I’ve totally adopted my husband’s teams since we’ve been married, the Ravens and Orioles specifically.  I know, my New England family is properly aghast at how quickly I abandoned my heritage.  Growing up I was a big Patriots, Celtics and Red Sox fan…I clearly remember all the Celtics championships, the Patriots vs. Bears in the Super Bowl, and the heartbreaking loss to the Mets in the World Series.  By rights, I ought to still be a fan if I was truly a fan, right?  But with the O’s and the Red Sox in the AL East, I just can’t cheer for both of them, and I really can’t find anything to get me feeling all warm and fuzzy about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.  So I’ve taken on the teams of my adopted hometown of Baltimore.

I’m sitting here right now watching the first round of the playoffs, with the Ravens playing the Indianapolis Colts.  Of course a playoff game is a big deal, but this one is more poignant because team and fan favorite Ray Lewis recently announced his retirement following this season, so today is his last home game at M&T Bank Stadium.

The fervor with which Baltimore fans have reacted has been remarkable.  I’m sure this is true of any sports town, but there is great passion and emotion behind this game today.  Especially in my household.  My husband has been known to be brought to tears by his Ravens, and his normally soft-spoken and mild-mannered demeanor changes dramatically on game days.  The kids notice…”Daddy yells at the TV when the Ravens are losing!”  While I can’t say that I have cried over the Ravens, I do find myself getting caught up in the excitement of game day and close contests and rivalries.  It’s a good thing I’m not a heavy drinker because I think I could easily transform into one of “those” obnoxious fans.

Anyway, all of this got me thinking about sport in general, and the camaraderie of cheering for “your” team.  Some people disdain sports, especially in a world with bigger concerns than who won a particular game.  They may view them as “low brow”, kind of like the entertainment of the lower classes.  Maybe that’s true.  But to me it speaks to the desire in all of us to be a part of something bigger, to have our lives stand for something that will wow the crowd and win the hearts of thousands.  Most of us don’t have jobs or lives that make the headlines, that are more than a means to take care of our responsibilities.  I think following your team kind of gives you a chance to step out of the everyday-ness of our regular lives and feel something deeper.  Maybe that is pathetic?  I don’t know.  But I think it really speaks to our humanity, it shows how similar we all really are deep down.  Sports unites us and brings us together in a very real and powerful way.  Not everyone is on board, not everyone gets it, and that’s ok.  But I think we all long for communion with others, for camaraderie and brotherhood (or sisterhood) and sports is one way we can catch a glimpse, even fleetingly, of being united with a large group of people with a common cause.  

Now, that’s not to say that sports is a perfect and untainted institution, clearly that is not the case.  But isn’t that true of everything about life?? Anything we invest in, care about, put our hearts and souls into is imperfect.  It’s not for me to judge you for being passionate about something, nor you me.  I think we’re all just trying to find meaning and happiness and something to believe in at the end of the day.  

I’ve been surprised at how little has been made recently of Ray Lewis’s past legal troubles.  Usually when someone praises #52, others are quick to point out his past failures.  I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of what happened with him in what, 1999?  But those comments always frustrate me because it implies that no one is redeemable.  That once you screw up, you’re pretty much hopeless.  Ray Lewis’ life in his years in Baltimore show a man to me, who has learned from his mistakes, does not take his second chance for granted, and had decided to use his fame for good purpose.  Is he a perfect man?  By no means.  But he has done a lot more for a lot of people than most of us could ever dream of, past mistakes and all.  How many of us can say that?  Why are we so quick to crucify public figures for their very public troubles?  Maybe its because we see the darkness in our own lives and if we point the light away from us, onto someone else, we can feel ok about ourselves for a little while.  We are all of us very good at being critical and judgmental.

Anyway…I hadn’t planned about writing about football at all, but sitting here, with my family watching the game I just had some thoughts to share.  I hope wherever you are, and whatever you’re cheering for, you are brought to your feet and maybe brought to tears:)

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