The end is unfriendly to any other team, but the ravens have delivered a sudden and rare agony. Dissolving the Ravens at home against the Tennessee Titans gave rise to the thought that they had wasted a historic season, that their 14-2 magic carpet ride and Lamar Jackson's MVP season had vanished. That nothing really mattered, because it's about winning and losing the ravens. The amount of truth in this idea is a matter of perspective, which is at the heart of what we all do to invest so much of ourselves in these games.
The Ravens are done with soccer and haven't won a single playoff game, let alone the Super Bowl. They were a great machine that had unbridled surprises for months. To what extent the former invalidates the latter is what Baltimore had to do on Sunday morning and for so many days and years in the future.
Even the players struggled to figure out how to remember their season immediately afterwards. When asked at a press conference how to remember the Ravens, Jackson said: "14-2". Cornerback Marlon Humphrey told reporters that the team's legacy was that it would suffocate in the playoffs.
This autumn the ravens had so many highlights that it is difficult to isolate a vertex. It could have happened on the night of November 3 when the then undefeated New England Patriots came to the M&T Bank Stadium. The patriots gave the ravens a yardstick to measure themselves, and the ravens carved them to pieces with a brutal and beautiful form of sport. The stadium trembled with religious fever. Jackson and the Ravens weren't as good as their fans had hoped. You were better. They were a team in which even the opposing fans gathered, a team with which a city could connect and with which it could float away.
These fans were delighted because their central nervous system told them, "This result means that the ravens may be good enough to win the Super Bowl." Or did you feel a sensation that could be described as "Lamar Jackson reorganizes my concept of human physical possibility and I feel alive because of it"? A feeling creates hope with a zero-sum end result of despair or joy. The other is fleeting, but his memory can never be touched.
Which is it? The answer is a strange feature of professional sports: probably both, even if there are inherent conflicts. About 3 percent of the teams win a championship. Does that mean that the 97 percent waste their and everyone else's time losing and choking like a bunch of losers and stranglers? Of course not. You could go to any Cavaliers Hornets game this year and experience top athletic performance that, if you were careful enough, would knock your socks off. One thing about sport is that it is as important as you want it to be.
And yet they hold points and distribute trophies. The tribal impulses that occur when “home” has a different sum than “away” are no less a legitimate part of the condition of a sports fan than appreciation and awe.
Despite Humphrey's claim that the titan debacle destroyed the Ravens chokers, the upcoming regular season meant something that could not ultimately spoil bitterness. How many children in Baltimore watched Jackson and were excited about football or discovered in their excitement a new little piece of their identity? In Baltimore, Ravens black and purple became a uniform. (A popular t-shirt made it clear what was important: in graffiti script "Lamar F —— Jackson".) People who would otherwise scream online exchanged high fives instead and nodded knowingly. The Ravens, like many teams that don't win championships, have made many people all love the same thing.
The regular season of the ravens was an achievement in itself. The coaches promised to revolutionize football, and if that turned out to be true, they played differently than any other professional team and used this style to blind and beat every opponent for three months. They rushed for more yards than any team in NFL history, and Jackson led the league in touchdown passes. Gosh, were they fun?
Does a loss, no matter how terrible it felt, ruin it all? It cannot. It does it somehow. It will either feel sad for a very long time or until the ravens play again – or maybe somehow both at the same time.