It should have been obvious, as the rental PT Cruiser idled in the Baltimore parking garage, that it wasn’t going to be the Pittsburgh Steelers day. My Terrible Towel, which had a seven-game road winning streak, was nowhere to be found in the rental car.
Shit. We. Are. Doomed.
“Ahh, just superstition,” we attempted to convince the guy in our head. “It will be fine. Seriously.” Thanks to some friends, we had a complimentary room downtown so we grabbed our suitcase, locked the ugliest car GM ever invented and walked toward the front desk.
Hustling back to the PT Cruiser, we unlocked the door and looked one more time. No luck. Shit.
I hit the lock button and walked into the hotel lobby toward the front desk. I asked the agent if there might be a possibility that we could check in a bit early, and the trend began. No luck.
So we lugged the bag back to the car and checked one more time for that Terrible Towel. It still wasn’t there. So a couple of texts later we jogged over to the Water Street Tavern. Two business associates had saved me a seat. Catching up with a couple guys was nice, and since it was nearly high noon, we asked for our favorite Dogfish Ale.
The bartender with the Russian accent immediately apologized. Always the smart ass, I asked her, “That’s ok, just give me an Iron City.” The blank stare was the only time a person in Ravens’ colors looked confused all day.
We finished off the replacement beers, and on the walk to the spectacular M&T Stadium discussed how solid the Steelers had looked in the preseason. As we passed some workers dismantling the fence from the Baltimore Grand Prix, we commented on how quiet the Ravens fans were toward us – both at the bar, and as we walked the crowded streets of downtown Charm City. It actually bordered on respect and since I was wearing a Roethlisberger jersey I expected at least someone to acknowledge it.
Little did I know, but that recognition was just minutes away.
We stopped quickly at a great tailgate and then made our way through the Ravens Walk. If you haven’t been to Baltimore, you need to go. Baltimore does football very well.
We deftly made our way around the masses waiting to touch the bronzed foot of Johnny Unitas and got to the gate quickly. The greeter handed us what we believed was another bad attempt by Ravens marketing to duplicate the Terrible Towel.
We started to swing it over our head, laughing hysterically. But then it hit us. No, this wasn’t a towel. What a fail. Shit, we thought, the Ravens always try and do some form of knock off for Myron’s greatest contribution. What we thought was a towel was actually a dread rag.
Yeh, just like the rag Andrew McCutchen wears on his dreads to do bad things. It was purple and black of course, and sported a few well designed Ravens graphics. We saw thousands of Ravens fans were wearing them on top of their dreads and not on top of dreads. White guys in dread rags is a good look.
We cruised up the steps, rather than waiting in a crowded elevator line. In a couple minutes we were back in the suite where we had never watched the Steelers lose. The suite is unreal. It has inside and outside seating. It’s bigger than an above average living room. The music– Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones, was rocking.
We were surrounded by opulence. Beer, wine, liquor, hell even pistachios were glistening in the fresh Baltimore sunshine. As we enjoyed some tightly-wrapped sushi we watched the Steelers run through their warmups.
Life was great.
Damn, it felt so good to be here in Baltimore again. “I’m undefeated in this stadium,” the little guy in my head was thinking, but just then Ray Lewis rallied his Ravens for his pregame speech. The doubt began to immediately sneak inside my head. The speech seemed short and sweet. Damn, I thought, doesn’t it take longer than that to fire up so many new faces on this Ravens roster?
But no matter what I was thinking, I felt blessed. Then directly behind me some commotion began.
I turned my head to see a grown woman pointing directly at me, as her eyes glared right into mine. I stared back. Surely she understood that despite how many times she shook her fist at me, I would not metamorphosize into the Steelers quarterback. It’s impossible.
About twenty seconds later, a teenager with a casual tone walked up to me, looked me in the eyes and apologized. “I’m so sorry. That’s my mom. She’s drunk.”
It was the only time a person in Ravens purple was embarrassed around me all day.
The game quickly spiraled out of the Steelers’ control. We didn’t see this coming. We thought the Steelers could easily lose this game, but not like this. It was a serious beat down. I mean, why in the world would a Ravens team blow an obvious Steelers weakness by jogging in for two points when they were already up by three touches? I thought I never saw the Steelers play so poorly in a game that the Black and Gold had to know was important to their rival.
In fact, if the Steelers have played a game worse than they did on September 11, 2011, we haven’t seen it.
But instead of being boastful and brash, Ravens fans seemed to just soak it all in. Many of them joined Steelers fans in making their exit early. But most of them just seemed to relish in the moment.
I left my Steelers buddies wallowing in their sadness as they tried to drink the suite bar dry. I thanked everyone and headed out.
I did the walk of shame solo.
I was engulfed by Ravens fans singing the Seven Nation Army. It was catchy years ago at Penn State, but not so much on this day.
None of them seemed to care I was wearing Ben’s jersey. It seemed to only bother me. Maybe knowing that somewhere in the vicinity was someone who thought I was a rapist.
I met up with some buddies and made plans to grab dinner at Roy’s. Over dinner a couple hours and a few beers later, a Ravens exec shared with us some of the reasoning behind the team cutting some of their big name vets. He made each off-season move sound brilliant.
Maybe an ass kicking like no other made me feel that way too.
But what he said about Derrick Mason left no doubt in my mind: this Ravens organization means business. The amount of time the Ravens spent focusing on beating the Steelers this off season was glaringly apparent. The Ravens did mean business.
As I walked back to the hotel, the light rain didn’t seem to faze me. I just thought, “The Steelers surely will mean business in November, too.” Until then I will continue to talk to myself at night because I can’t forget.
While we were having dinner, I told the Ravens exec that the Steelers were having troubles getting out of Baltimore due to plane difficulties. He reminded me that the Ravens were stuck on the Pittsburgh International Airport tarmac last year after they lost the playoffs. They waited two hours before their plane was de-iced he told me.
So maybe the Ravens players left on the roster from last season didn’t forget either.