Two Teams, One Town, Same Story
Baltimore, MD – When Baltimore football fans reach into their memory banks to reminisce about local championship teams this side of the millennium, they’ll notice striking resemblances. There are countless storylines documenting the highs and lows of every title campaign. The story of the 2014 Baltimore Mariners is riddled with adversity, but more important it’s a story of passion, pride and perseverance. The franchise has dodged Titanic-sized icebergs in their maiden voyage similar to what the beloved Baltimore Ravens experienced in their respective championship runs.
Despite the obvious differences comparing the indoor and outdoor game, the script chronicling the Baltimore Mariners’ journey reads like a spinoff of those two unforgettable Raven seasons. Come Saturday night, the final act will be written as the Mariners return to Fayetteville, NC for a shot at the AIF championship against top seeded Cape Fear Heroes. Baltimore looks to avenge last month’s loss to the Heroes which has forced the team to take the show on the road throughout the playoffs.
But before we tune into HerbFM on Saturday night, let’s examine the hypotheticals. Close your eyes and think about the 2000 and 2012 Baltimore Ravens. Think about adversity. Think about a five game offensive touchdown drought. Think about 4th and 29. Think about the cast of characters, in both lead and supporting roles. Now open your eyes and take a look at this year’s Baltimore Mariners. Disney might not be calling for the movie rights, but those closely involved with this group of players and coaches know that they too are a team of destiny.
The more I compare the boys in purple and black to their little brothers by the bay sporting navy and gold, the more I feel color blind. For starters, there’s the fiery and outspoken head coach of the Mariners, Ron Meehan. Coach Meehan is no stranger to providing juicy sound bites a la Brian Billick. He is the captain of the ship and constantly preaches to his crew ‘I got your back’.
Speaking of Meehan’s crew; how about a stingy defense that finished the regular season atop the league in just about every statistical category? Starting with a beefy defensive line anchored by Shaquane Madison whose Hollywood personality mirrors that of Tony Siragusa. What about a playmaking veteran safety named Richard Johnson? Johnson has scored almost as many touchdowns this season as Ed Reed has over his career? Or the hard-hitting MLB Darius Leak? The man punishes anyone bearing the opposite colored jersey. And no he doesn’t wear number 52, rather number three. Sound familiar yet?
Now switch to the opposite side of the ball. You’ll notice a pair of running backs in Matt Winger and Daijeon Powell (injured) that keep the chains moving and have racked up double digit touchdown figures. A dreadlocked wide receiver named Ray Mack who exudes quiet confidence, is dedicated to the community and climbs the ladder to catch everything in sight. Then there’s the leading man in Kevin Clancy that values substance over style. From high school, to college, to the pros, all Clancy has ever done is consistently lead winning teams just like another famous Baltimore franchise quarterback. This Mariner team even has a golden booted place kicker named JR Cipra who was a holdover from the previous franchise much like Matt Stover. The parallels go on and on, growing eerily similar.
Despite experiencing choppy waters over a grueling season, this team has stuck together and remained focused. The trials and tribulations such as canceled practices and games, broken down buses, controversial calls and much more have contributed to the genetic makeup of this team. Their character and integrity is more than enough to make a coach, fan base and entire city proud.
Has it been a challenging first season? Absolutely. Did the organization make a few wrong turns in their first year? Sure. However, there is still a strong possibility that the most important promise will be kept. That is the promise of bringing championship football back to Baltimore. As fans, sometimes we get caught up in what Coach Meehan refers to as ‘noise’ and we often lose sight of what’s important. The men in the locker room hear Coach’s message loud and clear. The message just might have to be edited if Disney comes a calling. Sorry Coach, but you can be ‘that guy’.
Best of luck to the 2014 Baltimore Mariners on Saturday! We’re proud of what you’ve accomplished this year and can’t wait until next season!