Cumberland Times-News

August 29, 2013

Why is this game being played in Denver again?

Mike Burke
Cumberland Times-News

— So Denver’s in an uproar because Joe Flacco’s picture is plastered all over town beside Peyton Manning’s picture in NFL-purchased promotions for Thursday’s season opener between the Ravens and the Broncos.

Boo-hoo. Who cares? Just one more city that thinks it has a reason to dislike Joe Flacco, as though this is his doing. Think the boos that await him Thursday night are going to bother him? Come on, he gets booed in Baltimore.

Look, I love Denver. It might be the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited, but Denver’s lucky to be even hosting this game.

Denver is where you go to live in paradise (and it is paradise) and then after you are able to suck up only so much of the altitude you begin to think realistically again and realize it’s time to pack up and relocate somewhere back in the real world. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Wouldn’t mind doing it myself, but as I am currently stuck in the real world I am acutely aware that the Thursday night NFL season opener was created for television (always television) and the reigning Super Bowl champion, which, in this case, is the Baltimore Ravens.

Have the fans in Denver forgotten this? Come on, think back. Bitter cold day, Divisional playoff game ... Flacco ... Jacoby Jones ... Tony Carter ... Rahim Moore ... 70-yard TD ... double-overtime ... Peyton Manning INT ... Ravens take new life and ride Flacco’s arm to the Super Bowl? Come on, Denver, you were there. The game was played in Denver, just like Thursday night’s will be. Which brings us to why the game is being played in Denver.

Those blasted Orioles! Those blasted and selfish Orioles are to blame because they wouldn’t move a meaningless home game with the Chicago White Sox to accommodate the great and powerful Goodell, who grew up an Orioles fan and who said he thought a same-day celebration of both the Orioles and the Ravens would be swell for the people of Baltimore.

Of course. The son of a United States Senator turned NFL commissioner had the well-being and happiness of the people of Baltimore in mind when he wouldn’t allow the Ravens game to be played on Wednesday night while the Orioles are playing a night game in Cleveland.

So why not move the NFL Kickoff Game to Wednesday night, the way the NFL did last year to avoid a conflict with President Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention? Well, Rosh Hashanah begins Wednesday night and the NFL, ever mindful of others’ religious beliefs even when they schedule games on Christmas, ruled the game could not be played on Wednesday. Thus, it was up to the Orioles, the White Sox, Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association, the Ravens and the NFL to figure something out.

And don’t forget the city of Baltimore. For even if the involved parties could have figured out a way to at least re-schedule the Thursday games (Orioles in the afternoon,  Ravens at 9 p.m.), as the teams share the same parking lot, it would have created a logistical nightmare the likes of which are seen only in Godzilla movies. Can you imagine downtown Baltimore with that many people crammed into one space? Particularly at rush hour?

It wouldn’t have worked, but even if it could have worked, why should the Orioles, who are still in the hunt for the AL wild card, feel obligated to move a home game that had already been on the schedule for months, to accommodate the NFL? They shouldn’t. Yet to their credit, they did try — unsuccessfully, and the Ravens, in turn, opted to open on the road on Thursday night rather than open at home on Sunday night.

(And no, sad as it is to have to remind people, the Ravens did not lose a home game. They just won’t open at home.)

In the meantime, Broncos fans, ungrateful for the gift of hosting the NFL Kickoff Game, steam on because Joe Flacco’s picture is all over Denver. And even Peyton Manning, whose picture is also up there, and who should really just keep his mouth shut since he is a major reason for the Flacco likenesses being anywhere, chimed in.

“I’ve never heard of anything like that for a regular season game,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like it makes a lot of sense that the Denver Broncos have to have an opposing player on their stadium.”

Nor did it seem to make a lot of sense that Manning would rush a pass across his body and into the hands of Ravens cornerback Corey Graham at the most critical juncture of the season in the Denver Broncos’ stadium.

I’m telling you, it’s the altitude.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com