Sure, Art Modell was the one who brought football back to Baltimore.
But Ray Lewis brought the passion for the game back.
Since the arrival of #52, along with the franchise, way back in 1996, this has been Ray’s town, and Ray’s team.
Ray’s “Squirrel Dance” became synonymous with Ravens fans – countless people did it at their weddings, including Goob himself.
There isn’t a Baltimore fan out there who will ever hear Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” again and not instantly picture Ray gyrating in front of 70,000 purple-clad maniacs.
However, Sunday could very well be the last time we see that ritual, as Ray announced Wednesday that he will retire when the Ravens’ season finally comes to an end. Unless the Ravens end up playing the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC title game, there will be no more football at M&T Bank Stadium until September – when they will take the field without Ray as a member of the roster for the first time in team history.
All around the NFL today, running backs are standing up a bit straighter. Wide receivers and tight ends are penciling the middle of the field back into their route options. And quarterbacks and offensive coordinators are breathing a sigh of relief.
The guys Ray went to battle against early in his career have all already left the game. Eddie George was never the same after the 2000 AFC divisional playoff game. Hines Ward once said that he was looking forward to the day that he would get to face the Ravens without Ray. Ray then outlasted Hines by a season.
Video: CSNBaltimore’s Sports Talk Live guys talk about Ray’s retirement…and dance
The memories that Ray Lewis has given to Ravens fans would take 50 blogs to properly chronicle. Instead of even trying, I’ll simply say this:
Thank you, Ray.
Ravens fans would love nothing more than to once again see Ray hoisting the Lombardi Trophy under a shower of confetti.
This is the last chance we have to see that scene again. The first opponent standing in the way are the Indy Irsays and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
The Irsays come into town riding an emotional wave after their head coach, former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, returned following chemotherapy for Leukemia.
While Baltimore loves Chuck, and wishes him nothing but the best, he’s the enemy for about 3.5 hours on Sunday.
And any emotional advantage that Indy thinks they may have had just left town in Mayflower vans in the middle of the night.
There will not be a dry eye in the house when Ray comes out of the tunnel for what everybody knows will probably be the final time. I know Camden Yards was setting sound records back in September for the Orioles’ playoff win, but this Sunday will make that ovation sound like a mouse fart.
It’s a good thing M&T Bank Stadium doesn’t have a roof, because it would be blown off.
Chuck can try to prepare Luck for what he’s about to walk into, but the rookie just won’t understand.
We understand, Baltimore.
And we have Ray Lewis to thank for that.