Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Week 13 - Bubble Burst

Baltimore, MD -- 12/3/07.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Innnn. Ouuuut. Innnn. Ouuuut. Okay, how do you feel now? Relaxed? Calm? At peace with the world? Yea, me neither.

Breathing exercises just don’t stand a chance against a gut-wrenching, nail-biting, rage-inducing, coulda, woulda, shoulda game against the undefeated New England Patriots. Yuck. Just saying the word undefeated in my post-game blog makes me a little nauseous. And it’s not just the fact that we lost. We were 20-point underdogs; we were supposed to lose – by a lot. But we weren’t supposed to be tied at halftime either. And we definitely weren’t supposed to be leading with less than one minute to play. So what happened?

The night felt different right from the start, and it wasn’t just the near-freezing temperatures. Camera crews from ESPN and NFL Films battled for position inside the hallways leading out to the field to get a shot of players like Ed Reed and Kyle Boller heading out to warm up. The close quarters forced the ESPN crew to improvise as Kyle trotted down the stairs, resulting in a deft display of agility from one Production Assistant who jumped from the top step to the ground while holding onto the camera cord. As a fellow follower on the field, I salute you. We should really lobby for a Bud Light ‘Real Men of Genius’ commercial, Mr. “wire-running, tripod-carrying, still just a fan who just happens to have a credential” guy.

Apart from the traffic on the sidelines, which included Ms. Suzy Kolber and an entire stage built for ESPN’s Monday Night Primetime near the twenty-yard line, the emotion on the field was at a fever pitch. As part of the league-wide recognition of Sean Taylor’s death, a moment of silence was called for before kickoff. After the stadium salute, the former Miami Hurricanes – Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and this week’s Wired Raven, Willis McGahee – huddled near the bench to pay their respects to their brethren and former teammate. Ray even had the number 21 penciled in on his eye-black and all players, from both teams, wore a No. 21 sticker on their helmets in memoriam. The game day emotions slowly began to take over the real life ones early in the first quarter. With the fans on their feet, the Ravens defense held the Patriots to a field goal on their opening drive. It was a sign that tonight would not be like other nights as the game proceeded to unfold unlike anyone could have predicted.

As I mentioned, we had Willis Wired, and he must have really cared about making sure RaveTV had a good show because No. 23 had the best game of his brief Ravens career. We should have seen this coming as McGahee shared a conversation with Coach Brian Billick on their way into the tunnel before the game. Billick basically told him that he would put the team on McGahee’s shoulders tonight. Fortunately for RavensNation, Billick, Willis, RaveTV, the ESPN crew and sports fans around the country, Willis delivered and carried the Ravens to a near victory that coulda, woulda, shoulda been one of the greatest upsets in NFL history.

Play after play, Willis would fight for each and every yard, culminating in a 17-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. As I said, Willis apparently appreciates good TV as he was kind enough to wait until Jeff and I could set-up in the end zone before beginning his scoring scamper. Cue the Artic Monkey’s because Willis took advantage of his time in front of the cameras with a few good looking dance moves out on the end zone floor. Willis would also cross the 1000-yard mark for the season later in the night, a feat that would have been properly recognized had it not been for Tom Brady and those damn Patriots. That’s right, I said damn.

Which leads me to my original question – what happened? What could possibly happen that would leave fans feeling faint, despite the fact that everyone expected us to lose. The only explanation comes from the movie The Truman Show. That’s right, my explanation for the Ravens loss to the Pats is that the game was played inside a bubble, or perhaps a snow globe considering the random flurries that fell from a cloudless sky, yet never seemed to make their way to the ground. My bubble theory would lead you to believe that somehow, somewhere, the game was controlled by a greater force, not spiritual or mythical, rather, something more technical. Like Ed Harris in the movie, its possible one of the six ESPN trucks parked under the stadium housed an Executive Director and an entire production crew carefully orchestrating the on-field excitement. I mean if you had to script a game, Monday night was damn near Oscar worthy. Especially if New England continues to run the table towards perfection. In fact, we overheard before the game that NFL Films will now be following just about every move the team makes on their history-in-the-making season – I smell commemorative DVD’s – which is pretty much the premise of The Truman Show, just substitute Tom Brady for Jim Carrey and Coach Belichick for Laura Linney (seriously, have you seen his headband?).

There really is no other way to explain how Ed Reed intercepts Tom Brady, only to fumble the ball during his return. There is no way to describe the dagger to the stomach caused by the time-out taken just before a failed fourth-and-one attempt by Brady. There is absolutely no way to find words to portray the pain caused by the penalty against the Ravens on another fourth down later in the drive, allowing Mr. Perfect (no way he deserves a Bud Light commercial) another chance to break Baltimore’s heart. Sounds awfully dramaticized to me. And I thought the writers were on strike.

After the dust had finally settled, I decided to seek out this secret studio in which the NFL and the Moon Landing are apparently both filmed. Instead, I happened upon the Primetime set as Sal Paolantonio, Steve Young and Emmitt Smith debated the details of the defeat. I couldn’t hear their commentary, but I did catch a glimpse of Sal Pal adjusting the electric blanket under his chair; Emmitt getting some retouching done by the make-up girl (first Dancing with the Stars, now this!); and watched as they rolled out Rodney Harrison from the Patriots locker room to join the trio on set for some post-game sound bites. Again, I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I don’t think I wanted to hear them either.

The best words I could come up with when Lauryn and I finally made it back to the car were something to the effect of, “Ahhhhhhhh.” Lauryn chimed in with an, “Eeeeeeeeeeek.” Don’t worry, no snakes in the Prius, just two speechless souls whose marriage is measured in seasons rather than years. Boller, fortunately, was able to find a few words in reference to his 52-yard, last-second bomb that must have skimmed the bottom of the bubble before being caught by Mark Clayton on the three-yard line, “We just came up a little short,” said Kyle.

A little short on time. A little short on luck. And just three yards short of shocking the world, or should I say, bursting the bubble.

1 comment:

Brian Eden said...

Awful as the end of the game was, this is my favorite post by far. Terrific writing. Prof. Jones couldn't be more proud if you were waxing poetic about soap.