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I Challenge You To Find A More Useless NFL Record Than The Ravens’ Preseason Win Streak

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 13: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens watches from the bench during the NFL game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on September 13, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Ravens 33-27 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Because we count everything, we count stuff like this, from ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: The Baltimore Ravens have won an NFL-record 20 straight preseason games. And because we count stuff like this, we live in despair. There—the meaning of existence in the post-modern and pre-apocalyptic world, in a nutshell. You’re welcome. Now renew your subscription.

Yes, tonight Baltimore will go for 21 consecutive practice/exhibition/highway-robbery games, a streak that dates back to 2015. Nobody much cared about it then, and nobody has much bothered with it now because most teams don’t even bother to play their starters in these games anymore, since Sean McVay and the Rams first realized that the only thing he could learn from an exhibition game is who got injured needlessly.

In other words, the Ravens have achieved something that has no value, and the fact that they have achieved it repeatedly means they have achieved something that has no value to a factor of 20. Its only illusory benefit, as pointed out in this year-old quote from quarterback Lamar Jackson—“We want to win at the end of the day. I don’t care if it’s preseason.”—is that it is infinitesimally better than not winning.

But is it really? When tight end Patrick Ricard, who is known mostly for being the size of two normal people, says, “I think it’s a really cool streak. It just shows that we’re always a ready team when it comes to the preseason,” he forces us to ask the question, “Why does that matter?” The Ravens are 5-2 in their last seven openers, but in none of those games is it reported that they credit the regular-season win to the preseason wins that taught them how to, well, win. And in only one of those seasons, 2016, did the subsequent regular-season win streak go beyond three games, thus bringing into further question the meaning of never losing in August. And if the virtues of winning carry over, their 1-3 record in the three postseasons they’ve had and the 21-20 record in December and January suggest that they tend to forget how much fun they had winning those valuable summer games.

That last paragraph was, as you could have deduced, utter nonsense because the streak is exactly that. The exhibition season has never been less valued by coaches, and to a man they would all rather have those three games canceled and replaced by nine more practice days. If the teams didn’t sell their bovine patrons on the need for them to pay full price for these glorified CFL job interviews, the coaches would get those nine extra practices. After all, that’s why they schedule all those scrimmages with other teams.

And now we’re back where we started, talking about a number that has no context or use. The Ravens aren’t to be condemned for using this little ruse to gin up a couple of extra ticket sales, and it is essentially not harmful to a republic already teetering under the weight of its own rot that a team plays what the soccer folks more accurately call “friendlies.” But 20 is just a number without the greater context, which is, “So?” And even then, Hensley offers us an attempt at a greater context, which still leads us back where we started.

“From the oddsmakers I’ve spoken with, sportsbooks do not take much preseason action from recreational public bettors, even with a ridiculous streak like this,” ESPN sports betting analyst Doug Kezirian said. “So it’s not like the house is taking a beating. But the professional bettors that do wager on the preseason are certainly aware of Baltimore’s dominance. In fact, their 18-2 record against the point spread is actually more impressive, when you consider that the spread is supposed to make the game a coin-flip outcome.”

So the gambling context is actually a way to further impoverish the statutorily gullible by suggesting there is value to be found in betting on exhibition games, which is a level of logic that approaches Trumpian.

Anyway, the Baltimore Ravens have achieved more points than their putative opponents 20 consecutive times over seven years in events that produce no tangible reward or benefit and with an army of players who mostly do not play for the team any longer. Well done to them. In the meantime, the Orioles are in Boston tonight. That’s a better reason to continue your engagement with the value of existence in the 21st century.