Monday, October 15, 2007

Week 6 - Gus Who’s Coming to Dinner

Baltimore, MD - 10/14/07.

“It’s Gus!” exclaimed Ed Reed, who was wired for sound this weekend as the Ravens battled the Rams. “It’s Gus. It’s Gus.”

For those of you who frequent Rehoboth Beach in the summer, Ed wasn’t referring to the fried chicken hole-in-the-wall on the boardwalk. That would be Gus & Gus, where the smell of the fryer, old bay and vinegar combine to form a chemical compound that could probably clean the grease off a bicycle chain. Considering the residue left on your hands after finishing a meal resembles that very same substance, it’s hard to imagine who would eat such sweet slop. Well not that hard, considering my wife, the very same woman who ran the half-marathon on Saturday along with fellow Ravens runners, Reba Koppelman and Jeff Atkinson, is a devout diner.

Rather, Ed was referring to the St. Louis back-up turned starting quarterback, Gus Frerotte, who had the unfortunate fate of lining up against a hungry Ravens defense on Sunday. It is possible, however, that Gus had the team bus driver take a detour over the Bay Bridge to grab a greasy bucket before the game because the ball just seemed to slip out of his hands all day long.

Of course Ed Reed and Co. were nowhere near the surf and sand of the shore on Sunday morning. As fall settled in on M&T Bank Stadium, some of the team’s recently injured stars got back on the field a few hours early to test out their faulty parts. Todd Heap gave his hamstring a stretch, Samari Rolle zig-zagged across the field, getting his legs back after missing a month, and even Stephen Jackson of the Rams ran some sprints in the end zone before ending his day just before eleven o’clock. One healthy Raven appropriately basking in the morning sun was the California kid, Kyle Boller, who was apparently preparing for his second start of the season. With Steve McNair nowhere to be found, I felt like giving Rachel Nichols a call to let her know who would be lining up under center, at least according to blog reports, but for some reason I couldn’t seem to find her number. Oh that’s right, I don’t actually know her.

My pre-game private screening continued as I waited outside the locker room with Jeff and Lauryn for the team to make their way into the tunnel. Most of the men in purple had already departed before Reed began his walk with his eyes seemingly staring through the concrete at the enemy on the other side. His eye black streaked across his face, reminiscent of The Ultimate Warrior’s paint job, and added an element of fear to the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year. As we kept the camera focused on the fearsome one, I kept Jeff from back-peddling into the referees, who apparently text message one another across the country as one official commented to us that he heard it started to drizzle in Chicago.

Fortunately, there was no rain in the forecast for Baltimore, but the clouds rolled in real quick as the smoke machines filled the tunnel with fake fog. Out of the mist, the Ravens defense was introduced one by one, with players like Ngata, Scott and Suggs all savoring the sounds of the crowd. The last two men to make their entrance were Reed and as always, Ray Lewis. As Reed’s name was called, Ed spun through the smoke and out into daylight, with Jeff trailing closely behind. Unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I got picked off trying to follow suit as security secured the area just as Nelly welcomed No. 52. Since I was ‘forced’ to stay back, I had a front row seat for the show that never ends as Ray reminded the 71,000+ in attendance that despite the breezy 68 degree temperature at kickoff, its still as hot as ever when Lewis is introduced.

While I was emerging from the residual smoke, I was making a case for receiving residual payments over on ESPN. According to my sources (i.e. fellow fantasy league general managers watching NFL Gameday) I made an appearance in the Ravens road-trip recap from our flight to San Francisco. The piece featured the flight attendants serving fresh pretzels, defensive drills in the hotel ballroom, offensive drills in the parking lot, Derrick Mason as your airplane tour guide and yours truly waiting for an elevator. Not my finest performance, but enough air-time to garner two shout-outs on the Yahoo message boards. Of course one friend missed the elevator scene and thought he saw “Ray-Ray scraping me off the bottom of his shoe” but I suppose it’s just nice to be recognized. And Brock, to answer your question, Lauryn and I sit in the ‘hood, but the nice part of the ‘hood with the KFC and a movie theater.

The game itself got off to a slow start, but just like Reba, Lauryn, and Jeff, whose fastest one-mile split was mile number 13 (8:02), the Ravens picked up steam as the game wore on and wore down Gus. Every time the defense would discuss the upcoming series, Reed’s remarks continued to ring true, “It’s Gus! It’s not Kyle. It’s not McNair. It’s Gus.” Of course Ed respects all his fellow league members, but Frerotte is 36, has played for 7 NFL teams and after four sacks on Sunday resembled a life-size bobblehead doll. (Okay, that reference was a bit of a stretch, but I had to find a way to work in the appearance of a Gerry McNamara Syracuse bobblehead in last week’s episode of The Office. My fictional friends at Dunder Mifflin reside in Scranton, PA, home of the legendary Orangeman. To add to the authenticity of the show, producers propped Dwight’s desk with the doll and my fellow Orange alum and Exit10’er, Dan Rapp, not only spotted No. 3, but immediately reported the finding to the proper authorities)

So what was Reed trying to communicate to his friends? Maybe that the rest of the defense should get ready to receive. Gus threw 5 interceptions, a franchise-record for the Ravens, including one to Reed by the sheer laws of probability considering he is now tied for the NFL lead with 4 INT’s. Of course he wasn’t the only one talking after the play as his teammates teased the talented Mr. Reed with Corey Ivy questioning, “Why did you run so slow?” The Ravens defense is known for not only making big plays, but for getting the ball back and making a run at the end-zone every time they touch it. The peer pressure is real, just ask Kelly Gregg who responded to a question about his fumble return, “Yea, I got so nervous. The wind could have blown me over I was so nervous.” Not likely - Kelly is a stout 6’ 300 lbs – but his tree trunk arms not only allow him to keep his balance on fumble returns, but he can also carry his sons, one on each arm, as he displayed after the game when the lil Gregg’s were brought down on to the field.

After a dominating 22-3 victory over the Rams, the state of Ravens Nation is as strong as Gregg’s guns with purple power on display from Baltimore to Colorado. (I know the Charm City has tried to forget about America’s Pastime lately, but the Rockies have now won 20 out of 21 games and are just one win away from the World Series! The Rockies!! Must be the purple and black uniforms.) Next up next week is a trip north to see if the Anchor Bar’s wings can compete with Gus & Gus’ legs and thighs. Probably more important, we’ll see if Trent Edwards, another back-up signal caller, can imitate the inaccuracy of Gus’s arm. Here’s hoping for a bucket of spicy barbeque and a performance that will make you say, “Gus who?”

1 comment:

Jarrett said...

Another great piece.

Maybe next week, cameras will catch you doing your pre-game stretches.