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Ray Lewis’ swan song will be more epic than 2131

Lombardi's Way Ray Lewis’ swan song will be more epic than 2131

Posted in Lombardi's Way

As kickoff approaches on Sunday and the anticipation builds for what will likely be the last time Ray Lewis emerges from the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium, I can’t help but to think back to Cal Ripken Jr.’s epic 2131 game on September 6, 1995.

Cal was MLB’s poster child. His perseverance and mind boggling streak of consecutive games combined with a well-crafted wholesome image was a needed distraction for a league coming off a strike-shortened season during which the Fall Classic, the World Series was canceled.

Originally I didn’t have a ticket for that game but late that afternoon, I received a call from my brother-in-law asking me if I’d like to join him because my sister was a bit under the weather. And so naturally I agreed.

Cal would officially break Lou Gehrig’s legendary streak no later than the bottom of the fifth inning. The weather was clear so Mother Nature did not pose a threat. Even she seemed to respect what was about to unfold.

No one knew what to expect really. Of course we knew the zero in 2130 would unfurl into a one but other than that the sold out crowd could only stand and wonder with starry-eyed anticipation what might happen next.

To my dying day, I will never forget Cal’s trot around the stadium, waving to his adoring fans, shaking their hands all accompanied by the powerful vocals of Whitney Houston. One Moment in Time for me will always be synonymous with, and usher in memories of 2131.

Cal, while clearly the most popular Oriole, was never really a take charge leader nor was he that intimidating force that inspired opposing teams to game plan around. He was simply a talented, lunch pail kind of player who had a perfect attendance record and consistently performed at an All-Star level.

But make no mistake about it, as great as he was for the city and as good a player as he was during his 21 seasons, Cal Ripken, Jr. was no Ray Lewis. It’s not his fault really. He’s just not wired the way Ray is. And for that matter few, if any are.

Ray Lewis is a leader among leaders. He’s the guy in the room that captivates the rest of the room with his inspiring stories. He’s the guy who gets you to believe in yourself when even you don’t; the guy who demands that you check your ego at the door reminding you there’s no “I” in “Team”. Ray Lewis galvanizes all parts of his organization – from the front office to the custodians, from the weight room to the boardroom.

This is a man who has been the constant through all the years since Baltimore’s return to the NFL after a disheartening 12-season span that steamrolled the collective pride of the citizens of Baltimore and our illustrious football heritage. And how ironic is it that Ray’s last dance in Baltimore will take place against the team whose ownership ripped out our collective heart, leaving us to deal with mocking suggestions to build a new museum instead of a new stadium to ease our pain.

More than anyone else, Ray Lewis eased our pain. The late Art Modell and William Donald Schaefer may have been the enablers but Ray was the deliverer. Ray Lewis, more than any one individual, put Baltimore back on the NFL map.

How lucky are we to have experienced him? How might our world here in The Land of Pleasant Living be different without him?

How lucky are we that he slipped to the 26th pick of the 1996 NFL Draft while players like Lawrence Phillips, Tim Biakabutuka, Alex Molden, Regan Upshaw, Ricky Dudley and several other, less than household names were taken before Ray?

And as one fan so eloquently reminded me, how lucky are we, the sports fans of Baltimore, to claim that the greatest QB and the greatest defensive football player in NFL history belong to us. They belong to Baltimore!

Now it’s time to say goodbye and it won’t be easy. But just as it has been so often throughout his career, either with his actions or his words, Ray Lewis’ vision, preparation and timing are impeccable.

He knew earlier this season that this would be his last, yet he kept it from even those closest to him. His injury threw him for a loop but in the steely-eyed determined way that few can imagine, Ray rehabbed and trained an injury that is usually a seasonal showstopper and set his sights on a postseason return.

So here we are.

Everyone is 0-0 and the Lombardi is up for grabs with 12 teams in contention.

The stakes are high and the emotions even higher.

Sunday promises to be a red-letter day in Baltimore’s sports history and with a win and with all due respect Cal Ripken, this one, even more so than 2131, will echo in eternity.

 

BONUS FEATURE: In The Air Tonight (Ray Lewis Remix by Mix 106.5 FM’s Jon Boesche)

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin to being John Bonham. Follow Tony on Twitter @RussellStReport. More from Tony Lombardi
10 comments
Brandon
Brandon

Barack Obama, to my knowledge, is not going out of his way to attend this game. Bill Clinton was in office when Cal broke the record, and both he an Al Gore were in attendance. THAT's how big it was.

Chris
Chris

While I am certainly a fan of Ray Lewis and appreciate the heart and talent he brought to the Ravens, this story is kind of ridiculous. To compare Ripken's streak (which is probably an unbreakable record now) to a wildcard game that just happens to be Ray Lewis' last game in Baltimore. Not last game in the NFL (hopefully), but at M&T Bank Stadium. Also... if the Ravens lose to the Colts, there will be absolutely NOTHING epic about the game. It will just be a sad end to an amazing career for Ray Lewis.

Rumor Ray
Rumor Ray

TL, Perfect my friend!! Simply Perfect!! My dream is the long shot that the Ravens vs Bengals AFC Championship Game happens and we get to see Ray at the Vault one more time! I know that is a total long shot but anything can happen in the next 2 weeks! So for now ... Go Ravens and go bungals......

Tony Lombardi
Tony Lombardi

Justin, I didn't think that Ray would dance for 30 minutes or that he would take a lap around the stadium like Cal (although I'm sure the concession stands wouldn't mind). It is my opinion that the experience of that game, given all of the surrounding circumstances, will be more epic than 2131. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Justin
Justin

No, it won't. 2131 was a half hour break in the middle of the game. The NFL isn't going to delay the start of this game that much.

Quaz
Quaz

Well said.

Tony Lombardi
Tony Lombardi

They knew months in advance when Cal would break the record so it was a bit easier to plan for, don't you think? Besides Obama is a Steelers fan ;-) Go ahead and Google "Obama Steelers".

John
John

Agreed Justin. With Cal's game, there was a moment in time when a record was broken and history was made at a time when baseball needed it. It was a perfect storm all coming together. There was time to plan, bring old team-mates in, prepare speeches, show video clips, etc. I am sure that the Ravens will do a great job, they always do. However, there isn't going to be any broken records on Sunday, there isn't a particular time in the game when the games comes to a grinding halt and the world just stops and starts watching. People watched all across America to see what most was the unthinkable. Ray, while maybe the best ever... is just retiring. They all do. From the unknowns to the Lewis's, Rice's, Smith's, Sayer's, Payton's, and on and on. The entrance will be grand and will forever be remembered for everyone there but make no mistake it isn't history. It will not be 2131.

Angie
Angie

So agree. Well said.

Tony Lombardi
Tony Lombardi

I think it's important to remember that no one, including Cal Ripken himself, knew what 2131 would become. There was a ton of spontaneity there and I'd argue that the spontaneity was far more memorable than the planned events for that evening, particularly a rather weak speech from Peter Angelos. Do we know what will happen on Sunday? No. But given the stakes and the finality of the game, I believe it will be more epic than 2131 should the Ravens win as I expect. I guess we'll wait and see.

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