Monday, September 25, 2006

Week 3 - Smash and Grab

Cleveland, OH – 9/23/06.

The Smash. On the way to the airport back in Baltimore, one of the buses rammed the back of another team bus who had to stop short, shattering the windshield in a scene straight out of a Volkswagen commercial. An omen? We didn’t know, but it sure was the topic of conversation the rest of the ride, which we still made thanks to our police escort. And they didn't take any more chances as they practically closed the beltway for the Ravens. A police siren never sounded so sweet.

The Grab. Chris McAlister intercepted Charlie Frye in the end zone in the fourth quarter as the Browns allowed the Ravens to remove the nail from the coffin. Why they didn't just run down the clock and settle for a field goal is baffling. But the pick gave the Ravens hope and what happened next, as Todd Heap would say, "That's a drive you can write about." So I will.

At this point in the game the Browns, who had led since the second quarter, were still up 2 with only about two minutes to play. Again, no clue why they weren’t playing for three on the last series. But as the drive picked up momentum, the crowd picked up steam. These fans must really have been pissed about Art Modell moving the old Browns to Baltimore because sprinkled throughout the roar were quite a few obscenities. Even a few directed at your favorite production assistant. I know I was wearing purple, but my enthusiastic white-man-jump when we got the ball back elicited a few sarcastic comments about my ‘hops’.

Back to the drive. My heart was racing. For some reason, I was really nervous. I've watched sports my whole life and I typically find myself yelling and sweating more than I should, but this time it really felt as if something more than a football game was on the line – it wasn’t of course, especially for me, but I was still catching my breath as the seconds ticked away. Was there anything I could do to help? Somehow making sure Jeff’s camera was balanced didn’t seem to phase the Cleveland Defense.

After failing to convert on third down at the 35, the stage was set for Matt Stover. The only remaining former Brown wearing purple lined up for the 52-yarder. Lucky for me, I was standing right under the goal post, right next to the happy-go-lucky Browns mascot, as the ball split the uprights. I know a mascot’s face is pretty much stuck in a smile, but I really think I saw Brownie frown. Poor guy.

The locker room was buzzing after the game and when I got back from the shower I realized that I happened to park my suitcase near the locker of the star of the day. I listened in as he went through the kick with each and every reporter. I felt like approaching him as Josh Lukin of 'On the Road with the Ravens'. But not yet, my time will come.

The bus back to the airport was a bit surreal, as if the whole experience wasn't already. First Stover sat in the seat next to me and pulled out his Treo to see that he had 11 text messages, including a congratulations from a certain former prime time Raven. I was on my Treo as well and was very busy checking my fantasy football stats. Clearly the similarities in our lifestyles start and end with our cell phones. Next up was Todd Heap, who sloooowly made his way to the seat next to Stover thanks to some hard knocks during the game. Then McAllister boarded, still in shock that Cleveland tried to pass on 2nd and goal in the fourth quarter. Of course the parade was just getting started as J. Lewis rolled down the aisle (Lauryn made sure to comment on his purple tie which means that I will probably get a similar one under the Hanukkah Bush this year). And to top it off, Ray Lewis took up residence in the front row. For all intents and purposes the bus could have been headed to Honolulu for the Pro Bowl. Although the gulfstreams parked in the hangar where we boarded would have been a nicer way to travel to the islands. Funny, this was probably the only time I’d ever see a private jet with guys who could do more than just joke about flying one to the islands.

Of course the last second victory pretty much dominated the trip, but I did learn a few things about Cleveland during our short stay. Who knew, but not only does Cleveland rock, but so does their sushi. The production crew made their annual trek to Sushi Rocks in the Warehouse District - I recommend the Pretty Woman Roll, smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado, and kiwi on top – and you get to come up with lots of immature jokes about ordering a Pretty Woman. Fortunately, mine brings me along each and every week so I get to blog for all of you. We’re three for three so far. I hope next week brings a win once again, because I’ll take a Victory Roll every time.

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