Hopefully all of you enjoyed last night’s Super Bowl!
I also hope none of you plan to go to Philly any time soon, because I’m pretty sure the entire city is going to be facing a 2 week hangover, which means they won’t even get into the logistics of rebuilding the charred remains of the town any time soon…
Alas, we’ll take a hint from Bill Belichick today, as we’re on to the 2018 season!
We’ll see plenty of focus on the Ravens roster in the coming weeks and months – who stays, who goes, who gets drafted, etc. – but let’s deviate from that path for a moment, and look at how Ray Lewis‘ induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame can potentially be the catalyst in drawing fans back to M&T Bank Stadium.
There’s no secret that the Ravens brass watched last night’s Super Bowl and hopefully realize that 1) aggressive play calling wins games, 2) offense wins championships, and 3) exciting football draws fans in.
Those are three components that the Ravens desperately lack.
While there’s no doubt the Ravens will be making every effort possible to fix the offensive woes – hopefully doing more than adding a cap-casualty 30+ vet wideout – there will without a doubt still be skepticism among Ravens fans. I honestly believe the team could sign WR Jarvis Landry to a long-term deal, move up to draft WR Calvin Ridley, then nab another “play maker” in Round 2, and fans would still question why they didn’t restructure more deals to add Jimmy Graham.
Alas, I have faith the offense will be much improved come Week 1 of the 2018 season… but I’m also sure that it’s not enough to entice fans to come back. Not yet at least. Not until they see success with their own two eyes, and while preseason may be a glimpse of things to come, teams obviously aren’t opening up the playbooks, and starters will see minimal playing time.
Enter Ray Lewis & the gold jacket.
I strongly believe 52’s induction into the Hall of Fame will prompt the NFL to consider lining Baltimore up for the Hall of Fame game, which just so happens to be the first NFL action we’ll see in months. Backtracking to the previous notion that starters won’t see a ton of time, having the first taste of NFL football since February is still alluring and will have Baltimore fans tuning in, as it’ll be enough to wet our beak, so to speak.
While the HOF game will be nice, the bigger impact will come in the Ravens home opener, where I strongly suspect the Ravens will hold a ceremony of sorts to celebrate the illustrious career of the face of the Ravens, and his journey to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. About 15 minutes before kickoff at the home opener for the Ravens, here’s how I imagine it:
*Video boards go dark. A Ray Lewis pre-game speech echoes through the stadium*
*Video boards break to clips of Rays biggest hits in rapid succession*
*Boards black out. Ray pre-game speech goes on*
*More hit clips*
*Super Bowl clips, raising the Lombardi*
*Ray’s speech goes on & intensifies*
*SPEECH BUILDS TO THE PINACLE AS HE ENDS*
*Blacked out boards… Nelly’s Hot In Here starts playing as Ray Lewis emerges from the Tunnel*
*Busts out Squirrel dance as the stadium erupts*
During this presentation, the marching band is in a ’52’ formation on the field (I’m not a fan of the marching band, but ‘history’ and what not), while Ray makes his way to a podium in the end zone. Once at the podium, Steve Bisciotti & Ozzie Newsome say a quick word on Ray, then the GOAT speaks (cut him off at the three-minute mark). Ravens make Ray an honorary captain for the coin toss, then at halftime, do a tribute video with words of praise from former and current players and coaches.
A tribute of this nature will assuredly pack M&T Bank Stadium – something the Ravens failed to do last season. Fans may not be elated with the current version of this team but Ray Lewis is Ravens football, and any PSL holder who opts to stay home deserves to be forced to turn in their fan card.
Back to the improved product on the offensive side of the ball: with the Ravens fans packed in at M&T Bank Stadium for the opener, riding the high of Ray Lewis’ HOF tribute, and finally getting to see an exciting Ravens team taking the field for the first time in what seems like eons? Not only will fans rekindle their love for this team, chanting for the defense, screaming in pure ecstasy with every touchdown, but I truly believe this will be the catalyst that will keep fans sticking around for seven-plus more home games in 2018, and beyond.
Imagine… Ray Lewis brings excitement back to Ravens football, without playing a single snap on the field.
And if that doesn’t work? Just rinse & repeat for Ed Reed in 2019.