Monday, September 24, 2007

Week 3 - The Reason

Baltimore, MD -- 9/23/07.

Tracy Chapman only asked for one. Hoobastank only found one. But this past Sunday in Baltimore, there were plenty of reasons to pick from. Just ask Terrell Suggs.

As an aspiring screenwriter - seriously, ask Terrell who he wants to be like when he grows up and I’m guessing he’d say Scorsese before Singletary – Suggs had some select words for his fellow linebackers as they huddled up before the game. (I will also have to be selective as to which words I reprint; this is a family blog.) Sensing the stage lights were upon him – we had Jarrett Johnson wired this week and Jeff was standing by to capture the conversation – Suggs stared into the eyes of each teammate to tell them, “You’re here for a reason.”

To Bart Scott, the un-drafted free agent turned Pro Bowler, “You’re here for a reason.” To Johnson, the five-year veteran and first year starter, “You’re here for a reason.” To Nick Griesen, who just signed with the Ravens last week and was making his Baltimore debut, “You’re here for a reason.” To Edgar Jones, who surprised many by making the roster back in August, “Reason.” Antwan Barnes? “Reason.” I think you get the gist. And although I can picture Suggs practicing his speech in the mirror, someone should make sure he knows that he’s here for a reason as well. His speech proved it.

Before every game, the Ravens legendary leader, Ray Lewis, gathers his troops in the endzone to ensure that each of his fellow soldiers is ready for battle. The 52 men in purple and black surround #52 as he asks them one simple question – “What time is it?” Rarely is the rebuttal longer than two syllables as the correct answer is always, “Game time!” There is some additional banter about some dogs in the house, but Ray controls all communication. However, although Ravens Nation won’t care to admit it, one day Ray Ray wont be standing in the center of the circle. One day a new face will have to stoke the fire. Who better than a sizzler?

Of course T-Sizzle wasn’t the only Raven to start figuring out their reason for being (on the field) on Sunday. In case the italics didn’t give it away, rookie kick returner Yamon Figurs found his way as well, literally, as he sliced through the Cardinals punt coverage to score his first NFL touchdown just two weeks after taking over for the injured BJ Sams. In just two games, Figurs has displayed the speed that earned him the title of “fastest man in the draft” and could soon warrant the media coverage fans of Devin Hester are demanding. Of course all he’s worried about at this point in his career is where his first touchdown ball ended up as I caught him asking the security staff after the game about its whereabouts. They seemed to have it in good hands as opposed to, say, the Barry Bonds record-breaking ball whose fate is being determined by the blogosphere. (Ed. Note: I voted to ‘BRAND IT’ – the inner ad man in me.)

Yamon’s score and subsequent M&T leap did lead to an excessive celebration penalty, but the party on the sidelines was even more exciting. Or at least soaking. That’s because Bart Scott shot up off the bench as Figurs was frolicking towards the end zone and gave Lauryn and I a premature Gatorade bath when he threw his cup in the air. He must have just filled it up too because the cascading waterfall caused by the celebration managed to spray us both pretty good.

Speaking of empty Gatorade cups, I too was reminded of a reason for being (on the field) this weekend. Now I will admit that it was warm on the sidelines, 80 degrees at kickoff, but I can’t remember a game in which I made so many trips to the water coolers to keep the crew hydrated. My colleagues will tell you, I hope, that I am more than just a glorified waterboy. Tripods, batteries, blogging – important stuff. But Jeff carried a 30-lb camera nearly two and half miles on Sunday and Lauryn, well, 2 years of marriage has taught me better than that. So I was happy to serve and protect from dry mouth and fatigue. Just don’t try to pull the same routine in Buffalo.

I also wasn’t the only RaveTV crewmember to reveal a reason for being (on the field) on Sunday as Don DiRaddo displayed a bit of deftness of his own. Early in the third quarter the sound level in the stadium started to wane. I asked Don if he had the means to magnify the music with little hope for help. Now Sprint would have you believe that their cell phones could be used as a crime deterrent or a toaster, but who would have thought they could make an entire crowd get up off their feet.

Don reached for his phone, presumably to make a call to the big man upstairs (that’s you Larry), but DiRaddo didn’t even have time to flip it open before the roar came over us. Of course the third down facing the Cardinals probably helped the cause more than the cellular signal, but it was a fascinating coincidence worth noting.

Okay, enough of the funny. At least for a few paragraphs. That’s because there were quite a few additional performances on the field yesterday that helped prove Suggs a remarkable seer. Earlier in the day I noticed a guy sitting on the bench wearing a gold chain, designer jeans and a t-shirt. Cleary not part of the RaveTV crew, but he looked awfully familiar so I left my post behind the yellow lines and wandered in front to find that the mystery man was starting cornerback, Samari Rolle, who had apparently failed to recover form a mid-week illness. But everything happens for a reason, right? At least in this article as Corey Ivy stepped in for Rolle and recorded a sack (the only one for the Ravens all day), a fumble recovery (the only forced turnover for the Ravens all day) and broke up the potential go-ahead touchdown pass towards the end of the fourth quarter (saving the Ravens day).

Derrick Mason also had a good reason for showing up big on Sunday, in addition to supporting his family and playing the game he loves, as regular readers of Coffee on the 50 know that Mase is a starter for BushMaroney’07. Against Arizona he delivered and caught 8 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown – a 20+ point day that gave me a chance to start 3-0 this fantasy football season. That was until Donovan McNabb, apparently of the Delaware Blue Hens, put up 4 touchdowns against me.

But the player with the most important reason for being there on Sunday, as it is in every NFL stadium each week, is the back-up quarterback. It’s true that 22 other men are official starters, and another 11 are likely to play on special teams, but the reason a backup quarterback is so critical is the unknown. The game revolves around the signal-caller and if QB1 goes down, the other 52 guys geared up don’t matter much if QB2 can’t step up and fill those shoes. Luckily for Ravens fans, our #2, Kyle Boller, has been #1 more often than not this season and entered the game on Sunday with a chance to pick up another victory. (That is assuming they keep score in baseball terminology since the game was tied after the starting quarterback took a seat, hence handing the ball and the decision over the to the bullpen).

The back and forth and forth and forth was reminiscent of another nail bitter that I had witnessed the day before. While fasting the day away I sat glued to my computer, watching the time slowly tick away for Louisville as my Orange attempted to claim victory for the first time in what feels like 3 years. My atoning was rewarded as the ‘Cuse upset the Cards. But there is a reason I bring this up, other the fact that I was actually able to enjoy college football for one Saturday afternoon, and that’s to explain that Syracuse had already tested my tolerance for tension. By the time Matt Stover lined up for the game-winner, I was able to remain calm and collected. Of course since I was the one responsible for the water, I wasn’t quite cool, but calm and collected will do. And although the Ravens would have preferred a less breath taking finish, another win will do. Chorus: No need to start over new. The reason is two (and one)

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