Lamar Jackson Insisting the Baltimore Ravens Are Underdogs Is Driving Me Clinically Insane

Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

Clicked over to ESPN dotcom this morning and one of the top stories caught my eye. The headline is Jackson, Ravens ignorning 'bait' after script flips, which sounded genuinely interesting to someone who wanted to find out what the bait was and how the script has flipped. After reading it though, I'm sort of struggling to come to terms with, well, everything — but more specifically: why it even exists at all.

You might remember the Ravens felt disrespected by being 5.5-point underdogs in Monday night's clash with the San Francisco 49ers, which is what they want. And maybe exactly what they need considering that they went forth with the single-most impressive victory of the NFL season in front of a somewhat surprised Christmas audience.

You might have also noticed that the win was enough to vault them atop pretty much everyone's power rankings and any ol' person on the street would confidently back them as the league's best team. Confusingly, this is also a problem because it's too much disrespect.

Here's the report:

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A week after feeling disrespected about being an underdog to the San Francisco 49ers, quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens are now tuning out the talk that they're the NFL's No. 1 team.

"Keeping a level head is the most important thing for us right now, because now the narrative is changing," Jackson said Wednesday.

"It was just, 'This team is ... the Ravens; we don't know about the Ravens.' Now it's, 'Oh, they're the No. 1 team.' So, we're not paying [any] mind to that. I feel like that's bait -- that's clickbait. And like I said, we're trying to make it to February, so we're going to take it a game at a time."

For the life of me, I cannot understand why professional athletes — the coolest people in the world behind maybe rock stars — spend their off-field hours being messy little monsters who live for the drama, constantly adjudicating media narratives that may not actually exist or are so transparently manufactured for eyeballs that no one should treat them as substantive. It's profoundly whiny and diametrically opposed to being a badass player but I guess the toothpaste is currently out of the tube there.

We briefly flirt with reality later on in the piece, but Lamar Jackson is there to tell you the red pen is blue and the blue pen is red like some sort of reverse Liar, Liar situation.

The Ravens can clinch the AFC's No. 1 seed if they beat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday; Baltimore is a 3.5-point favorite, according to ESPN BET.

When it was pointed out to Jackson that the Ravens technically are no longer the underdogs, Jackson said, "We're the underdogs. We're the underdogs."

Why does Jackson feel that way?

"Because we're the underdogs," Jackson said.

Well, case closed and checkmate there. Jackson says the Ravens are underdogs because they're underdogs and you can read it right there in the carousel on sports' most prestigious real estate. If you're scoring at home, he thinks they’re the best team and is now annoyed that people are saying they’re the best team and yet is still insisting they are underdogs.

To be perfectly clear, there's no reason to slight the writer, who is just turning in interesting copy. And as much as I'd like to draw some corollaries between this type of stuff in sports and the choose-your-own-reality-ification of political writing, no one should work that hard on the week before New Year's. It's not like platforming these opinions is dangerous or anything ... it's just ... what's the point? What is the point when they're just going to make up whatever they want and create their own narratives about the media narratives? It all sort of feels like make-believe land and none of this matters one iota compared to what happens during actual games.

Perhaps most confusingly is the headline when you click through to the article, which reads "Lamar Jackson, Ravens try to keep 'level head,' ignore No. 1 team talk." Because that is not at all what they are doing. They are allowing the outside noise to get in their heads and they are talking a tremendous deal about the No. 1 team in football and why they should or should not be considered for this arbitrary late-season honor depending on who you talk to.

So I guess I am wondering why we do any RESPECT content, outside of its ability to drive clicks and eyeballs. It's a really, really weird sub genre and none of it feels real at all.