Like all columnists and talk show hosts, I admittedly have a bit of a “greatest hits” collection. There are just some topics that manifest in different ways over and over again and are truly red meat issues.
For example, whenever a college coach or administrator says something completely insane about why athletes shouldn’t be allowed to profit from their OWN name, image or likeness, I’m happy to pounce all over it no matter how many times I have before.
If Duke athletic director Kevin White wants to shamelessly suggest that it shouldn’t happen because it could create an unfair playing field in recruiting, I’m happy to be the one to point out that he’s a feckless buffoon who has never had a problem with the many national commercials or SiriusXM radio shows his basketball coach participates in or that literally all of his school’s games are broadcast on national television while UMBC’s certainly aren’t and, gee, gosh, I’ve never heard him complain about how unfair that recruiting advantage is. That’s so weird, right?
I’ll happily pull out my fangs every time one of these idiots tries to prevent the right thing from happening.
But some “takes” of mine have more reluctantly moved into my Greatest Hits compilation, which can be yours thanks to Time Life for just three low payments of $27.99. For example, I hate having to talk about Robert Andino’s season-ending walk-off winner against the Red Sox in 2011. I hate it because I honestly enjoyed the moment. It was fun! I hate the Red Sox more than anything in the world (besides maybe the Darlene-Wyatt storyline on Season 3 of “Ozark”). It was a swell little moment.
Unfortunately, there is seemingly a generation’s worth of Orioles fans who treat that moment as if it was one of the great moments in franchise history. Imagine thinking a (truthfully) meaningless season-ending win is comparable to Tito Landrum’s home run or the night “Orioles Magic” was born or … you get the picture.
But I don’t love talking about it because I don’t love stealing joy. It’s not as if the Andino moment wasn’t fun or memorable. It’s just that we’ve made it into something that it actually wasn’t — which is the exact same reason I hate talking about Steve Smith Sr.’s tenure as a Baltimore Raven.
Let me get this out of the way. No, of course the Baltimore Ravens’ fan-voted “All-Time 25 Team” is utterly irrelevant and unworthy of the conversation it has received (continuously guilty). It is a silly list of players, selected via a silly process. A small amount of fans (the team said there were 8,000 votes with no discerning way to know how many fans voted multiple times) participated in the process, and it appears as though the exercise can simply fade into the void without any repercussions.
And yet I’m going to talk about it anyway because … at some point in the future some human being is going to search the term “Ravens all-time team” on the internet and come across this silly list and I think a few others of us need to provide other search results that can supply a little context.
There’s been significant banter regarding Lamar Jackson’s selection as quarterback for this team. It is without question the incorrect answer. But it’s understandable. Between recency bias, a likely younger demographic participating in the process and perhaps a new group of Ravens fans who have come on board only because of Jackson’s presence, this is the type of incorrect answer you can come across.
Before you try, there’s no actual argument for Jackson. You can say “Joe Flacco never had an MVP season,” but you’d just be making a fool of yourself. If we were to list the greatest Baltimore Colts of all time, we would never list Earl Morrall ahead of Raymond Berry. If the Chicago Bulls were to rank their all-time greatest players, they’d never consider Derrick Rose ahead of Scottie Pippen. A single MVP award does not a compelling argument make. (Of course, if the debate were close, having a Super Bowl MVP and the greatest postseason run in football-throwing history would.)
But honestly, I get it. We are in our feelings. We think things about Lamar Jackson. We’re “entangled.” We’re not willing to be reasonable. And since Jackson will almost certainly be the correct answer by the time we get to the All-Time 30 Team, this isn’t really the end of the world.
The wide receiver thing? That’s the one that’s so embarrassing it makes us look bad as a city.
Steve Smith Sr. was a productive player in Baltimore. He was much better than an endless number of late-career receivers who made cameo appearances in Baltimore.
But even for a franchise whose history at wide receiver has been more embarrassing than the amount of time we’ve spent looking at pictures on the internet while trying to figure out if they’re actually cake, Smith is not only not one of the top two receivers in franchise history, he’s not even in the conversation. This exercise would have required there being an “All-Decade Third Team” to have even CONSIDERED discussing Smith.
I hate this. I hate having this conversation. I understand Smith is a popular figure with fun catch phrases and whose on-field intensity seemed to match the personality of the franchise. But we have to stop pretending his actual contributions to the franchise were particularly significant. His three seasons included one playoff win, and his effort in that win in Pittsburgh is the only contribution worth remembering.
Anquan Boldin (who was selected) and Torrey Smith were worthy candidates for the second receiver spot. Qadry Ismail was not only more productive for three seasons in Baltimore than Steve Smith Sr., he did it as part of worse overall offenses and, you know, played a significant role for the team that changed the history of Baltimore football by winning Super Bowl XXXV. Michael Jackson was more productive in his three seasons, albeit all for bad teams. Derrick Alexander and Mark Clayton would be in the argument as well when you finally started considering Smith. Alexander was more productive but played only two seasons in Baltimore on bad teams. Clayton was disappointing on the whole but a major part of the 2006 team that won 13 games — which stood as a team record until last year.
And then there’s Derrick Mason. You know, the unquestionable, undebatable, absolutely undisputed greatest receiver in franchise history. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
This list doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. But the Ravens probably shouldn’t have allowed something to go up on their official website — to be shared throughout the internet and to exist via search eternally –that wasn’t correctly vetted. My pal Drew Forrester suggested the team should have simply corrected these mistakes by essentially lying. I would say that the moment they decided they were doing a project like this, they should have allowed fans to vote but made it clear that the selection wouldn’t be made by fans alone. They should have given themselves an opportunity to right any significant wrongs before they put something up that appears to be an official selection of an all-time team.
It’s sure as hell not fair to the greatest receiver the team has seen … at least until the new and jacked Hollywood Brown becomes the best receiver in the history of the sport over the course of the next five years.
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox