With some trepidation, I'm going public today with an admission that might raise some eyebrows:
I have a Redskins fan in my family.
Yes, I do.
Hey, don't toss a full beer can at me! This isn't Toronto!
Listen, you probably know someone like my burgundy-and-gold-bleeding relative. Shoot, YOU might be like him. He's a Maryland native who lives out of state now but has Baltimore-themed art on his living room walls. He loves the Orioles. He's brokenhearted that Buck didn't use Britton. He's such a diehard Terp that he named his dog after Juan Dixon.
I love him to death, and he would love nothing more than to see the Redskins ground the Ravens into a thousand sawdust particles Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
It would give him bragging rights over his many friends and family members who are Ravens fans and never mind pointing out that THEIR team has won TWO Super Bowls since HIS more famous team even sniffed any measure of postseason glory.
Understand, I don't hold his Redskins allegiance against him. How could I? He grew up an hour from Baltimore, the son of a lifelong Redskins fan. He caught the fever as a boy and will always have it, even though these last years have tested his patience.
I'm bringing him up today because people seem to be having a hard time characterizing the "rivalry" between the Ravens and Redskins. I think his story frames it in a telling light.
Obviously, the rivalry doesn't exist on the field. The players and coaches couldn't care less. Sunday's game is just another date on the schedule to them.
When you only play once every four years, you can't generate the kind of back-and-forth history that builds animus.
The Redskins have that with their NFC East rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, and the Ravens have it with their AFC North rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, as well as the New England Patriots.
But the Ravens and Redskins don't have it with each other. Asked earlier this week if it felt like a big rivalry game, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said, "It's really tough to feel it."
Understood. But with all due respect, what do the players and coaches know? Most of them aren't from here.
It's in the stands, among the fans, where you'll find electricity Sunday.
Ravens-Redskins might not be an all-consuming divisional rivalry, but their games do have the potential to get complicated and quite personal for some fans, stirring emotions that, yes, make Sunday's game a crusade of sorts for them, much more than just another date on the schedule.
My Redskins-loving relative would certainly love to earn some bragging rights. And I'm guessing he isn't alone.
Throughout the Delmarva, fans of the teams live among each other, next door, down the street, etc. Some even share rooting interests in the Terps and Caps. But Sundays are another story. It's a unique, certifiably weird dynamic that, in the end, offers both sides plenty to get worked up about.
Up here in the northern suburbs of the nation's capital (their opinion, not ours), Ravens fans get irritated that the Redskins have a longer history and larger fan base, all of which makes them a bigger deal, regardless of their won-loss record.
But Ravens fans get the last laugh, having consistently rooted for better teams over the past two decades. Oh, yeah, that.
There's a lengthy, historic backstory, no doubt. When the Orioles and Washington Senators played in the American League through 1971, Baltimore had the upper hand. When Washington was without baseball for more than three decades after the Senators left, its fans adopted Baltimore's team. These days, interleague games between the Orioles and Nationals draw lively crowds.
Football-wise, both cities experienced good and bad times, but after the Colts left in 1984, the networks televised the Redskins in bitter Baltimore for 12 years. That decision still resonates today. Some Baltimore fans of a certain (fairly young) age root for the Redskins, and some of another (older) age suffer a blood-pressure event at the memory of the Redskins being crammed down their throats.
See? Maybe Ravens-Redskins isn't a classic on-field rivalry, but it's very definitely a thing for many fans, a personal crucible, much more than just a run-of-the-mill matchup.
Sometimes, earning family bragging rights is almost better than hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.