This Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
Within the span of 1 hour and 21 minutes on the morning of September 11, 2001, two hijacked planes crashed in Manhattan, NY, and one hijacked plane each crashed in Washington, DC and in Shanksville, PA, killing thousands.
To be quite honest with you, I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on TV. I knew it was real in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t fully grasp the magnitude of disaster.
I still can’t.
On the 10th anniversary of that tragedy, the Ravens kicked off their 2011 season at home…against the Steelers.
Talk about being emotionally charged.
Baltimore was coming out of training camp after much uncertainty. A lockout was looming, but was ultimately avoided, as a 10-year collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA was signed on August 4, 2011–five weeks before the beginning of the regular season.
Not only that, but the Ravens held their training camp at their practice facility in Owings Mills for the first time ever. In the previous 15 preseasons, camp was held at Western Maryland/McDaniel College is Westminster. But due to the club’s contract with the school expiring, Baltimore decided to streamline their operations and have training camp at team headquarters.
As it turned out, that helped the Ravens in a major way. Perhaps the players were more focused because training camp was closed to the public. Perhaps the entire organization benefited from not having to move from one part of town to another amidst intense preparation for the season.
Either way, whatever the Ravens did leading up to that game versus the Steelers on 9/11/11 worked.
Oh, did it work.
After Lardarius Webb returned the opening kickoff 37 yards, Baltimore’s offense needed only three plays to score six points. Anquan Boldin was on the receiving end of a Joe Flacco 27-yard touchdown pass. The Ravens took a 7-0 lead after just 1:32, and never looked back.
Baltimore would beat the Steelers that day, 35-7. Pittsburgh’s amazing receiving core of Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders combined for 17 receptions, 208 yards, and one touchdown (Sanders). Baltimore’s defense forced seven turnovers and held Ben Roethlisberger to a 52.9 quarterback rating–the 14th-worst rating he’s produced in 188 career games (playoffs included).
Joe Flacco more than doubled that, posting a quarterback rating of 117.6 to go along with three passing touchdowns.
To that point, the Ravens were 12-21 against the Steelers all-time (playoffs included). That game sparked a turnaround in this rivalry, as the Ravens have an 8-3 record against the Steelers since that day.
Another reason that game is memorable is because of a fight that took place. Referee Tony Corrente was breaking up a fight between Baltimore’s Matt Birk and Michael Oher and Pittsburgh’s LaMarr Woodley and Ryan Mundy. Corrente fell backward when trying trying to intervene, and hit his head on the turf.
What followed seemed to be taken from a Hollywood script.
Here’s the story about why that fight was so crucial, as told by baltimoreravens.com’s Sarah Ellison:
Ravens trainers allowed him back in the game, but told him to take an over-the-counter pain medication in the officials training room. Corrente chose Motrin over Tylenol, which was a significant decision because the medicine acted like a blood thinner. The Motrin, combined with his coughing, caused a vessel in the tumor to break.
He woke up to blood on his pillow, so he promptly went to the specialist, and the rest is history.
After his first round of chemotherapy, Corrente worked another Baltimore game at the end of the season and thanked Birk and Oher for knocking him down and saving his life. They stood in front of him “dumbfounded.”
According to a March article on PRNewswire.com, “He recovered and is now in good health and doing fine.”
The 10th anniversary of 9/11 was vividly intense to begin with. Then, imagine the amazing, nervous, anxious feelings you get at an NFL season opener. Now, place your team at home against its biggest rival. Finally, add in the story about a referee discovering he has throat cancer as a result of getting knocked to the ground after trying to break up a fight.
Here’s to remembering the fallen, good health, and enjoying football in the proper context.