Wednesday, September 27, 2006

HELLO MOM!

Seventeen years ago today I lost my Mom. She was the life of any party. A prideful woman devoted to her husband and her family. Her passing was sudden and it left our family with a gaping hole.

Fortunately her lessons were many and while not a scholarly woman, her wisdom still resonates today. It is a huge part of her legacy.

I remember during the funeral mass for my Mom, a friend of our family and a Franciscan from my alma mater, Archbishop Curley, Fr. Vincent Gluc said mass. He compared life on Earth to the life of a caterpillar. He compared death to the caterpillar’s time in a cocoon only to emerge as the more beautiful butterfly.

The spot on metaphor was intended of course to compare the caterpillar’s new life as a butterfly to that of my Mom as she traveled to a new form of consciousness to meet her Maker.

Not long after my Mom’s passing, I was playing golf with my Dad. I’ll never forget this moment and trust me, I’m not one who possesses a steel trap for a memory. Mine is more like a slippery slope.

Anyway on that day, I was addressing the ball on the 10th tee at Pine Ridge. Just as I was about to begin my backswing a beautiful Monarch butterfly landed on my chest. It just sat there and appeared to be looking at me. I stood there, looking back at it until she decided to take off and go on her way.

I felt a strange kind of peacefulness and I thought of Fr. Vince’s metaphor.

Mom had stopped by to say hello.

Whether it was her or not, I suppose I’ll never know for sure while I reside on this planet. But in my mind, it was her and to this day whenever I see a butterfly that seems to have gone out of its way to capture my attention, I simply say, “Hello Mom.”

It makes me smile and it eases the pain that lingers even today, 17 years later.

By the way, she must have also helped my focus on that golf ball. If you are familiar with the hole, the perfect play is a drive along the tree line on the left with a slight fade towards the end. On that day, I played that hole like a pro and was left with a wedge to the green.

There’s little doubt in my mind that that Monarch had everything to do with the flight of that tee shot on that beautiful day.

I miss you Mom.

2 1/2 POINT DOGS AT HOME? ARE U KIDDING ME?

I find it hard to believe that the Chargers are 2 ½ point favorites in our crib! Some might say that the Ravens offense or lack thereof has oddsmakers shying away from the Ravens. Should they be concerned? Absolutely! But dogs in our back yard? To borrow from Larry The Cable Guy, “Now that ain’t right. I don’t care who you are, that there ain’t right.”

Who have the Chargers beaten? You could make the argument that the strength of their two victories pales in comparison to even the strength of the Ravens three victories. They have a young untested QB coming into Baltimore to face a defense that treats inexperienced signal callers in the shark invested “waters” of M&T Bank Stadium the way that a mako treats bloody chum.

Sure the Chargers have Shawne Merriman. Sure they have LaDainian Tomlinson. But the Ravens are giving up 1.8 yards per carry and the object of their collective desire on Sunday will be LT. And if they take him out of the game and force the Chargers to be one dimensional, how will Philip Rivers adapt to the crowd noise and the fury of the league’s best pass rush? Here’s a guy who hasn’t even been sacked yet and has been asked to throw the football only 47 times!

Give me a break!

Generally speaking, home field represents a 3 point swing. Therefore oddsmakers see the Chargers as 5 ½ points better than the Ravens on a neutral field.

Sorry….that doesn’t quite register.

And while it’s hard to imagine an easy Ravens win given their offensive struggles, I expect them to continue doing what they’ve been doing to get to 3-0 – force turnovers. Part of that is up to all of you!

When that whistle blows on Sunday signaling the opening kickoff, think of The Gladiator and “Unleash hell!”

If so, at 4:15 on Sunday the Ravens will be 4-0!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

ANTICIPATION

The anticipation is killing me. I hate that Carly Simon song by the way. Its linkage is to ketchup too and that then takes me to Heinz Field where the Steelers will host the Bengals in an early season game that has major divisional implications. For perhaps the only time during the remainder of my days, I’ll be rooting for the Steelers today. I worry what a big win in Pittsburgh might do for Marvin Lewis’ boys.

And can you believe this game isn’t on regular TV? Fox has the double dip today and if you are at home without the NFL Ticket the treat they are serving up is the 0-2 Redskins against the 0-2 Texans. Hopefully something as exciting as figure skating is on one of the other stations or maybe even a cheerleader contest.

Hey just checked….O’s on at 1:30 and the Nats are on at 1! Hoo-rah!

No-Doz anyone?

Anyway, back to the anticipation. This riveting lineup prior to the Ravens contest in Cleveland certainly doesn’t curb my appetite for Ravens football. This is round 2 of 8 contests that test my will – watching Ravens games on TV, what a gut twister. If not for these road games, I’d probably live to 110. With them, I’m lucky to make it to 60.

Hey, you thinking what I’m thinking? I could sell this concept on the home front and use it as the central theme in my argument as to why we should travel with the team.

Yeah, that’s the ticket!

But wait a minute….if she gives me the unequivocal “NO!” does that mean she loves me not? Maybe she doesn’t care that watching these games on TV speeds up the ticker on my biological clock. Sure, she can help wipe the crust from my eyes in the morning, gussy up my hair, spray her favorite cologne on my chest, stick a Lifesaver in my mouth and send me on my then presentable way each morning but little does she realize that these games are rapidly accelerating the aging process of my internal parts.

Might that Lifesaver be replaced someday with one of Raffy’s favorite performance enhancers?

Go Steelers?

I hate 4 o’clock away games!

Gee only 8 ½ hours to wait.

It’s keeping wa-ay-ay-ay-aiting!

Can’t you just picture that ketchup being poured on that burger and plate of waffle fries?

Oh these are the good old days…

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

WHY A WIN IN CLEVELAND IS SO PIVOTAL

This week’s game against the Cleveland Browns is a pivotal one for the Ravens. A win will put them at 3-0 and either tied with the Bengals for first place and two games in front of Pittsburgh or in sole possession of first. A loss could send the Ravens reeling a bit, particularly if the offense lays another egg like it did on Sunday and if the Ravens do lose, we all know it won’t be because of the defense.

One loss could trigger another and then suddenly the Ravens are 2-2 heading into Denver for a Monday Night encounter with the Broncos.

A win in Cleveland coupled with a solid offensive showing could build more momentum that could carry the Ravens past the Chargers. And let’s face it, the Ravens have their way with young quarterbacks. Why should Phillip Rivers be any different? Who will he have faced prior to the Ravens defense? The Oakland Raiders? The Tennessee Titans?

Please….

4-0 heading out to the Rocky Mountains to take on a struggling Denver team…that sounds like a pretty special start to me. Last year in Denver the Ravens lost 12-10 and had a chance to win that game despite all of Kyle Boller’s bumbling and stumbling.

Can you say 5-0?

Sure you can, with bells and whistles and bird caw-caw-caws.

But it all starts with this pivotal game at the mistake by the lake.

Charlie Frye…Ravens defense….Charlie Frye…..Ravens defense.

Hmm, I like our chances…

Thursday, September 14, 2006

STARK RAVEN NUTS!

There’s something about watching a Ravens game on TV. I don’t know what it is but I lose my mind when the game is on the tube. I just don’t get it. I can be at Lager’s Pub or Della Rose’s or in my living room or someone else’s living room watching the game and with each play that doesn’t go exactly perfect, I can feel my body contort. The angst and the trauma of a failed play grip my body like a fully tightened vice and I get nuts. I’m a freakin’ Prince song and to the uninformed observer not familiar with my transformation into Mr. Hyde, I must be a raving lunatic.

“Why did you run the football on first down? The entire stadium knew you were running and hello, didn’t those 10 defenders in the box clue you in on the fact that they knew we were going to run? My God now it’s second and 10 and here comes the blitz! Why not quick kick now? Here we go, it’s 2004 and 2005 all over again!”

And that’s on the very first play of the season.

Now when I’m at The Vault, there’s more civility in my viewing displeasure. Maybe that’s because the bowling alley words and the destruction of furniture isn’t as tolerated by S.A.F.E. Management as it is by the Lombardi Family. But then again, I wasn’t invited to my family reunion because it was on a Sunday during the Fall but that’s another story.

This past week, the family just laughed at me because things went well from the start. And when they did, of course everyone had to stay exactly where they were until I felt it was safe to move. Why screw up a good mojo, right?

“Don’t touch those tortilla chips. Did you have one during that good drive?” “No thanks, I don’t want anything. I wasn’t having anything during that first drive and if I do, bad things might happen to the Ravens.”

After that initial touchdown, I jumped from my chair, punched the air and burst out with my best WOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO!

They all laughed but boy did I feel good.

Just before Chris McAlister grabbed his Pick 6, my nephew said, “I feel an interception coming.” Man do I love that kid! As McAlister crossed the goal line, I ran over to my nephew and planted a wet one on him. “Tell me more Mike, tell me more!”

“Hey, where are you going”, I shouted at my son. “You can’t move now, it’s 14-0!”

“I’m going to the bathroom”, he said.

“Well, ok. But don’t go anywhere else.”

Something is wrong with me. Something is seriously wrong with me.

I’m not alone though. My buddy suffers with this same affliction – this football Tourette’s as my fiancé refers to it. He once took his portable TV into the bathroom and locked the doors to get away from his family. He figured that he and his family would be safer that way.

His wife called me the next day, explained all of his acts of lunacy in graphic detail and then said to me very seriously, “Tony, I think something’s wrong with him!”

Frankly, I see him as a pretty normal guy.

How about you?

Monday, September 11, 2006

REMEMBERING 9/11/01

We all remember where we were 5 years ago today – that fateful day that forever change our country. Even after all this time, the infamous day still seems quite surreal.

I was in between jobs on that day, so I was at home doing some computer work with the TV on just to my left serving its purpose as background entertainment.

As I surfed my way through the internet, I noticed the AOL home page and the picture of flames blazing from one of the World Trade Center towers. With the JFK, Jr. plane tragedy fresh in my mind, my first thought was that a small out of control plane hit the tower. So I switched the station over from ESPN to CNN.

The rest is history. We all watched these unconscionable events unfold before our very eyes. I marveled at the stiff upper lip of TV reporters chronicling the developments as my upper lip quivered and my eyes moistened from sadness and anger.

I’ll refrain from expressing my political views on the subject however I will say that we sometimes forget about this event’s importance (myself included) and get caught up in trivial and relatively insignificant things in our personal lives and we momentarily forget that we all share a bond. We are all Americans and we live in the greatest nation on God’s planet.

And most importantly we are all brothers.

One year after the Osama bin Laden violations, another brother of ours fell – John Unitas. Johnny U was and still is THE Baltimore sports icon.

Take a moment to remember our fallen brothers today…I know that I will. And I’ll be thankful that I live in a country that affords me liberties each waking day which unfortunately I sometimes take for granted – but not today.

God You & Bless America!

TAKING PAUSE TO REMEMBER JOHNNY U

John Unitas is an unforgettable man. Not only was he the consummate field general when standing behind center, he was a surprisingly humble man who embodied the principles of sportsmanship and understood the responsibilities, values and privileges of being a teammate.

I miss Johnny U. along the sidelines down at The Vault. I’m sure you do too. I wonder what he might say today about Steve McNair.

To help remember John, take a moment to read this brief account of John’s impact on one adoring fan and then remember how he may have impacted or in even some small way influenced your life:
http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/unitas.html

Thank you Johnny U…we’ll never forget.

Friday, September 08, 2006

KEYS TO RAVENS V. BUCS

I’m thinking about the game on Sunday. I’m thinking what the Ravens need to do to win. I’m not feeling good about this game. Can I get a witness? Can someone help me out here?

I’m not digging the uncertainty surrounding Jamal Lewis. My gut tells me he’ll go and be fine but those nagging, lingering seeds of doubt are out there. I feel them.

I’m also not digging the things J.O. has been saying – about not being 100% and how he hopes the weather doesn’t wear him out all the while facing off with another nemesis, Simeon Rice. That’s all the Ravens offensive line needs, a subpar performance for J.O.

The way I see it, the keys to the game are:

1. Pick up the tempo on offense
2. Win first down on both sides of the football
3. Win the first quarter
4. Smack Chris Simms in the mouth…I don’t think he’s as tough as his Dad
5. Get Heap in the flow early
6. Make all the tackles
7. Protect McNair’s blindside

But I won’t talk about the technical keys…I’ll leave that to Dev tonight on GAMETIME and guests Eric DeCosta and Rick Stroud (Bucs’ beat writer).

The real keys to the game are:

1. Score more points…that’s always a good thing to focus upon
2. Give up fewer points than you score…another key to lock in on
3. Give Ravens fans more to cheer about than Bucs fans – a good sign
4. Give Bucs fans less to cheer about than Ravens fans – another good sign
5. Put Visine in Cadillac Williams’ water bottle (bartenders know what I’m talking about)
6. If Simeon Rice exclaims, “You want a part of me”, say “No, I’d rather have your sister!” Hey it worked in the world cup…just ask Mr. Zidane
7. And finally plenty of Gillette’s Dry Idea for the good guys…“Never let them see you sweat!”

COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF "C2K"

Countdown to Kickoff “C2K”

I went down to the C2K last night and it was great to see the purple passion alive and well. I made a “GAMETIME” decision about the party and dropped the $40 per ticket on the event instead of the $35 in advance. And while the gathering was nice, mostly because it was a chance to re-acquaint with some friends, I wasn’t “feeling it” (as Drew Forrester would say) last night.

Maybe my expectations were too great. I thought for my $40 I would as advertised get a nice buffet and adult beverages with a premium open bar. Instead the only things that I saw on the buffet spread were the remnants of chicken fingers, some pork barbeque, sausage and hot dogs. To wash these delectable treats down there was a shallow array of malts (1 brand) and wine which the main bar ran out of by the first quarter.

I was gone by halftime and ventured down to Lager’s Pub to take in the balance of the game. Naturally I had my choice of beverages, a wide ranging menu and a comfortable seat to watch the game from (something rare at the C2K). After a few beverages of choice for my fiancé and me and a great Cajun chicken wrap, after tip I dropped 27 additional dollars. But I was happy about that expenditure.

My fiancé reminded me that the C2K was fine if you like all the pageantry and that I’m more of a down to earth meat and potatoes guy.

Ok, chalk C2K up to experience and if not for the wisdom of my girl, I probably would have substituted a “Rip” for the “Kick” in the name of this event.

But I won’t.

Besides, IT’S FOOTBALL SEASON BABY!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Who is Meiklejohn?

Last night I had the privilege of being the guest speaker at the Ravens Nest 14 monthly meeting at Meiklejohn’s Restaurant & Pub. It’s always refreshing to see a pub filled with purple & black and these avid Ravens fans did exactly that.

The first thing that struck me about me visit was the name of the place – Meiklejohn’s. This restaurant and pub was once called The Chophouse and while that name may have worked well for the Atlanta Braves and the Florida State Seminoles, it didn’t for the establishment’s new owners.

But what is Meiklejohn? I meant to ask but I was caught up in the excitement of discussing my favorite subject (well ok my second favorite subject) with other diehard Ravens fans. So this morning, I took the time to look up a word or name that I am completely unfamiliar with – Meiklejohn.

Here’s what I learned:

Alexander Meiklejohn was a philosopher born in 1872 who passed in 1964. He was also a university administrator at Brown (I bet Chris Berman knows about Meiklejohn) and a staunch advocate of free speech.

I suppose I should have said exactly what was on my mind last night to the wonderful folks of Nest 14.

Surely I jest…

No one asked me last night for a prediction for this weekend’s game. And while I’ll usually leave the prognostication up to The Chief, I must say that I don’t have a good vibe about this weekend’s game. Jon Ogden has admitted that he isn’t 100% and even when he is, he still doesn’t fair well against Simeon Rice. The pressure that the Bucs create up front with their front 4 enables their Cover 2 to provide protection on the top end while their nimble linebackers create havoc in the intermediate areas. I just think it will be too much for the Ravens’ offense to deal with and I expect a low scoring game in which a defensive turnover will change the game. Unfortunately I have visions of a blind side sack and fumble courtesy of J.O.’s original nemesis.

I’ll call it Bucs 13, Ravens 9.

Now about that free speech, did someone ask why we were kicked off WNST?

Monday, September 04, 2006

WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES

Yesterday when it was brought to my attention, I was very caught up in this voting on si.com/ravensvote for the best Ravens fan site. I thought that achieving such a title would be a good thing for our sponsors. That in turn was interpreted and ridiculed as greed by some members of another Ravens fan site.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. If concern for our sponsors is defined as greed, then Gordon Gekko I am – “Greed is good!”

But back to the vote...

We are extremely behind in the voting – a victim of a network of fan sites throughout the country that are unrelated other than the bond of their network. That bond has produced a massive rush of votes and for that they deserve credit.

But the poll question SI wanted a response to is “What Ravens fan site is the best source for Ravens info?”

So I thought, no vote can change the answer to that can it?

If Britney Spears received 20 times the vote of Alicia Keys does that make Spears better?

I made the mistake of getting caught up in the emotion of that vote…it’s the competitor in me. It’s better to invest that energy focusing on quality of content and improving sponsor value instead.

The truth will stand the test of time.

My best to all Ravens fans and to those other sites with which we share a common passion – YOUR BALTIMORE RAVENS.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

I’m sitting on the terrace deck at the Clarion Hotel in Ocean City here on a beautiful Sunday morning. The sun beats down upon the right side of my face as I angle the computer just right in order to see the ocean and maintain the visibility of my monitor.

I’m not really a guest here unless you call a bagel and a coffee guest-worthy. It’s just my way of settling my conscience for pirating the hotel’s wireless signal. I suppose I should buy one of those wireless cards.

Can anyone offer suggestions on wireless cards from first hand experience?

Speaking of experience, the ocean has plenty. Is there anything on the planet more consistent and more dependable that the sound of the ocean pounding upon its shores?

I left these shores on Friday afternoon to head back home to do our show GAMETIME. On that day, Ernesto had a grip on OC as trees bent in half, Coastal Highway looked more like the surf and the ocean roared with a vengeance. Today, the seas are calm and their waters glisten in the bright sun.

What a difference a day makes.

Naturally I look for a correlation to the Ravens as I take in this glorious day. It dawned on me that for many players like P.J. Daniels, Cory Ross, Derrick Martin and Ronnie Prude to name a few, summer camp and the preseason in many ways were like their Ernesto. They battled, kicked, clawed and fought to pursue a destination. Today these players get a new lifeline if you will – another chance to pursue that ultimate destination.

This next week is like the calm before the storm, a storm scheduled for September 10, 2006. It’s like the seas to my right at this moment awaiting the arrival of the next Ernesto.

These players have heard about the storm. They may have even seen it up close yet to experience it is something altogether different. They’ve made it the “show” and now it’s time to show they belong.

I congratulate those that have made it, some unexpectedly. I wish those that expected more success in the continued pursuit of their NFL ambitions. And to all of you, I wish a season of hopes and aspirations fulfilled as it relates to your Baltimore Ravens.

One snap at a time, one quarter at a time, one game at a time…step by step. Maybe if those steps are sequenced properly we might all have our sights set upon Miami 5 months from now. It’s a long haul and the storm has staying power. Perseverance might get us all there.

Hey anyone up for a trip to South Beach and an extension in Key West beginning that first weekend in February? Let’s even throw in another Lombardi to boot – the trophy that is…

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Ozzie & Billick Waiting to Exhale?

You said it, I said it, anyone even remotely tied to the Ravens said it – to win in 2006 the Ravens must have better play from their offensive line.

It’s a tired subject really but equally tiring is the fact that the Ravens have done very little about it. The Ravens front office is banking on improved conditioning, continuity, maturity and another year under Chris Foerster to result in greater line productivity.

That is a big roll of the dice and undoubtedly, Ozzie and Brian are holding their breath particularly after the unit’s shoddy performance in Minnesota on August 25.

This unit has to take control in the tropical conditions of Raymond James Stadium. They have to develop a rhythm immediately and run the football effectively. That will take out the crowd and that will take away the Bucs intensity, it will keep the Ravens defense off the sweltering field and it will open things up for McNair downfield. It will also keep the Ravens out of second and third and long situations, something that the Ravens offensive line consistently fails to respond to.

It’s all about rhythm, tempo, in and out of the huddle and running the football. If the Ravens can do that, they have a shot on opening day and Ozzie and Brian can then stop waiting to exhale.

If not, they will soon be blue in the face.