The 1996 Ravens brought football back to Baltimore. They were important. The 2000 Ravens brought a championship back to Baltimore. They were very important. But when I look back years from now on my favorite Baltimore Ravens team of all time, the 2008 campaign will stick out in my mind.
It was a season in which expectations were defied and foundations for legacies were forged, and they are no doubt my favorite Ravens team of all time.
My reasons are half selfish, half sentimental. 2008 was the season I actually worked for the team. As an intern and contributing writer for BaltimoreRavens.com, I got to cover the team on a very personal and in-depth level.
But putting aside that ‘cool’ factor, I was a 22-year-old fresh out of college still trying to find my way in this industry (and I suppose the world in general), there was this brand new head coach and this brand new quarterback doing the same. In my city. For my team.
2008 was the year Baltimore met John Harbaugh. It was the year they fell in love with Joe Flacco. It was the year when a team defied all expectations from the previous season to make it all the way to the AFC Championship game.
Rookie quarterbacks and rookie head coaches don’t do that. Harbaugh and Flacco did.
The two of them have endeared themselves to the city, and the city has reciprocated in kind. If 2008 is any indication (and I believe it is), Harbaugh and Flacco will go down with the likes of Johnny Unitas, Cal Ripken Jr., and Ray Lewis as among the heroes of Charm City sports. Baltimore loves its heroes.
They didn’t win the championship. They didn’t even win the division. But when Ravens fans look back on the legend of Joe Flacco and the legacy of John Harbaugh, they’ll remember 2008 was when it began.
I’ll remember 2008 was my first year in this business (and quite possibly my last), but it was an important year for me nonetheless. I don’t know what my future as a writer or my future in sports will be like. But 2008 will remain a signature marker on the time line of my career and my life.
John Harbaugh always speaks of creating something, being a part of something bigger. It’s not about winning championships. Championships will come if you devote yourself to a larger ideal. That lesson can be applied in football and in life. 2008 was the year I learned that. So did Baltimore, and so did the Ravens.