In fact, at the Ravens practice facility nestled among the trees in Owings Mills, Md., the cicadas have been doing a good job approximating the volume of a stadium full of fans.
The unrelenting din had Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey tweeting Monday about how “these bugs in Maryland are so loud.” With an enraged emoji, Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson replied that it sounded to him as though the insects were yelling all the time. That should be good preparation for games at Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
In reality, it’s just the sound of male cicadas looking for love. They do something called “chorusing” by vibrating an organ on their abdomens meant to call attention to themselves. That it does, although it doesn’t always produce an amorous response.
In addition to D.C., Maryland and Virginia, Brood X cicadas are popping up in parts of Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia. Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen noted this week that, as a Louisiana native, he’s “used to bugs,” including locusts, but that doesn’t mean he’s pleased with cicadas.
“I’m not a big bug guy. I’m country, I do all that outdoor stuff, but I hate bugs,” Queen told reporters. “I don’t want bugs touching me. I try to get them away from me without killing them, so I care about the creatures, but at the end of the day — do not touch me.”
Part of the issue so many are having with the cicadas is that it’s not just hard to avoid hearing them, it’s sometimes hard to avoid them at all. Our red-eyed visitors boast a charming combination of unusually large size and clumsy flying skills.
Some of Queen’s teammates, however, are apparently using that to their advantage. The Athletic reported Tuesday that Jackson and cornerback Jimmy Smith “entertained themselves after the end of one drill by dodging around” the swarming bugs. Anything that helps make Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, even more elusive in the open field has to be considered an ominous development for opponents.
One notable Washington player did not find it so easy to evade the cicadas, but he didn’t seem to mind. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick — in a very Brood X-friendly Year 17 of his NFL career — wore a broad smile Wednesday while wearing a winged wayfarer on his bushy beard.
A spokesman for the WFT said the cicadas haven’t actually been much of an issue for the players or grounds crew, at least not to the point of forcing the team to alter its approach to outdoor practices. Similarly, the coming-out party has not been a problem for the Cincinnati Bengals or the Philadelphia Eagles, according to officials with those teams. A spokesman for the Indianapolis Colts did not immediately reply to a request for comment, possibly out of fear of angering our new insect overlords.
A couple of hours away from Cincinnati — where a cicada caused a car crash Monday by flying into an open window and smacking a driver in the face (he suffered minor injuries, but his car was badly damaged) — the bugs made an impact last week at the PGA’s Memorial tournament. A tee box tucked into a corner of Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, that was near several large oak trees featured quite the un-golf-like cacophony.
“They were rocking,” 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed said Saturday. “It was really loud, and they were going.
“I wore white pants,” Reed added, “and there was two or three of them that kind of came and latched on to the white pants at one point. I’m sitting there — first off, I didn’t know in the very beginning, and I kind of looked down, and I’m like, ‘What is this that’s on my leg?’ ”
Reed knows something about unpleasant sounds coming from the gallery, but in this case he found that the chorusing had a calming effect.
“I mean, it actually kind of drowns out some of the noise from golf carts and from people walking from a distance that you [now] don’t hear,” said Reed, who finished fifth in the tournament. “If anything, it’s actually helping, so bring them on.”
It seems fair to guess that most of the professional athletes in this area are not calling for more cicadas in their lives, but at least Fitzpatrick and Jackson appear to be making the most of it. While the Ravens are set for more pest-populated practices next week, members of the WFT can flee the area entirely if they so choose, having completed their team-related responsibilities until training camp in late July.
At that point, the Brood X cicadas will be long gone, not to be heard from again until 2038. That figures to leave some NFL players better able to focus on preparing for their own strange new life cycle: a 17-game season.