Sunday, November 18, 2007

Week 11 - Rewrite

Baltimore, MD -- 11/18/07.

Where were you when you first heard that Phil Dawson’s last-second game-tying field goal was good?

In your car? (Judging by the empty seats in the upper deck during OT, I’m guessing that at least 10,000 of you fall into this category.) In the locker room? (Where most of the Ravens and some of the coaches sat, taking off their cleats and taking a deep breath after seemingly surviving a scintillating game.) In a corporate suite? (Where I can only assume Hollywood stars Jimmy Fallon and Kevin Connelly were watching as they were in town for the filming of “He's Just Not That Into You” and were VIP guests of the team – more on them later.)

Me? I was running across the field following this week’s Wired Raven, Mark Clayton, through his congratulatory tour of former teammates when Derek Anderson came up to us to tell Clayton that the game wasn’t over – the field goal was good. At first we laughed at his unbridled optimism. Okay Derek, I bet they’re going to make us play overtime too. Good one!

As it turns out, Derek Anderson sucks as a comedian. His exuberance was no joke. And after a 10-minute emotional roller coaster that took all of the energy and some of the fans out of M&T Bank Stadium, the game was back on. The game was back on despite the SmartVision boards reading, “Final Score: Baltimore 30, Cleveland 27”. The game was back on despite the fact that members of both teams had already conducted their post-game prayer session at mid-field. The game was back on despite the impassioned pleas from the men in purple – both Adam Terry and Willis McGahee were standing near me when the refs made the fateful ruling and both were convinced that the game was still over. And who could blame them; technically the game had already come to an end. I didn’t want to be the one to tell them they were wrong so I backed away slowly and let the shower of boos from the stands tell the story.

Throughout the course of overtime a pit in my stomach began to grow. By the time Dawson knocked through the winning field goal, I not only felt feverish, but I couldn’t bring myself to words (Lauryn can confirm). Only once before had I experienced such a devastating loss and when I say experience, I mean as a fan, not as an actual member of a team – professionals tend to deal with these things better, they are, after all, professionals. I, on the other hand, was 13 at the time and other than getting a girl in homeroom to look at you, not much else matters to an 8th grade boy. As previously mentioned in the blog, I was a fan of the Dallas Cowboys at the time and according to tradition, the ‘Boys play on Thanksgiving each year, which conveniently allowed the rest of my family to bare witness to my teenage fanaticism. One particular game galvanized my reputation and resembled the turn of events that took place yesterday.

I am talking, of course, of the Leon Lett Game in which the Miami Dolphins attempted a game winning field goal, had it blocked, and were then given a second chance at victory after The Big Cat attempted to recover the ball, only to slip in the snow and kick it forward, allowing Miami to recover, re-kick and rewrite history. . Now for the worst part, for some reason I felt that I should take my frustration out, in front of my family no less, on my Aunt’s furniture. Adrenaline took control of my foot as I proceeded to kick the couch I had been sitting on, before banishing myself to another part of the house. Not my finest moment, but despite 14 years of supposed maturation, I could have done some serious sofa damage on Sunday had their been a couch in the vicinity.

Before I continue down this path of misery - I do apologize, but seriously, what would you write about - let me return to happier times. They weren’t that long ago. In fact, they were only a few minutes before the Dawson daggers described above.

As I mentioned, Baltimore played host to Hollywood with Fallon (of Saturday Night Live fame) and Connelly (the “E” in Entourage) roaming the sidelines before the game. In person, they are about what you would expect, only shorter. In fact I ran past Connelly while carrying my tripod and had trouble placing his face as I continued my sprint. It took a few moments, but when I finally figured out who it was, Laura Lewis, another one of our RaveTV crewmembers, made sure to point out Fallon standing right behind him. They were easy to miss and despite Lauryn staring at the stars a few seconds longer than I’d like, I was able to exploit one advantage over the two actors.

Kevin Connelly (short guy, black coat) looks on as Antwan Barnes gets ready for the game

Jeff and I took our places on the field during the pre-game introductions to get a shot of Clayton emerging from the tunnel. The Ravens were introduced as a team and all 53 players, not to mention the cheerleaders, smoke and fire whizzed by our position as we watched it all unfold from the best seats in the house. Even better than the sidelines, where Kevin and Jimmy had to stand behind the yellow rope. Of course they get to stand behind their fair share of velvet ropes back west, but for the moment, it felt good to be a Raven.

The game itself was a scoring festival in comparison to previous weeks, with a fourth quarter that should still be recognized as nothing short of remarkable. Trailing by thirteen, having scored just one offensive touchdown all day, it was hard to imagine that we would witness a comeback by Boller and the boys. We were wrong. Kyle completed passes to just about everyone on the team over the course of the next 15 minutes, including a touchdown toss to Devard Darling to tie the game at 27. Jeff and I were camped out in the end zone for most of the period and not only saw Darling’s dazzling catch, but we could have caught Matt Stover’s go-ahead field goal with less than 30 seconds left. The crowd was in a frenzy after we took the lead and I even saw our mascot, Poe, jump from the field into the stands (no easy feat in that costume) to celebrate with the feathered faithful. It was a joyous time aboard the SS Raven, unfortunately, an iceberg was looming.

After Devin Hester, err, Joshua Cribbs returned the kickoff to near mid-field, Derek Anderson proceeded to lead the Browns to the 34-yard line to set up a field goal attempt that has already earned Phil Dawson the nickname, Pinball Wizard, and the play itself, The Immaculate Deflection or if you prefer, Dawson-Gate. The ball hit the upright, followed by what appeared to be the crossbar, but in actuality was the support bar that connects the crossbar to the ground, before bouncing straight in the air and landing in front of the goal posts. The Ravens sprinted on to the field, seemingly claiming victory for the first time in more than a month. Even the broadcasting crew (i.e. me) leaped victoriously to celebrate the salvation of our season. But a strange thing happened on the way to the prayer circle, and the rest, as they say, is history. History that’s been rewritten.

History being rewritten...

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