The Ravens are a magic team. For verification, check their slew of larger-than-life storylines along the way to turning "impossible" into just another word. They'll face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday evening at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and the Ravens will do so without many of their opponent's credentials.
While magic teams such as the Ravens often capture the World Series, they never take Super Bowls. Never.
Well, almost never.
Prior to Super Bowl III, Joe Namath made his guarantee involving his New York Jets against the Baltimore Colts, and you know the rest. The 1980 Oakland Raiders were projected as mediocre, but they became the first Wild Card team to ever win it all. Then there was five years ago, when the New York Giants used the combination of a miracle throw and catch in the final seconds to shock the New England Patriots.
Those are just three examples out of 46.
More often than not, the magic team loses to the best team in the Super Bowl, and the 49ers are the NFL's best team this season.
Still, despite the lack of suspense of most Super Bowls with these yin-and-yang type pairings, television ratings soar for the network broadcasting the game. It's attributable to (1) slick commercials, (2) whichever diva is singing the national anthem, (3) the over-the-top halftime entertainment and (4) everything else on the air which serves as background noise for your average Super Bowl party.
The quality of such Super Bowl games? No so much.
In contrast, baseball has a rich history of unpredictability with the World Series, particularly when a magic team is involved.
The 1914 Boston Braves went from last place on the Fourth of July to sweeping the supposedly invincible Philadelphia Athletics out of the World Series. Thus their eternal nickname: The Miracle Braves.
With nobody expecting anything worth mentioning, Bill Mazeroski stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. He eventually ripped a home run to send his obscure Pirates past the mighty Yankees.
Nine years later, the New York Mets became the Amazin' Mets -- and 1969 world champions -- after seasons of ineptness.
There also were the Amazin' Yankees.
Despite dropping the opening two games of the 1996 World Series to the Atlanta Braves at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees surged to the title during the New York tabloid drama (as in the stuff of magic teams) surrounding Frank Torre's heart surgery. Frank is the brother of Joe Torre, who was the Yankees manager back then.
There's more. There's a lot more, because whereas pixie dust either dies or fades in the NFL, it lives forever in Major League Baseball -- or at least long enough to win a World Series.
For instance: The 1991 Minnesota Twins went from a last-place finish the year before to being world champions.
Later, the 2004 Boston Red Sox exorcised the Curse of the Bambino in a couple of dramatic ways. First, during that ALCS against the Yankees, they became the first team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven playoff series. Then they won their first World Series in 86 years -- you know, since they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.
There were also the 2010 San Francisco Giants. Only the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians had gone longer than the Giants without winning a World Series. Plus, that season, those Giants played more games decided by three runs or less than any other team in the Major Leagues. It caused Giants radio announcer Duane Kuiper to tell the world through his microphone, "Giants baseball -- torture."
Those "magic" Giants won four of their five Word Series games against the loaded Texas Rangers.
As for the "magic" Ravens, their tale is riveting, starting with the death of owner Art Modell in early September.
While Modell was despised by those in Cleveland after he moved the Browns from their long-time home along Lake Erie to Baltimore after the 1995 season, he was cherished in his new city. Courtesy of Modell, the Browns became the Ravens, and replaced a Colts team that had bolted Baltimore for Indianapolis a dozen years before.
Modell's death was particularly a blow to Ray Lewis, the future Hall of Fame linebacker who played on the Ravens' first team. So, Lewis could do his squirrel dance before Sunday's opening kickoff while leading his teammates in a cheer of "Win one for Art."
The Ravens also could replace "Art" with "Ray."
Many thought Lewis' career was over in October when he tore his triceps, but he returned for the playoffs to lead all of his postseason peers in tackles. Nevertheless, he said his retirement will come after the last second of the Ravens' season.
The Lewis-inspired Ravens smashed the Indianapolis Colts during a home playoff game. Then they ignored their underdog status to grab road victories at Denver (despite the great Payton Manning) and at New England (despite the great Tom Brady).
It all smacks of magic.
So does the ability of Ravens star receiver Torrey Smith to keep prospering despite grieving the death of his brother, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in late September.
Ravens safety Ed Reed is from the New Orleans area, and that's magic enough. That said, since he is in the twilight of a brilliant career, he could make more magic in the Baltimore locker room before the game by telling his teammates that he is joining Lewis in retirement -- and that he wants to end his career by winning it all in his backyard.
Reed played for a defense with more aches and pains this season than any other in the NFL, but they found the "magic" to keep going.
The Ravens also changed offensive coordinators in December, which is unusual for a contending team.
They're still standing.
Not that it will matter.