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As time goes by, people change.  As do teams and their fortunes.

Many of the long standing rivalries in sports can go through times of regression, where one or both teams of a particular rivalry cease to be as competitive and relevant as years past.  Long forgotten are the rivalries that currently bad teams have had many years ago.

If not for this year’s run, the Orioles would not be seen as anyone’s rival as they had consecutive losing seasons since 1998.  As the Red Sox seem to be falling from their previous decade of success and the Orioles have a rediscovered sense of competitiveness, we may see new rivalries in the AL East take form in coming years.

One rivalry (not even tired of this word yet) is currently the longest lasting in sports, which includes the Ravens vs the Steelers.

They have overtaken the previous holder, the Patriots vs Colts, where as when Peyton Manning left Indianapolis, so did the last indication of formidable match-ups between these two teams.  In the final squaring off between both teams, the Patriots have a somewhat high winning streak against the Colts now and also blew them out of the water in a 59-24 game two weeks ago.  What made them a rivalry was that, although not in the same division, they still faced each other at least once a year owing to schedule making.  Now, this widely sought after game of the season is no more what it used to be.

NFL TV executives must find some kind of rivalry to occupy this space, which can be difficult to do in finding two teams that play highly competitive games against each other, consistently rank high in the standings, and can attract many viewers that aren’t the teams’ loyal fans.  So, at this moment, nothing fits the bill more so than the Ravens-Steelers match-ups.

What may be turning the tide in viewership relies on two factors.

Firstly, the Ravens have been improving their offense.  While great defense can win championships, an equally great offense can bring eyes to the television from around the country.  Football can be an exciting sport in many facets of the game, but easily the most exciting is the level of offense a team puts on the field.

Secondly, the rivalry has been balancing itself out more in recent years than its one-sided past.  As obvious as it can be seen, no true rivalry can come from two teams where one may have a 14-6 game advantage, as an example.  However, the Ravens & Steelers head to head record is now a slight Pittsburgh advantage, but the Ravens are closing the gap by winning the previous 3 straight against Pittsburgh and 4 of the last 5 games.

As a state, we need this rivalry as it is the last notable one left.

Following University of Maryland’s (College Park) decision last week to leave the ACC conference for the Big Ten (where it and Rutgers will join as the 13th & 14th members), so too ends the decades of storied rivalries with North Carolina and Duke, particularly in basketball.  This will be official in 2014, but it feels sooner than that we must give up rooting against Duke every year as a state.

Of course, the Ravens are no stranger to losing rivalries.  Before this current one with the Steelers, the Ravens had a big rivalry with the Tennessee Titans before the realignment of the NFL divisions in 2002.

Now, this Sunday (4:25pm CBS) the Ravens, and especially the fans, are looking forward to breaking out their brooms and sweeping the series against the Steelers for the 2nd straight year.  While this game seems “in the bag” for our guys, they should never take these match-ups lightly.

If you recall, two seasons ago, there was a big deal about how Flacco won in Pittsburgh for the first time.  So, when the Steelers came in town for the second game in the series, the Ravens must have been preoccupied with the idea of sweeping the series for the first time since 2006 than to actually accomplish this.

Now, for this Sunday, Pittsburgh will play for pride more so than playing for the playoffs.  (All Affluent Appreciators of Authentic Anecdotes love Alliterations) I expect Roethlisberger to dress, but probably not play unless there is ample opportunity in the 4th quarter to mount a comeback.  The Ravens better expect some tough opposition, even though they have the home field advantage & home field offense working in their favor.

This should be a great game, even if that means most of our area watches a flurry of touchdowns rain down upon the Pittsburgh defense or somehow the game under performs into a 17-13 showdown.

I know I’ll be watching, and I believe you will too.  Enjoy the weekend!

-CW

PHOTO CREDITS: https://www.facebook.com/baltimoreravens

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