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Spitballin’

Spitballin’

2013: Cult Status

As we play out the string on 2013, little’s left to do but look back at the triumphs and tribulations of our latest lap about the great burning ball we call the sun. There’s definitely been some great big ups along the way, most notably the impending success of my New Year’s resolution. As the ball dropped on 2012, I resolved to not join a cult this year, which was tougher than it sounds. In 2009 I became a Moonie, in 2010 it was the Raelians, 2011 I fell prey to the teachings of the Bagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba (All praise be unto his name), and in 2012 Sam’s Club. But 2013 is looking cult free! Now, if I can just make it to midnight on the 31st without joining Lisa Lisa and her terrifying Cult Jam. Though, frankly, it got a lot easier when I realized I’d have to dance and not just make delicious preserves.

The year opened with the Ravens’ improbable run to their second championship, and it was definitely one to remember, though judging by what I saw on the streets of Baltimore that night, it’s probably a bit hazy for most of us, so let me recap. On the way to the Super Bowl, Joe Flacco and the Ravens stomped the life out of our old team the Colts; traveled to Mile-High to defeat the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning on the strength of Joe Flacco’s mighty right arm, Jacoby Jones’ blazing fast legs, and a miracle; then went up to Foxboro to avenge the previous season’s tragic defeat at the hands of Emperor Belichick and his dark Padawan and Uggs model, Tom Brady. Honestly, unless they could have somehow snuck in an extra game against the hated Steelers, it could not have been a more satisfying run.

Then there was that Super Bowl. Man, oh man, what a game! Hot Harbaugh-on-Harbaugh action from the Har-Bowl in the Big Easy, and that game was electric! Or not. Depending on what side of the blackout you’re talking about. When the lights went out for 34 minutes, what looked to be a Ravens drubbing turned into a thriller, but the boys from Bmore held on for the win, Joe Flacco got a Corvette, the Ravens then filled it with money to keep him around, and for three whole weeks, the world accepted that he was a good quarterback. It was a stunning ride and topped off in true Ravens fashion with an honest-to-goodness miracle: Only Baltimore could win a Super Bowl and shine a light on the deplorable condition of the nation’s infrastructure in one fell swoop.

And how about that party! I personally witnessed a guy fall out of the back of a moving pickup truck without spilling his beer. And if you were wondering, that beer was exceptionally cold.

We followed up the February Super Bowl with a second championship in March when coach Danny Kelly and his Baltimore Blast, after falling short to the Milwaukee Wave in 2010 and 2011, finally got over the hump, defeating the Missouri Comets for the MISL title. If you haven’t been to an indoor soccer game since the ’80s, it’s time to get your butt back to the arena. Blast games are, hands down, the best-spent sports buck in Baltimore. The game is, for lack of a better word, a blast, and if you’ve got kids, it is well worth the trip. Hey Blast, if you’re reading, bring back the UFO and I’m buying season tickets!

And speaking of great Baltimore bucks, Buck Showalter and the Birds gave us another great year. Yeah, they fell short of the playoffs a year after 2012’s shocking run, but they played hard and well and eked out a second-straight winning season. Sure, some October baseball would have been great, but the ride was a fine one. Baltimore got a severe case of Manny Mania as young third baseman Manny Machado, in his first full season in the bigs, tore up the league with a bat built for doubles, a 5,000 megawatt smile, and glove work that would make old Brooksie proud. At the other corner, first baseman Chris Davis hit 53 home runs, the most in baseball for 2013, and claimed the Orioles’ single season home run record. Little known fact: Of Davis’ 53 home runs, 19 still haven’t landed.

Of course, the Hot Stove League has been more of a pile of cold coals. Left fielder and fan favorite Nate McLouth skipped town for D.C. and a measly (in baseball terms anyway) two-year $10.75 million deal. Controversial closer Jim Johnson took his 50 saves to the Oakland A’s, leaving a huge hole in the O’s bullpen. The one free agent victory the Birds seemed to have was the signing of former A’s closer Grant Balfour, but at the time of this writing, that deal looks to be falling apart along with Balfour’s 35-year-old shoulder. The lowest low, however, was when lifelong Oriole Brian Roberts signed with the hated Yankees for just 2 million bucks. At a price like that, you have to wonder what kept the Orioles from pulling the trigger with an offer. The Birds have been dumping salary and, along with them, fan favor. It’s been a rough one to watch and a sad way to run out the year.

Of course, the Ravens have been making a go of it late in 2013. After a sluggish—some would say disastrous—start to the season, the Ravens have won five of six at the time of this writing and are in control of the final Wild Card spot with a shot at the division title, and they’ve been doing it like Ravens, in ways that make you cry and laugh in back-to-back moments. After the Thriller in the Chiller, that insane ride to beat the Vikings, and the kick heard ’round the world to defeat the Lions, the Ravens are again doing their part to make it a hell of a 2013. The only real downside is that, somewhere between paragraphs three and four, I got “Lost in Emotion” and joined the Cult Jam. Ahh well. My resolution this coming year will be something easy. I resolve to build a perpetual motion machine! All I need to do is figure out a way to harness the power of Justin Tucker’s leg.

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