We want the Baltimore Ravens to be our natural-born football rivals.
We can make this work.
Boston-Baltimore. We have history. We have tradition.
Patriots vs. Ravens. Patriots vs. Colts (in the old days). Celtics vs. Bullets (in the older days). Red Sox vs. Orioles (ouch). USS Constitution vs. USS Constellation. Waterfront vs. Inner Harbor. Ralph Waldo Emerson vs. Edgar Allan Poe. “Good Will Hunting” vs. “Diner.” Mass. General vs. Johns Hopkins. Lobster rolls vs. crab cakes.
Luis Tiant vs. Jim Palmer.
Baltimore gave us Janet Marie Smith, who rebuilt Fenway Park. Baltimore gave us Larry Lucchino, who hired Bobby Valentine.
Baltimore is where the Patriots cemented their 16-0 season five years ago with a cold December victory on “Monday Night Football” when Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan saved the Patriots with an ill-timed timeout.
Baltimore was the site of the infamous “Stupor Bowl” between the Patriots and Colts in 1981. The Patriots came into the game with a 2-13 record. The Colts snapped a 14-game losing streak by beating the Patriots, 23-21, before a throng of 17,073 at old Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street. Baltimore’s victory gave New England the No. 1 draft pick for 1982, and the Patriots wasted their selection on Kenneth “Gameday” Sims.
There is not much of a basketball rivalry between Boston and Baltimore. The old Celtics played the Baltimore Bullets in the early decades of the NBA before the Bullets went to Washington (via Landover, Md.) and later became the Wizards.
The Celtics never played the Baltimore Bullets in the playoffs, but in 1968-69, Bill Russell’s last season — when the Celtics finished in fourth place, then won the NBA championship — the first-place team in the NBA’s Eastern Division was the Baltimore Bullets, led by rookie center Wes Unseld. Those Bullets played at the Baltimore Civic Center.
Baseball is our best bet to stoke civic fires. The Red Sox and Orioles have been going at one another since the O’s came to Baltimore from St. Louis in 1954.
When the Orioles were managed by Earl Weaver in the 1970s, they regularly tortured some good Red Sox teams. In 1974, the Sox had a seven-game lead on Aug. 23, but somehow finished in third place, seven games behind Baltimore. The tipping point of that season came when lefty snowballers Ross Grimsley and Mike Cuellar blanked the Sox, 1-0, 1-0, in a Labor Day doubleheader.
A year later, when the Sox again seemed to have a commanding division lead, Weaver made everybody nervous in Boston when he said, “We’ve crawled out of more coffins than Bela Lugosi.’’
That was 1975, which is the year Bill Belichick got his start in pro football, making $25 per week as a special assistant for the Baltimore Colts. Working under head coach Ted Marchibroda, “Billy” Belichick would drive to Baltimore-Washington International Airport to pick up film arriving from NFL outposts. Soon they had him breaking down the films, and Billy sometimes slept on a desk in one of the tiny offices at Memorial Stadium.
In 1977, the Orioles, Red Sox, and Yankees staged one of the great pennant races of the modern era. All three teams were still in contention when Baltimore came to Boston for the final weekend of the season. The Red Sox eliminated the Orioles Friday night, the Orioles eliminated the Sox Saturday, and on Sunday, Rick Dempsey slid on the Fenway tarp before the game was called.
Boston and Baltimore both won 97 games, but finished out of the playoffs, 2½ games behind the Yankees.
And then there was last Sept. 28, at Camden Yards. The day the music died in Boston baseball.
A soft liner to left . . . Crawford can’t make the play! . . . Here comes Reimold to the plate and the throw is not in time! . . . Tito fired . . . Chicken and beer . . . John Henry storming into The SportsHub . . . Theo resigns . . . Bobby hired . . . The return of the “varsity” . . . the palace mutiny . . . worst roster in the history of baseball . . . Nava is coming out to hit for Iglesias . . .
On and on it goes. It’s like one of those fog-induced, black-ice highway disasters resulting in hundreds of mangled cars and trucks. The chain of crashes started on Eutaw Street in Baltimore, and it’s backed up all the way to Boston. We still hear screeching brakes and sirens daily.
It’s different in football. The Patriots have been the team bringing the pain to Baltimore. We all remember last season’s AFC Championship game, which the Patriots won when Billy Cundiff’s 32-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left in Foxborough.
The Patriots are 7-1 against the Ravens, 6-0 during the regular season. Including the AFC Championship, the Patriots have played the Ravens four times in the past three seasons, and New England won three of those games on a score in the final possession.
Baltimore’s lone victory was memorable — a 33-14 spanking at Gillette Stadium in the 2009-10 playoffs.
So there you have it. The AFC East is a joke; the Patriots have won their division in eight of the last nine seasons. The Colts have gone away.
This will have to do. We don’t hate the Ravens and we certainly don’t hate friendly Baltimore, but this is best we can do if the Patriots are going to have any active rival in the AFC.