Here's one of sports journalism's dirty little secrets: Losing locker rooms are often more compelling.
If you're working a big game with a choice of covering the winners or losers, you're liable to get more interesting storytelling, more raw and vivid emotion, on the losing side.
Oh, everything is sunshine and flowers across the hall, where the winners are hugging, laughing and celebrating their dreams coming true. That's fun to be around. The world is perfect in there. Yay!
But life isn't like that. It's a long trail of ups and downs. The losers are learning the hard way. Their dreams didn't come true.
How are they handling it? That's always an interesting question. I believe you can find out a lot about people – in any business, not just sports – when things aren't going their way. It can serve as a measure of patience, temperament, discipline, poise, character … all sorts of things.
For the Ravens, the 2015 season has become something of an experiment along those lines. They didn't expect it and certainly wish it weren't so, but they're 1-4 and in last place in the AFC North heading into Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers.
What are we finding out about them as they face this more sobering reality?
They aren't panicking, that's for sure.
From what I could observe in interviews and limited time in the locker room this week, the coaches and players are taking the same grinding, methodical approach that has marked the Ravens in better times. You would expect their confidence is bruised, but they insist they still believe in themselves.
"I think we have a lot of confidence in what we're doing around here and the way we do it, so we have to just get through it," quarterback Joe Flacco said.
Some will call that a purple-hued denial of what 1-4 says – namely, that the Ravens aren't very good. We'll see. But the undaunted optimism rings real if you're there, listening.
It's the byproduct of having won so consistently for so long. Panic just isn't in the Ravens' DNA.
You could see it last Monday, with the memory of a depressing home loss to Cleveland still fresh. When Head Coach John Harbaugh met with reporters, he exuded calm. Though bluntly honest in pointing out his team's mistakes and shortcomings, he obviously wasn't discouraged.
"We definitely believe in what we're doing," Harbaugh said. "We definitely have confidence in the players that we have, in the coaches that we have and in the schemes that we're running. But you also look for ways to improve and get better, so we're looking at schemes, we're looking at things that we can teach a little bit differently."
Would it help if the Ravens showed more desperation, some hair-on-fire urgency? Bah. That's talk-show talk. They aren't 1-4 because of a lack of effort or will. They need to play better. Their defense can't get off the field, especially late. Their offense has repeatedly come up short in potentially game-winning situations. Jumping and shouting won't correct those ills. If a solution exists, it lies in practice-time fixes that play out on Sunday.
"It's tough, but it's part of the NFL," Flacco said of losing. "You can't keep your head down. I think we've had a great mindset as a team, as an organization. I think it starts with John and the way he's leading us. I think we've had a great mindset coming out here and practicing and being able to put some of that stuff behind us."
Honestly, the locker room seems no different at 1-4 than it was at 4-1.
Harbaugh "hasn't been (cursing) guys or kind of chewing guys out or kind of putting on a persona or anything like that," guard Kelechi Osemele said. "He's just been a straight professional about it. He calls guys out and he's going to let you know if he thinks you need to improve and tell you exactly what that is you need to improve on."
Their odds of making the playoffs have dwindled. There's no telling when, or if, they can turn their season around.
But for what it's worth, I like their approach. Forget your circumstances. There's a game to play Sunday. Just play better. That's how to make the clouds go away and the sun come out. Practice hard. Play better.