Thursday, September 11, 2014

Week 1 - Magic Moment

Borrowing from the birds who play across the parking lot, there was some magic in the air at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

At least for a moment.

Week one of the NFL season is always special, especially if you get to open at home. And for the 2014 home opener, I invited a life-long Ravens fan, Iggy (who grew up in LA and lives in Chicago, go figure) to attend his first game at the Big Crabcake.

As a result, I tried to show Iggy a bit of Baltimore before kickoff and after grabbing a coffee (big surprise) we walked around the harbor and straight to the Purple Patio at Mother's. Not a place I'd take my mother, before a game or really at any point, but it does know how to host a tailgate party, especially on a gorgeous morning in Maryland. Fresh off finishing the coffee we switched to beers (note - no food yet) and took in the crowd. Purple from wall to wall, with a few foreign colors thrown in. Don't worry - the red &yellow were sported by fans wearing a C.J. Mosely Alabama jersey and a Joe Flacco Delaware #5. Very strong.

Our next stop was the Stadium as we wanted to be sure to catch a glimpse of the newly installed Ray Lewis statue on the Unitas/Lewis Plaza. As Iggy correctly predicted, there was quite the statue-selfie line surrounding #52, but just as we made our way to the front, I spotted a few familiar faces behind a camera. Jeff and Laura, both of whom Lauryn and I worked with for countless Ravens games, were outside filming the masses meeting statue Ray. And since they needed a few 'models' to help get the shot just right, we volunteered and I can only assume made the final cut. (UPDATE: We did!)

We ventured inside and made our way to the seats after a little Team Store shopping. Yes, I showed Iggy my writing that still adorns the Club Level walls, and then it was time for kickoff. And then nothing. I mean nothing good. Nearly 30 minutes went by without the Ravens scoring and although the defense was miraculously keeping the Bengals to all Field Goals, the game did not seem to be going our way. Case in point, with a chance to finally get some points on the board before the half, Flacco took a snap with :08 left and a shot at the End Zone before (at minimum) getting to a try a FG. Of course he took about :09, found no one and was sacked. Half over. Iggy was not impressed.


We should have known things were about to turn around as the man immortalized outside the stadium made a special appearance on the field along with the wife of the late Johnny U. Ray gave a sermon/speech, he did his dance (there will never be a 'last dance') and the second half was about to begin on a brighter note.

A blocked field goal here, a defensive stop there, a few points and by the 4th quarter the Ravens were within striking distance. A long strike, but still. Down 15-10 with about 6 minutes remaining, Flacco scrambled around his own 20 looking for an option. And in true Jacoby Jones in Denver circa Divisional Playoffs 2013 fashion - he found a receiver deep down the field as he connected with Steve Smith SENIOR on an 80-yd touchdown complete with SSS fighting off defenders (okay, pulling them down by the helmet) to reach the end zone. And just like I jumped off my couch when Jacoby caught the ball in Denver, I jumped out of my seat and proceeded to hop and high five and maybe even hug those around us. It was a moment that seemed bigger than it should have. It was just week one. There was still 5 minutes to go. This wasn't Denver. But after being down and seemingly out of it for most of the afternoon, the revelation that we were actually the fourth quarter...was cause for hops, hugs and high-fives.

Like I said...a moment. TWO offensive plays later. Yes, just two. Andy Dalton 'hit' A.J. Green for a 77-yd touchdown (albeit with a bobble to give us a hope for a second) and before I could even post to Instagram, the Bengals were back on top. Ugh. An invisible punchin the stomach that only sports can deliver. Of course the Ravens had another shot. We marched down to the 20-yard line with about 1:00 to go, but eerily similar to the first half finale, Flacco found himself getting sacked on the final play. No overtime. No win. No more magic.