Monday, November 12, 2007

Bad to worse to worser

Monday Morning Quick Quiz
What's worse than watching your favorite football team embarrass itself on Monday Night Football?

Paying money to see it live.

That's right, yesterday was the annual pilgrimage to M&T Bank Stadium for the Fitzgerald men to bond over the thrilling atmosphere of Ravens' football. While I am unwilling to commit the time, money or emotion to become a season-ticket holder, I do enjoy taking the boys to see at least one game each year. We started this tradition two years ago, watching a relatively easy win over the Texans in an unremarkable season and continued it last year at a thrilling comeback over the Chargers to send the home team to 4-0. Those were good days.

Before the 2007 season began, I took a look at the home slate, compared it to the soccer, swimming and family outing schedules and quickly deduced that Cincinnati would be the game. Day game, division rival, reasonably good chance of winning, all the important criteria. So I called my local ticket broker, took some equity out of the house, and secured three lower level seats.

Even better, the boys had a few friends going the game, and we were invited to tailgate just a short walk from the stadium. Really, the setting could not have been better. Crisp, sunny day, pulled pork sandwiches, delightful seleciton of microbrews, free parking and plenty of room to toss the ball with the kids.

And then the game started. For the second straight week, Steve McNair displayed a Hall of Fame level of ineptitude. He had some help in the form of dropped passes, but he still gets the lion's share of the blame as far as I can see. If you chart the balls he throws, there is a wedge of emptiness emanating from McNair at its point that reaches the sideline about 12 yards downfield. Swing pass, quick slant, five-yard out, six-yard curl, flanker screen, that's about it. Nothing over the middle, nothing down the field, unless you count balls thrown five yards over the head of the trainers on the sideline.

And his physical erosion is having a karmic effect on the team as well. His two fumbles (one just slipped out of his hand) were bad plays, but he made a decent throw to Todd Heap in the end zone that got tipped for an interception. And when the kick return team let a short kick bounce at the 15, naturally the Bengals recovered.

The defense played like heroes, keeping the Bengals out of the end zone all day. Ed Reed absolutely destroyed Rudy Johnson on a key third down play at the goal line when the score was still close. Carson Palmer had a pretty good day at the Ravens' expense, but considering that both starting cornerbacks were out and a third got hurt during the game, it could have been a lot worse.

My eight year old summed it up with about five minutes left. "Can we please just go? I can't take any more of this fumble tragedy!"

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