Tandler's Take - Rivalry or Routine?

Who said this? "We know how much our fans hate Washington. The fans are ready for this one. I think we are, too. If our fans feel that strongly about the D.C. area, we definitely want to try to put some points on the board and get out of there with a victory."

Was it a hated Cowboy speaking before an upcoming battle with the Skins during the heyday of George Allen vs. Tom Landry? Perhaps a member of the Philadelphia Eagles before a key game at Washington during the 1980's?

No, it was Baltimore Ravens receiver Travis Taylor and he was speaking of the upcoming preseason game against the Washington Redskins.

He wasn't the only Raven who seemed to be getting pumped up over this upcoming "contest".

"It's more than just a preseason game because of the little extra stuff," Ravens defensive end Adalius Thomas said. "Especially to the fans, this is for bragging rights. There's a little more riding on this game. We would like to win it for them."

Even team president David Modell chimed in on the "rivalry" during the past week and coach Brian Billick spoke of his team giving a little extra. "The players, believe me, it means a lot to them. They're in the community now and they know this means a lot to the fans. You would have to be deaf and dumb not to get caught up in the excitement the fans have for it."

The excitement that Billick refers to is decidedly lacking around the DC Beltway. Reporters aren't asking Redskin players for quotes about the game because there's no particular buzz about it from the fans. Steve Spurrier, who loves rivalries, is sticking in his mode of being low key about preseason results and has been mum on the subject of Baltimore vs. Washington.

There have been a few incidents, that "little extra stuff" that Thomas referred to, between the two teams since the Ravens came to Baltimore in 1996, most of them perceived as the Redskins slighting or belittling the Ravens. Before a regular season game in 2000, the FedEx Field PA announcer said that "Ravens fans suck." Before that game, stadium staffers charged $40 to allow busses carrying Ravens personnel to drop off their passengers near the stadium. The vehicle carrying Art Modell was forced to park so far away from the stadium that Modell needed a golf cart to get to the stadium.

Then last summer, Redskins owner Dan Snyder was asked if he modeled himself after owners like Modell. "What model is Art Modell?" said Snyder. "He owned the team 42 years and won one Super Bowl."

Still, this does not seem to be significant enough to warrant the two teams being called "the league's version of the Hatfields and the McCoys" as a Baltimore Sun writer did this week. They've played each other twice in games that count. In 1997, the Ravens beat Washington 20-17 and in that 2000 game the Skins prevailed over the eventual Super Bowl champs 10-3. Nothing happened on the field that would spark any ill feelings on the part of either side and, besides, both rosters have undergone considerable turnover since then.

The theory has been advanced that fans in Baltimore hate the Redskins due to an inferiority complex they have vis a vis Washington, but we'll leave the psychological analysis aside for right now. There isn't much real evidence that there's any real dislike for the Redskins on the part of the fans in Charm City. As usual in sports these days, all you have to do to find the roots for all of this commotion on the part of the Ravens is follow the money.

The Ravens have a nice-looking facility, the newly-renamed M&T Bank Stadium, located in a desirable downtown spot, but they can't sell it out. Their Website is still pushing Permanent Seat Licenses (PSL's) for up to $5,000 a seat. Single-game tickets are available for all 8 regular-season home dates. While this particular game is at FedEx, there is still a need to sell tickets. You do that by creating a buzz about the team, thus the words from Modell and Billick. The players follow their cue and do their duty, talking up the game like it's a real war.

If the Ravens win—and a team can almost always win a preseason game if it makes that a major objective—their fans will own those "bragging rights" and maybe they'll sell a few more seats at good old M&T.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has detailed coverage of every game the Redskins played from 1937 through the 2001 season. For details, go to RedskinsAtoZ

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