You, the great world beyond Baltimore, do not realize the fate that we here in Charm City just barely dodged when that last San Francisco pass fell incomplete in the end zone. Had the Ravens lost, we would have faced a decade of moaning about how the game was stolen, and the conspiracy theories would have sprouted like kudzu. Every crazy guy we met would have had his own, about how the game was rigged by the NFL, the Mob, the CIA, or Don Irsay's ghost.
So, I thought, the thing to do would be to get ahead of the curve. I think I would put it in the form of a review article on the different schools of conspiracy thinking, written five years after a Baltimore loss:
. . . those who favor the gambling sub-class of Mob theories like to point out how many high-flying gamblers were present in New Orleans, a veritable who's who of gaming kingpins. Among the mafia figures who have been spotted on tape from security cameras is hitman Jimmy "Shoulders" LaBraza, who was seen loitering outside a rear entrance. His own claim, made to Oprah, that he was just taking a smoke break from his job as bodyguard for some top mob guys in a luxury suite gets little credence. Some have also identified the famous "man with a wrench" seen on the tape from Camera #17 as Louie Andolini, a noted Mob enforcer from Reno. . . .But, really this is a job for somebody with a sense of humor.
But those who say the CIA must have been involved point to the analysis of swab samples taken from the turf around the Ravens sideline by private detective Jake Strawbridge. Strawbridge's famous samples showed traces of sophisticated neuro-toxins that, he says, could only have come from government arsenals. And how else do you explain the dramatic fall-off in the play of the Ravens after half an hour of rest? Shouldn't they have emerged refreshed, not bedraggled and bewildered? Others say that the tests done by the FBI on the wires that were found to have failed showed the presence of hexaflouride, indicating that the "corrosion" was caused an acid attack. This claim, which appeared in an early draft of the FBI's report obtained by Fox News, was not in the final document, and few in Baltimore accept the official explanation, that those were preliminary results not confirmed by later, more thorough testing.
And what are we to make of the signs of tampering at Fuse Box Number 11? The FBI admitted that the case had obviously been pried off and then clumsily replaced, but they accepted the account of janitor Boudreau Beauregard, who insisted that he tripped a circuit by mistake a few hours before the Saints' last regular-season game and, unable to find a supervisor with a key, pried the box open himself. The revelation that "Beauregard" is really John Johnson, a career criminal from Milwaukee and ex Marine sniper, opens up new questions. . . .