Monday, December 11, 2006

Week 14 – Magically Delicious

Kansas City, MO – 12/10/06.

I hereby declare myself the 2006 Ravens’ official Lucky Charm.

Mark Clayton may have scored the big touchdown and Ed Reed may have made the big plays on defense, but this week’s win was a virtual lock as soon as I boarded the team bus on Saturday. I know that sounds preposterous, probably because it is, but after a loss last Thursday while I watched the game from Fells Point, this was my week to prove my true value to the team. (Editors Note: Laura, another Ravenite who missed last week's loss, just happened to sit next to me on the bus ride to the airport and I think we both have some sort of Karma connection with the winning and losing this year.)

My services were needed right from the start as I stepped back into my role as bellhop by carrying Lauryn’s bags up the stairs and onto the plane. Apparently no one filled the position last week as they watched Lauryn struggle every step of the way. They were all glad to have me back because none of them knew whether they were suppose to help or not. For future reference, I will happily let anyone interested carry my wife’s bags, no strings attached.

As our bus drove us through the majestic mountains of Missouri (how much more middle of the country can you get?) all we could talk about was where we would be going for dinner. This was Kansas City, the melting pot of the BBQ world, and even though we ‘snacked’ on some steak and lobster during the flight out, nothing was going to keep us away from the grill of our dreams, Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue.

The only thing you need to know about Jack Stack is that the tables are set with two bowls of barbeque sauce before you even sit down. The walls were adorned with portraits of what else, cows. But don’t be fooled, the menu featured five different meats, and our table took a taste of them all. Pork, sausage, turkey, lamb, and of course – beef. And not just any beef, the menu describes one of the rib dishes as follows, ‘Dinosaur-sized ribs for those who crave the taste of beef.’ Apparently this is where the Flintstone’s gets carryout on those cold winter nights after a game. It also happened to be the preferred dine-in location for a few players as we saw two tables full of Ravens enjoying some ribs. Also apparent, the menu wasn’t lying. The Prime Beef Ribs were about a foot long each, had been cooked for 10 hours, and with a thick coating of barbeque sauce tasted absolutely delicious. Magical even.

Each week more and more people start to take notice that RaveTV not only has a new team member this year, but he happens to be very close to the cute girl from the editing suites they’ve come to love over the years. Eventually they put it together that I’m the spouse of said cutie and we subsequently hear our share of ‘adorable’ comments. This week may have brought us one of the best, however, as one of the coaches casually commented as we boarded the bus, ‘Honeymoon in Kansas City.’ It sounds like a mediocre movie at best, but we make the best of every city, and KC would be no different for this adorable couple.

Once we made it to the stadium I accidentally took on my next role for the team, press agent. Now that might be a bit of a stretch, but I played the part for a few brief moments before the game as I hung out on the field watching John Clayton give his SportsCenter update. I was trying to hear if Willis McGahee was going to play today as my fantasy football playoffs kicked off this week. Laurence Maroney was already being ruled out and McGahee was still listed as questionable! What's a fantasy GM to do.

I didn’t want to get too close, but as I edged my way towards the set, another ESPN host approached. Rachel Nichols (pictured in the white hat on the left) was also covering the game today and before I could decide how to introduce myself, she saw that I was dressed in purple and started asking me all sorts of questions. Potentially important questions. Like when does Ray Lewis come out of the tunnel to warm up? I could have thrown off the entire broadcast with the wrong answer. Luckily, as Brian Billick tells all his first year players, we aren’t rookies any more. I’d seen Ray Ray do his pregame routine enough times to give answers that seemed to satisfy Ms. Nichols. We kept up the small talk for a few minutes about the weather before I was summoned back to the locker room. I was giddy. It was sort of like the popular girl in high school sitting down at your lunch table to ask what the English homework was. I didn’t matter why, it was that it happened at all that made it exciting. I couldn’t wait to tell Lauryn. I made it clear that my excitement had nothing to do with the fact that Rachel was a woman. It was purely professional. I would have been just as excited to chat with John Clayton and if you’ve seen him lately, he is no Rachel Nichols.

By the time the game got started, I was back to work for the first time in two weeks and it felt good to be out on the field in a sea of red and, well, red. Kansas City fans love their Chiefs and Arrowhead Stadium is legendary around the league for being the loudest place to play. It’s also the perfect place to shoot a game as I’ve always associated KC with the NFL Films clips you see on HBO each week. This was sacred ground in the NFL and I felt privileged to step out onto the grass. Speaking of which, Don was told that the reason KC switched to grass in the ‘90’s was at the ‘request’ of Hall of Fame quarterback, Joe Montana, who finished his career as a Chief. Just an interesting side note, thought I’d share.

There was a sign back in the locker room that read, ‘Don’t Confuse Effort With Results’. Well, I do know that I really can’t affect the result, but I sure put in the effort. Jeff and I sprinted up and down the field all day as we followed this weeks wired Raven, Ovie Mughelli. Lucky for us, Ovie not only plays offense, but he is also a special teams star. That means he has the potential to be out on the field on just about every play, which kept us on our toes and on our knees most of the game. And what a game it was. Our defense is scary good. Just when you thought KC was about to score, we would not only stop them, we would force a turnover. Which would of course force me to scramble back to the bench to grab the tripod, but even the confusion on the sideline was exciting. This was a playoff type atmosphere and we were playing like it.

The final score was 20-10. After the game, the top performers from the Ravens are asked to speak to the media in what is usually a make-shift press conference. The room in which they were holding the press conference also happened to be RaveTV’s make-shift locker room. We scurried inside and tried to pack up as quietly as possible. I took care of my duties, but my attention was on the podium. The first player called in was Mark Clayton who made a stop on his way to the microphone as he gave Lauryn a hug. Now if it was just about any other player I think my heart would have tightened up, I mean it is hard to compete with multi-millonaires, but fortunately Clayton is just about the most polite NFL player you will ever meet. He calls Ray Lewis 'sir' and he has yet to spike the ball after a touchdown. He seemed like he wanted to today after his 87-yard touchdown, but true to form, he held up. Maybe he'll carry Lauryn's bags next time...

The next player to take the stand was Terrell Suggs. Apparently T-Sizzle forgot his hat in the locker room and since the rest of the crowd was the news media, he looked to us for a quick wardrobe rescue. He tried on Don Barto’s hat first but thought better of it and gave it back. Luckily, Tim pulled out some fine head gear that suited Terrell’s taste as he promptly took the offering and put it on with a bit of a lean to the right. That is how all the cool kids wear it. He was followed by Ed Reed who answered every question in his undershirt, shorts, and flip flops – the things you can’t see on tv. Ed was the star of the game, and he had some celebration plans for the trip back to the airport.

Once we finished packing, we hit the showers and boarded the bus as Ed, Bart Scott, and a few of the other players managed to secure some freshly grilled ribs for the trip. How in the world did they find BBQ between the locker room and the parking lot? The tailgaters had gone home already...They must have some good connections, who can cook a mean side of beef, because the bus smelled divine as we made our way to our seats. As the players waved their ribs in the year, they got the bus driver to pump up some Kansas City hip hop as they relished the sweet taste of victory.

This was the Ravens 5th road victory of the year after losing all eight last season. A season in which I did not have a seat on the chartered flight. Although I did bare witness to a loss in Denver earlier this year, it was a Monday night which means I really shouldn't have attended, after all, I still have a pretty good day job. Of course you all know what happened last Thursday when I stuck around in Baltimore. So while the Ravens are off to their best start in team history, I don't really know how to explain the connection between my tripod sprints and each big win. Magic? Perhaps. Lucky? Maybe. Charmed? I’m sure.

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