"No More Mutants."
With those three words, the comic book character called the Scarlet Witch in the Marvel Comics Universe changed everything. She stripped the world of "mutant powers," and immediately caused anyone with an "X" affiliation--the X Men, X-Force, X-Factor, Charles Xavier, x-cetera--to become normal humans.
It changed the world and caused chaos.
It is what I am reminded of when I look at this season's Ravens experience. In fact, what if Roger Goodell, and/or the powers that be, uttered a football version of this phrase as a theme for this season?
"No More Ravens."
The scenario: post-divisional playoffs in January of 2015. The Ravens have just narrowly fallen to the Patriots in New England. The executive suite in the NFL headquarters in New York.
Goodell: (sweaty, falling into a recliner with a beverage in hand and loosened tie) Phew! That was too close!
Shady Character: (other side of the room) Oh? How so? It looked convincing enough to me.
Goodell: Those Ravens are relentless! They won't just fall like most teams...
Shady: Ah, you've been browsing their website again. Looking for catchy slogans.
Goodell: No! I'm serious. They had two 14 point leads tonight. In Foxborough. Who does that?! We had to deflate extra balls AND look the other way on that illegal formation in order to right the ship.
Shady: Well, you got it done.
Goodell: (sitting forward, intense) No, Chairman. Your'e not seeing this. It shouldn't be this hard. They beat the Steelers last week--
Shady: --Which led to excellent ratings and cred points...
Goodell: --and almost came into New England and did the same thing. How in the world are we going to have dream bowl-point-two with Seattle if we keep hitting this wildcard noncompliance?!
Shady: No worries. It's the Colts next week.
Goodell: They're friends with the Ravens. "Hashtag Chuckstrong" will talk to Harbaugh.
Shady: And? We'll have the balls done, we'll have the signals, we'll be OK. Phoenix will happen as planned.
Goodell: I know one thing: this cannot happen next year. We need the 50th Super Bowl to be perfect. We cannot risk a wildcard getting so close. I don't care how beneficial the Rocky phenomenon is for ratings.
Shady: What are you saying?
Goodell: No. More. Ravens.
Goodell: (standing, light bulb moment) No more Ravens. We destroy them with a schedule, we put a moratorium out with the crews that will crush their comeback sensibilities every week until they are eliminated from potential contention.
Shady: Won't that be obvious?
Goodell: I cannot care. We cannot care, Chairman. Even if it is the most obvious bias, we cannot risk this upstart, feisty, stubborn Charm City spirit to even broach our plans for the 50th game.
Shady: You're overreacting.
Goodell: You try it! You try holding them down and making it look normal week after week! I'm sick of it! Do you know how ridiculous the lights out scheme looked in New Orleans?!
Shady: That didn't go as planned...
Goodell: AND, of course, THEY WON ANYWAY! For once, for one season, I'm done with it. Too many other things to be worried about for the 50th game. Making Cincy actually appear to be a contender. Detroit is peaking too soon. So is Dallas.
Shady: So, you're finally accepting that Dallas is out?
Goodell: Yes, the board is right. No Dallas-Pittsburgh for Super Bowl 50. Too obvious.
Shady: Good to hear.
Goodell: Good news for you. But getting there, to your good news, is my job. And I'd like to not have the headache of the Ravens next season. I don't care how it looks. No more Ravens.
Shady: Do what you've gotta do. Just be careful, Roger. Think.
Goodell: Not to worry. This will help me to think, much more clearly.
Shady: I know. Just saying. Who are you calling?
Goodell: (picking up phone) Never too early to start.
Shady: OK. I've got to go anyway. Just try to calm down a bit. (begins to exit)
Goodell: Thanks for the advice....(on phone) TOM! Roger. I know, it was close. We had you all the way....I know, they're never easy....yep. Listen, speaking of, I have a plan for next season that will eliminate the need for hairy nights like this. But first, you and I are going to have to convince the world that we're at odds. (pause, listening) No, nothing so silly. I would never punch you. You just want a free shot at me! (laughs) No, this is much, much more effective...picture this: No more Ravens. Yes. That's right. Look, I can tell you more in person. Are you and Giselle still entertaining tomorrow night? Then we'll detail then. OK. Go enjoy the win with your guys. Yes, I saw the imbalanced line. Good job moving quickly. Yes, I heard the "study the rules" line. Good one. OK, tomorrow. Thanks!
[He sits back in his recliner, beverage in hand, smug smile on his face.]
Goodell: Brian Michael Bendis, eat your heart out.
This is a fictional account. Any similarities to real characters or real life situations are intuitive and not a result of investigation and insider information. Any employees of the NFL Headquarters, please do not send masked henchmen after the author, he is not a threat to you, no one will ever believe him. If you send those men they will not return -- he ain't no punk. And please leave the Ravens alone as planned, now that they are out of playoff contention. Thank you.