On Saturday night, the Baltimore Ravens broke my heart.
Three years ago, a loss by the Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs would have had no effect on my psyche.
Three years ago, I probably didn’t even know who was in the divisional round of the playoffs. I’ve always been a sports fan, and I’ve never been disappointed when sitting down to watch a football game on a Sunday afternoon, but for some reason – until recently – I was never able to get behind a particular team.
My grandfather, who grew up in New Hampshire and is an avid Patriots fan, convinced me that the Pats, like every other New England sports team, were destined to fail every year.
My dad, an Oakland Raiders fan, couldn’t persuade me to love a team that was rarely on TV and had seldom made a playoff appearance since the glory days of the early ’70s and ’80s, when he became a fan.
Then, in 2007, I watched my boyfriend go through the devastation of the Ravens’ 5-11 season. What embarrassment he showed as they lost to the Bills and to the Browns – twice.
Not knowing Ravens history, I couldn’t understand his elation as Baltimore completed the season with its only saving grace – a win over its arch-enemy, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
However, I started to keep track of the Ravens’ actions during the following offseason and their acquisition of a new quarterback – some guy named Joe Flacco – from the University of Delaware, of all places.
In the 2008 season, I started to take the plunge: I became a full-fledged Ravens fan, and I think I am better off for it.
Being a fan of a specific football team adds something to watching the sport – I think I may truthfully be a happier person now that I have a team to root for. I now get to experience the joy of watching my team make it into the playoffs and dominating my grandfather’s Patriots in a Wild Card round upset.
Each game I watch, whether or not it includes my favorite team, takes on a new meaning – if the Jets won in Week 16, did that mean the Ravens weren’t going to make it into the playoffs? In Week 14, I think I was more excited about the Steelers’ loss to the Browns than I was about the Ravens’ blowout of the Lions. Every time I sit down in front of the TV on Sunday, I can truly say that I take a deeper interest in the outcome.
I also think that having a vested interest in the Ravens has made me gain a deeper knowledge of the sport overall. For example, when the Ravens get their 10th penalty call of the night, I’m really going to pay attention to the rulebook and understand why it is that our corner got called for pass interference.
Because I’m paying more attention to the Ravens’ actions leading up to each Sunday’s game, I’m starting to actually read my RSS feed of the ESPN NFL page. I follow Ed Reed’s injuries to see if he’s going to be able to save the game with another interception returned for a touchdown.
At the same time, I also check up on other players like LaDanian Tomlinson. I feel as though I can have a much more intelligent conversation about football, rather than just saying, ‘Oh, I hate Brett Favre because he’s Brett Favre and I said so.’
Of course, with the joy of experiencing your team’s wins comes the heartbreak and frustration all season long. Just like I swear excessively at the TV when Jonathan Papelbon loads the bases in the ninth inning of a Red Sox game, I now throw a few pillows around the room every time Billy Cundiff kicks what should be an easy 30-yard field goal wide left.
However, I can sincerely say that the pain is worth it. Being a Ravens fan has turned me into an overall better football fan. Plus, now my boyfriend can get over the fact that I’m never going to root for the Baltimore Orioles.
Philbrick is a graduate student.