Sunday, October 01, 2006

Week 4 - The Agony of Victory

Baltimore, MD -- 10/1/06.

I apologize.

To Ray Lewis, Todd Heap, Brian Billick, the Ravens’ fans, my wife, the entire RaveTV production crew, my parents, my 10th grade English teacher, Jim Valvano, Frank Reich, Gerry McNamara, Roy Hobbs, Jim Morris, Rudy Ruettiger and Mikey Walsh from the Goonies (coincidentally, Sean Astin played both Mikey and Rudy on the silver screen). To all of you, I am sorry. You see, this afternoon, as the fourth quarter withered away, I gave up.

The Chargers were up six most of the second half. Meanwhile, the Ravens fumbled on the one-yard line, threw an interception, came up short on third and inches, and even allowed a muffed punt to travel almost 70 yards. So, I gave up. I lost hope. I started to sulk. I started wondering, ‘What am I going to write about this week?’ I thought a good title would be, ‘The Agony of Defeat’ considering I felt nauseous. But on the aforementioned punt, the Chargers drew a penalty and had to re-kick.

Apparently this was the most exciting thing to happen in Baltimore since shots were fired at Fort McHenery because the Ravens’ faithful started to roar. Not quite a cheer, not just a scream, but an all-out roar. Loud enough, in fact, to force the Chargers to take a safety in fear of what might happen if they tried to run a play with the sound barrier about to be broken. And that’s when the game turned. Ray Lewis said it himself (we had him wired today – more on that later) and all of a sudden, hope was restored.

McNair hit Mason, Clayton twice, ran for twelve, and took the snap on second and goal with just 41-seconds remaining. Time stood still. Ray and Ed Reed watched closely. Jeff made sure to film Ray and Ed watching closely. And, as you can see, I made sure to take a picture of Jeff filming Ray and Ed watching closely.

The fans were standing as well. Lauryn hid behind me. She couldn't watch. And then number nine hit Todd Heap for a touchdown for the third straight week. We all jumped. Ray, Ed, Steve, the fans, Lauryn, Jeff and I (don’t worry, I didn’t get in front of the camera this time). Fists pumping. Pure elation. I found Lauryn and gave her a hug – I wasn’t quite sure if it was appropriate – but everyone was feeling the love. We were about to go 4-0. We didn’t know what to say, but Ray sure did…

The day had started with the traditional meeting of the minds in the endzone with number 52 in the eye of the storm. The chanting began, “We read-y! We read-y! We read-y!” I sure was. I don’t think they noticed, but I really was. Tapes – check. Batteries – check. Extra Balance Bars for Lauryn – check. Seriously, I was ready.

(Here is a behind the scenes look at how we 'wire' Ray Lewis. Before the game, we tape a wireless microphone inside of his pads. Well, let me rephrase, as you can see in the picture on the right, Don and Jeff tape the mic while I observe.)

Back to pregame and player introductions. The defensive starters were going to be announced one at a time, but we were still taping in the tunnel and I had to get out to the field and find a spot for Jeff to set up. So I just went for it. I hugged the wall and ran towards the light. I had to squeeze between the concrete siding and a 300-lb lineman who apparently still had some hip-hop in his head as he moved side-to-side. I watched closely and picked up his rhythm so that I could find a hole and an opportune time to get by. I made it through, but I think I clipped him on the way. No flags though. However, the gauntlet still wasn’t over. As I emerged from the smoke – with a little less fanfare than most – I had to side-step the smoke machine and make a sharp cut on the run to avoid the pyrotechnics, although I did feel the heat of the fire. Who would have thought, but Metallica + Flame Throwers = Crowd Goes Crazy. Then it was time. Ray came out dancing, sliding, high stepping, twisting, turning, clapping, screaming, and smiling. The stage was set, and Ray owns this stage.

Of course the Chargers have one of the most explosive players in all of football, LaDanian Tomlinson, and as I watched him at ground level, I was convinced that my eyes were deceiving me. He was just that quick. A little R2 in Madden would do the same thing, but how does LT do it in real life? Fortunately, Ray had an X button in his pocket and kept him in check, especially on some third and shorts early in the game as he came out of the pile screaming at no one in particular, “Get off the field!”

However, as he usually does, Ray saved his best coverage, and quotes, for last. After the defense held off a last second drive and the comeback came to a close, he made sure to congratulate UMD alum, Shawne Merriman, and then gathered his football brethren at the 50 – once again the center of the storm. But this speech was less ‘Pump’ and all ‘Prayer’. He asked for the Chargers to arrive home safely in San Diego and gave thanks for the opportunity to play the game he loves. I too am thankful for this opportunity and fittingly, on this Day of Atonement, I apologize for losing hope. With you Ray, I say, Amen.

Next up, the Denver Broncos and Monday Night Football. Yes, I'm read-y.

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