Why the Ravens are My TEAM

I did not grow up loving football. I didn’t dislike it, but it wasn’t something that took up much of my weekends in the fall either. My good friend L-Ray’s parents always had a Super Bowl party, but I don’t remember much besides the food and the adults having a good time. I was more interested in playing than watching the game. Where I come from, the teams most people supported for were from Philadelphia. People from my town loved the Eagles, the Phillies, and the Flyers. Even though my family wasn’t a big sports family, I knew that my mother was a Raiders fan, my dad was all about the Vikings, and my cousin loved the Cowboys. Then we moved to the DC Metro area where all the locals were die hard Redskins fans.

It was somewhat of a joke when I won a football autographed by the Redskins after they won the Super Bowl in 1992. At an event the night of my high school graduation, I entered a raffle in honor of the aunt of my Prom Date, the biggest Redskins fan I’d ever met. I put 1 ticket into a basket. And I won. But I kind of didn’t care. 21 years later I still have that football and I use it to tease Redskin fans. It is fun to get it out of its box and look at it every now and again, and wonder where or if I should display it somewhere. The novelty of it and the memories that come with it likely have a price far too high than any fan would be willing to pay.

The Raven that stole by heart: Micheal Oher

Baltimore was getting a new football team during my last year at UMBC. Since I wasn’t a native Baltimorean or Marylander, I had no memory or hard feelings about the Colts leaving in the middle of the night. What I do remember is agreeing with one of my room mates that the new team should be called the Ravens.

Still, it would take more than 10 years for me to give my heart to the team.

It happened quickly and as a direct result of what it feels like to be in the stadium watching them play. The energy is amazing. The first time I went, I couldn’t have told you who the players on the field were. I don’t even remember if Joe Flacco was the QB. What I remember is that I started to care… a little.

oher When I really started to care was the year Michael Oher joined the team. Not the Hollywood version of Michael Oher as seen in the move the Blind¬† Side but the Michael Oher written about in the book that inspired the film The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis and the Michael Oher written about in In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy where you get the REAL story of who Mr. Oher really is. The first jersey I ever bought was Ravens No. 74. I told people then that I was a Michael Oher fan and he just happens to play for the Ravens and that I would wear his jersey no matter what team he played for (even if he plays for the Steelers). I love what he represents: work hard, don’t give up, and you CAN make a better life for yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, I hated the movie. Because I’d read the book first, I knew it wasn’t the real story of a boy who was going to live a better life with or without the Tuohy’s help. I believe all things happen as they should and that it was no accident God put Michael Oher and the Tuohy family together. I waited over an hour and was first in line at the Costco for the Tuohy’s to autograph my copy of their book. One day, I’m going to meet Michael Oher and have him sign the chapter he wrote in that book. And I’ll have him sign his book I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to the Blind Side and Beyond.¬†When that day comes, I will be much more star struck being in his presence because of his story and what he represents to so many people than the fact that he is a Raven.

The Raven that made my birthday wish come true: Torrey Smith

smith110611It’s no secret to anyone who follows football that the Ravens-Steelers rivalry is huge. Why, I can’t tell you. I just know that the only other team a true Ravens fan backs with heart is the one playing the Steelers. I remember the two match-ups between the Ravens and Steelers in the 2011 season very vividly. The first one was the home opener that coincided with the 10th anniversary of September 11. The energy, always amazing and enthusiastic, was even more electric that day. When the flag unfurled across the whole field, we saw the broadcast of Taps from Shanksville, PA, and sang the National Anthem and Proud to be an American, it didn’t matter who was rooting for who. At that moment, we were united as Americans and I was reminded that no matter what, when we most need it, the men and women of our country will come together and move mountains for the common good.

Pouncing on the Steelers that day just made it even better. That is when I first came to believe that all teams should get to win their home openers, even out biggest rivals. I know what it feels like when my home team wins at home. All fans should feel that on the home opener. It’s electrifying.

On November 6, 2011, the Ravens played the Steelers again. This time, the match was in Pittsburgh. It was a Sunday night game, and it was by birthday. Since I am blessed with having all that I need and much of what I want, I tend to shy away from wish lists. So when asked “What do you want for your birthday?” my response was “For the Ravens to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh ON my birthday.”

It was the late game on a school night, so I was up alone to see the big finish. And I cried when Torrey Smith made the game winning touchdown to grant me my birthday wish. I realize it was a team effort and he didn’t do it alone. Flacco had to throw the ball and the offense had to keep the defense from getting in the way. Still, it was down to the wire and Torrey caught the ball. It was amazing! One day I will meet him and thank him for making that wish come true.

This year, I was fortunate to make it to 2 home games: the home opener against the Bengals and the week 10 game against the Raiders. I took my Raider-fan mother so she could see her team play. For that game, we were as high in the stadium as you can get and close to one of the end zones. I wanted to see two things during that game: Torrey Smith catch a ball in the end zone and Jacoby Jones complete a run back and score a touchdown. I got to see both. Seeing them live is so much more electric than on TV.

The Raven I love to watch: Jacoby Jones

jacobyLong before Ray Lewis announced his retirement, I had a feeling that the team was changing and the it was now time for new players to be the shining stars. Don’t get me wrong, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Ed Reed are truly amazing athletes. The defense is solid when they all play and when the day comes when they are no longer a part of the team they will be missed dramatically. And Ray Rice does the team proud too. I don’t mean to knock the seasoned players at all by touting my love for Jacoby Jones. He is just amazing to watch. With each game, I watch to see if he will do his thing and score a touchdown at the kick. By now, all the other teams have watched enough tapes to know they need to get to him fast. Still, I’ve seen him live and on TV score on a kick and I’m wowed every time. The first time I saw it was during the game in Dallas on October 14. I was watching it by myself and decided at that moment that I needed to record the game for my husband. He didn’t get home until after the game and since I knew it was a great one and that the Ravens won, I would not allow him to check Facebook or any news highlights until after he watched the whole game. There’s something important about watching great football when you don’t already know the outcome.

Seeing Jacoby run back a touchdown live is even more amazing and I was so excited I got to see it happen at a home game. I saw him do it when the Ravens played the Raiders and it was an unbelievable feeling.

I think Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith are two of the players who will ultimately become two of the team’s greats.

2K10 to Relentless to TEAM

TEAMIt’s been fun to see the different marketing themes for the Ravens over the last couple of years. 2K10 was fun. Relentless was powerful, and made me feel like this group of players wasn’t giving up. But then came TEAM.

I don’t think it’s an accident that this year’s theme is TEAM. I think for many years the team was great. but the difference between the past couple of years and this year is that this year, everyone on the team believed in themselves. Joe Flacco believes in himself completely. He had to in order to beat Manning and Brady. There was a confidence in him that I haven’t seen before. I was so nervous the night of the Ravens-Broncos game two weeks ago. In my heart, I knew the Ravens could win. I just didn’t know if they would. What I did know was that if they did beat the Broncos, they were going to the Super Bowl. I wasn’t skeptical of the team’s ability at all. I love it when they are the underdogs because they often prove why the doubters are wrong. When they do unexpectedly come out on top, it’s because they all believe they can. And they do.

They weren’t supposed to win in Denver. They weren’t supposed to win in Foxboro. And they’re supposed to lose in New Orleans.

Sorry, this TEAM is full of believers who have a deep trust and faith in themselves and each other. And many of them have faith in a power far bigger than football. Not to suggest at all that the Great Almighty Himself roots for the Ravens. Seeing Ray Lewis send praises to the sky and hearing other players freely share there thoughts and giving the glory to a power beyond our world is humbling. It shows a gratitude for the lives they have and the opportunities they’re been blessed with. And it shows that they believe in something bigger.

My TEAM inspires me

Michael Oher is not the only Raven who is an example of the difference you can make in your life by never giving up. Terrel Suggs and Ray Lewis suffered near career-ending injuries but beat the odds, because they believed they could, and are now Super Bowl bound. As dorky as it sounds, I think of them when I want to end a training workout early when I start to think “I can’t do this.” I have some pretty intense physical goals for the year. Intense for me, anyway. Yesterday on a long run, I wanted to thought about quitting or shortening the route so many times. But then I pictured Ray Lewis (and other athletes who have pushed themselves to beat the odds) and thought, “If he can do it, so can I,” and ended up running more than I had originally intended.

Totally dorky. But I kind of don’t care. In the end, the team I love is made up of flawed human beings with amazing skills who have worked very hard to be where they are today. They have defied the odds because they didn’t give up and they are now going to the Super Bowl. They show us normal people with average lives out of the spotlight and media why we should never give up relentlessly chasing our dreams.

Some how, some way, I am going to the Super Bowl

sb13There, it’s out there. I’ve made it real to more than my husband and his sister. Some how, some way, I’m going to the Super Bowl with my husband so I can watch the Ravens win the game. I’m going to watch them defy the odds one more time. How? I don’t know. I have 2 weeks to figure it out. Since tickets to the big even are going to run $2K a pop, I’m pretty sure it’s going to take the help of an amazing force to make this one happen. Still, when I dream, I dream big. And I’m throwing all my “I turn 40 this year” birthday juju at this one. I believe in my team. And I want to see them do it in person.

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