man and woman, the group was all in for the Red and Gold.
Things proceeded disastrously for the Niners in the first half, the Ravens dominating, when a seemingly interminable (34 minutes) third-quarter blackout partially killed the lights at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. During the blackout, my co-partiers ran for more beer and yakked about life for thirtysomething Millennials in Portland, OR. The only oldster present, I sat on the couch thinking, “We’re screwed.”
But the Niners rallied; it seemed like the blackout had cooled off Joe Flacco and the Ravens. The Niners scored 17 unanswered points, and finally there was something to cheer about. By that time everyone except me was pretty much soused. Heartbreakingly, in the final minutes, with the Ravens ahead 34-29 and the Niners driving for the win, the Ravens snatched a victory. It was a great game.
A decade later, maybe a rematch is coming up. The Niners and Ravens are conference one seeds in this season’s race for the crown. Both teams will have home field advantage through the playoffs, and both are tough to beat at home. The exception to that invincibility on the Niner side came on December 25th, when quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens came to San Francisco and beat the living hell out of rookie quarterback wunderkind Brock Purdy and company. It was tough to digest after Christmas dinner; the Niners had made short work of top contenders Dallas and Philadelphia this year. That night, after having locked up the playoffs, I wondered if my team was laying back to avoid getting injured by the Raven’s purposeful onslaught. The final score of 33-19 indicates a much closer game than the blowout 49er fans witnessed that night.
With Super Bowl LVIII approaching, there are still lots of games to be played. Teams other than the Niners and Ravens will have something to say about who makes it to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on February 11th. For my money, I’m betting on the Niners, and those dastardly Ravens, to go all, the, way.