A confession: I've been less than excited about Joe Flacco since he became the Baltimore Ravens quarterback. He's like that guy your daughter brings home: She thinks he's grand and maybe even The One, and you're completely underwhelmed, even a little disturbed, and you hope she trades up before it's too late and he's calling you "Dad."
So, there … I've confessed. I've shed my Flacco guilt by sharing it with you. (Don't worry, you can keep reading 'cuz this column has a happy ending.)
I now have publicly admitted to being one of those Ravens fans who doesn't appreciate Joe — even after 90-plus games, helping Baltimore make the playoffs five years in a row and the conference championship game again Sunday against the New England Patriots.
Have I secretly sent sarcastic text messages to friends about how dreadfully inconsistent Flacco can be?
I plead nolo contendere and mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
My penance for this act of contrition will surely be a scolding from Ravens fans who think I'm wrong about Joe, and that he's a talented fellow who, despite inconsistent play, has kept his team in the hunt every season. Plus, the Ravens would have gone to the Super Bowl last year had Lee Evans held on to that 14-yard touchdown pass from Flacco at New England.
I've heard it all, and most recently from purple-blooded radio personality Nestor Aparicio: "Five years, five playoffs. What's not to like? I love everything about Flacco because I love watching the Ravens play in January for championships. Twenty-eight other quarterbacks are watching him play for the third time in five years for a chance at the Super Bowl."
I am one of them.
I've gone over to the other side.
I've always believed in the Ravens. I believe in Joe now, too. I have to. We all have to. This is no time for ambivalence. It's a time for full faith.
The Huge Bowl is Sunday night, and there's a sense of destiny in the air for the Ravens, and it's real. They are underdogs against the Patriots and their pretty-boy quarterback again, which is the perfect place for a Baltimore team to be. The stars are aligning. The Ravens have bumped and bruised their way through the regular season, led by a guy who banks at 1st Mariner, and they're going to shock all the pundits and finally win the big one.
I don't even worry about the Sports Illustrated jinx.
When Flacco made the cover of the magazine this week, it wasn't in classic fashion — a big, splashy celebration of gaudy accomplishments. It was more like a challenge, delivered as an epistle from the Football Gods.
"Dear Joe," it says above his photo, "Last Weekend You Took Down Peyton. On Sunday You Get Brady — And the Chance, Once and for All, to Rewrite Your Legacy. All the Best …"
In other words, Sports Illustrated put him on the cover less in praise than in prayer, expressing the hope that Flacco will finally break through and get Baltimore to the Super Bowl after a 12-year hiatus.
That's how we all feel about the guy — we want him to get to the next level, where the air is rare. We want to see him put together one more magical victory, and one last ride for Ray Lewis.
Gotta believe in Joe.
So, look, thanks for letting me get this off my chest, and on such an important day.
One more confession: I am sometimes guilty of the same charge I level against my fellow Baltimoreans — that we are too often too down on ourselves, that we don't appreciate what we have and too often believe that, if anything is excellent, it must be from, or of, someplace else.
It's easy to slip into that mindset around this town.
And there's some of that in my attitude toward Flacco.
Think about it: What we liked about the old Orioles back in the day, and what we like about the new Orioles under Buck Showalter, what we liked about the Ravens who won the Super Bowl, and what we like around here in general, is nothing too fancy or pretty or contrived. We like the authentic workaday guy who scraps and scrapes and gets it done.
The Orioles' catcher Rick Dempsey — lifetime batting average .233 — was the unlikely hero of the 1983 World Series and its MVP. In the 2000-2001 season, the Ravens had the underappreciated Trent Dilfer as quarterback, and they won the world championship. We have Flacco, who bumps and grinds and shines enough to get Baltimore to the show. Let us rejoice and be glad.