Monday, September 11, 2006

Week 1 - Blood, Sweat, and Lobster Tails

Tampa, FL -- 9/10/06.

Where should I begin my tale?

I could start in Owings Mills, MD at the Ravens Training Complex where I stood in line behind one of the team's elite receivers as I waited to get my bags cleared through security before boarding the bus. What stood out about him was that he didn’t have any luggage, but he did manage to fill the little white tray with what would be the most impressive trick or treat bag ever – slick cell phone, video ipod, jewel encrusted monster watch – you name it. Then there was the police escort to BWI where we drove right on the tarmac to board the plane, at which point we were handed a bagged lunch before being offered a full dinner, peanuts, fruit, cheese and crackers, fresh crab meat, drinks, and even a tray full of candy bars. Of course as I scanned the plane during the feast I wondered what was I doing here? I’m in advertising. I’m real good with PowerPoint, Excel, and Photoshop when needed. But thanks to my wife and her bosses, this season, I have a first class ticket to the Ravens sideline each and every Sunday. I saw Matt Stover walking up and down the aisles catching up with old friends. I saw one of the coaches outlining plays and showing them over his shoulder to another coach. And of course lots of Orange and White three piece suits – who wears an Orange suit?!

Well week one of the season brought us to the sweltering heat of Tampa Bay. Home to Yankees Spring Training, its fair share of blue hair, top notch golf courses, and the NFL’s version of Pirates of the Caribbean, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Our ride to the stadium was typical. Every player strapped, with an ipod, as they boarded. One of the rookies, still learning the ropes of superstardom, concentrated on his PSP instead. Before we were allowed into the stadium, our bags were searched again, but this time by one of Tampa’s Finest pooches, a bomb sniffing dog. I’m glad they made sure the millonaires (and those of us in tow) had no plans to blow up the place. Then the fun really started, here’s a brief recap:

The entertainment started with a few warning shots from the cannon’s on the mock Pirate Ship in the end zone an hour before the game started. As we took the field, I had the honor of meeting Dick Cass, President of the Ravens. I think he was happy to hear about the efforts being made to make sure Lauryn and my marriage was staying strong. Then we started tracking this week’s wired Raven – Bart Scott. I heard the temperature on the field was 118 and the sweat already had turned half my hat a darker shade of khaki. Ill keep some choice soundbites censored, but Scott did have some nice things to say about Tampa’s Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams. I believe he was planning on converting the Caddy into a Hyundai, not quite sure how, but it made sense at the time.

The game was perfect. A first quarter, 15-play, 10-minute touchdown drive pretty much set the tone. But the most exciting moments came on the defensive side of the ball with 3 interceptions, 3 sacks, 1 touchdown, and lots of fist pumping, bicep flexing, and trash talking. Oh yea, and the heat didn’t let up, the sweat didnt let up, and my sprinting from end zone to end zone seemed to dehydrate me every few minutes. I became good friends with the Gatorade crew. And as nasty as I was, I can only imagine the scene under a pile of giants out on the field. They were just as exhausted, a few players even took IV’s during the game, and at one point, I saw two of them trying to administer oxygen to themselves as the training staff was off tending to some other players.

The final score, 27-0. Domination. Bart Scott may have said it best as he walked off the field, “The NFL better take notice.” And no doubt, they will. But the adventure didn’t end with the 4th quarter whistle. In fact, that’s when my story really picked up. But I’ll keep it short, you’ll get the picture. Here’s how it went down:

- Pack up the equipment
- Enter the player’s locker room
- See every reporter in the building hover around Ray Lewis as he put on his orange pants
- Strip off the sweat soaked clothes
- Jump in the shower next to Mount Tackula
- Shower quickly
- Get on the bus
- Get on the plane
- Dine on Lobster and Steak and a few more warm cookies
- Land in Baltimore
- Go home and write the first installment of ‘On the Road with the Ravens’

I hope you all enjoyed. The tale has just begun.

1 comment:

Hilary said...

Thanks for keeping me enteratined at work! I love the blog!