Monday, September 18, 2006

Week 2 - Shake your Pom-Pom

Baltimore, MD -- 9/17/06. True Story. The crowd is roaring. The smoke machines are, well, smoking. I learn that the fighter jet fly-over is only minutes away. I’m attached at the hip to my cameraman as he gets set for player introductions, and then it happens. I kid you not, all fifty of the Ravens Cheerleaders start running at me. Pom-poms pumping. White-smiles shining. Skin – showing. The ladies split into two lines and all of a sudden I found myself smack dab in the middle of the runway. Nothing but blonde hair, blue eyes, and purple skirts all around me. Oh, and the 60,000 fans in the stands. And if that wasn’t enough, through the smoke, the Ravens Defense comes charging out. I look around – should I leave? Do I get up now? Or can I keep living the dream? My cameraman and Director of Photography, Jeff, is still locked and loaded waiting for this week’s wired Raven, Derrick Mason. I look up to the cheerleaders for advice. They’re still smiling. I take that as a yes and focus my attention back on the tunnel. Mason is the first to be introduced. He sprints by Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Josh Lukin. What is wrong with that sentence!

Back to the start of my day. The Ravens played their first home game of the season against the Oakland Raiders. Despite a horrendous first game in week one, the Raiders have some star power, and I was seeing stars before the kickoff. First, I saw Jerry Porter on the sidelines. Now Porter is a fantasy football hot button because he is a great number two receiver, but his antics have basically cost him a starting job. It’s a risk to put him on your fantasy team because he may not even play. But when in the lineup, he’s a potential star. I just so happen to pick him up, and subsequently drop him this week. So when I saw Mr. Porter stroll out of the tunnel in street clothes and some serious bling, I felt like quite the fantasy GM. Star number two was Randy Moss. The man is enormous. Not just tall, but big. He even had a giant ‘R’ tattooed on his screen-door size bicep. You just don’t understand how each and every player on the field is a superb athlete, making the superstars of the league pretty much Greek gods.

Now to the game. And what a game it was for the defense. Coming off a 27-0 shutout in Tampa, Ray Lewis and the crew were fired up for the Raiders. They started the game with two forced fumbles, added four more turnovers and six sacks. Six! Throw in a safety and they racked up 34 points (for my fantasy team). But the highlight of the day was after an interception by Lewis. With all the fire, passion, and rage a man can possibly possess, number 52 stormed off the field, threw off his helmet, stepped on top of the bench and flexed for the crowd. And I know there had to be at least 30,000 men in the stands, but the hooting and hollering that followed the ‘pose’ shook the ground. Seriously, Ray owns this town. Every man, woman, child, and those fans that wear purple camo-pants that would only conceal you in a Ravens tailgate, worship him. It’s sure good to have him back at 100% percent.

The offense had a few key moments as well, which coincided with a few key moments in my day. With only three minutes left in the first half, the Ravens were driving. They got down around the goal line and I thought for sure another run was coming. But to the surprise of the Raiders, the fans, the announcers, the concession guys, and the grounds crew, Steve McNair dropped back to pass and tossed a short touchdown pass to Todd Heap. The route Heap ran apparently called for a b-line towards Jeff and I felt the need to grab him and push him out of the way. Probably an overreaction, but I think I made a nice block on the play.

Now a lot of you probably don’t know exactly what I do on the sidelines. But let me say this. I carry a tripod. We film one player each game and stay on him for every play. This usually requires us to set up as close to the action as possible. In football, the teams switch sides at the start of the 2nd and 4th quarters. With only a minute left in the third quarter, we were standing in the end zone and came to the realization that in about 45 seconds, the clock would sound, and the players would be facing the other direction. Flashbacks to freshmen year basketball tryouts haunted me, as I knew we were in for a 100-yard sprint. I’m used to the baseball diamond. Sixty feet is long enough for me. But as I picked up the tripod and started down the sidelines, I felt like Haloti Ngata. I had no idea if I was going to make it to the other side. I passed the 50 and saw one of the offensive linemen getting an IV. This was a professional athlete, how was I to last? But I kept on. The thirty, the twenty, ten, five…slowing down…four, three…whew I am tried…and then finally the endzone. One of Lauryn’s former coworkers noticed my ‘effort’ and commented to her that I might need to sit the next one out. I think he was right. Back to the advertising world for another week, but in the words of Derrick Mason, “I’ll see you next week.”

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