It’s hard to believe that it has been ten years since the Baltimore Ravens victory over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. That means that it has been 10 years since I was in the 5th grade and 10 years since incredible memories were created for me that I will never forget. That month-long playoff run was one of the best times of my life, which all started in the Wild Card Round against the Denver Broncos.
On the morning of the game, I was planning on my usual Sunday routine of going to mass with my family and making sure my parents did not talk to too many fellow parishioners afterwards so that we could get home in time for kickoff.
However, my mom woke me up that morning with a question not related to my breakfast choice. She said, “Eddie, do you want to go to the Ravens game today?”
I still to this day have never gotten out of bed so quickly.
My face light up as I could just not grasp the fact that I was going to be at the first playoff game in Ravens history. The only way my family got Ravens tickets was if someone offered them to us, so it was always a treat when I got to a regular season game. But this was a playoff game and the thought of attending it had not crossed my mind. Now all of the sudden, it was three hours to kickoff and I’ve got a seat with my dad in the lower level to witness the greatest defense of all-time.
Needless to say, I was pumped.
It was cold and windy that day, so I made sure I bundled up with layers and wore extra socks. However, I did make sure that I still wore my jersey on top of everything, a number 89 Travis Taylor jersey. My dad and I got in the car and weaved through the grid of city streets to the game. The pre-game atmosphere was electric, with a military fly over that literally rocked the stadium.
Sitting around the 10 yard line on the visitor sideline, we had a great vantage point for the two early scores in the game. In the first quarter, Jamal Lewis jumped over a goaline pile and placed the football on the ground as he crossed the line for the score. Never had I been so scared in my life, because when Jamal placed that ball on the ground it looked like a fumble. Fortunately, the referees hand signal for a touchdown erased my anxiety.
Then in the second quarter, the Ravens scored on a play that will be forever imprinted in my mind.
Shannon Sharpe scored on a pass to the flat that caromed off Jamal Lewis and then Terrell Buckley of the Broncos before it landed in his hands. I had never seen a catch after two players bobbled a pass, let alone one that went for a score.
I instinctively just began to jump up and down when Sharpe caught the ball, and I kept doing so as he galloped down the sideline right in front of me for the score. I could not believe he stayed in bounds and a complete state of euphoria set in. I remember giving my dad the biggest hug after that play because I was still in shock that I was at the game and trying to fathom the fact that the Ravens would be advancing in the playoffs.
It was just one of those days you never forget.
The next game I witnessed from my couch – the greatest game and play in Ravens history.
The contest took place in Tennessee and “the play” was made by Keith Washington and Anthony Mitchell. That divisional round game was so agonizing into the fourth quarter, with the score tied at 10. Then all of the sudden, Keith Washington got a hand on an Al Del Greco field goal attempt. 90 yards later, Anthony Mitchell was in the end zone and in my memory…forever.
We all know the rest of the story, that Ray Lewis and his greatest defense of all time lead us through Oakland and on to Tampa to capture the Lombardi trophy against the Giants. That team and its defensive dominance truly impacted me and I’ll never forget any of those individuals and events.
The influence of that team and their collective manner of play really shaped the way I think. It’s no coincidence that when it came time for me choose a position in lacrosse, I wanted to play defense. When I coach basketball, the first thing I make sure my team knows how to do is stop the ball. No matter how bad the Ravens offense got over years, I still hoped that Ozzie would pick a defensive player in the first round. Defense is always first in my mind and that is directly related to Ray Lewis and his squadron from 2000.
So when our heroes hear their names announced at halftime this weekend, give them a loud applause. Each and every one of them played a hand in captivating the heart of this city.