Sometimes a picture says a thousand words. In this case, not so much, since a few hundred thousand other people really need to be in the camera lens. I just wanted proof we were there. The one-word title is what really says it all.
And it almost didn’t happen. But practice what you preach… never, ever, ever give up. We didn’t. We made it. Myself, my girls, my good friend and his daughters and one other neighborhood friend – all 7 of us – made it downtown yesterday against what seemed like unbelievable odds. Hell, if the Ravens could do it so could we. If you want it bad enough, find a way.
We left at 8:30am for an event scheduled to happen at Noon at the stadium. But the beltway was busting and when we finally made our way to I-95 leading into downtown, it was a parking lot. We were moving 10 feet every few minutes. Not to get in to too many details, but a “hail-mary”, yet strategic exit off the interstate, a quick real-time lesson with the navigation system,(our SUV is about a month old),for an alternate route, plenty of side streets, and we got within a half-mile of the stadium. We quickly parked, started walking, paraded inside… and made history.
Simply put, it was one of the greatest love-fests this city has ever seen. 200,000 people outside on the streets for the parade, another 100,000 people inside of M&T Bank Stadium. For about two hours yesterday, this city had a singular mindset: rejoice. You would think because this wasn’t the first Ravens Super Bowl victory that this celebration might not be as big. You, who thought this, myself included, were wrong. Maybe it’s because it’s even tougher to win it twice, maybe because the Ravens were such a young franchise the first time it happened, maybe because less than two months ago, after the regular-season Denver game, and pictures of Joe Flacco lying face down in the turf at the goal line, this season seemed lost. Maybe because a ton of adversity this season made the victory that much sweeter, and maybe because it was Ray’s Last Ride. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Who cares.
All I know is living it was euphoric. Thinking back on it gives me a lump in my throat. Writing about it makes it real and permanent in my mind, heart and soul for all time.
Articles on paper and online, tv shows, radio shows and I’m sure other blogs will document all the events. My purpose is to share the feeling, not so much the facts, because they are everywhere. If you want to hear the speeches, see the video and pictures, it’s easy, your closest TV, computer, or social media device. But what about how it felt inside… how it felt inside us, the collective mass that joined together in celebration.
It might have been bigger than the Super Bowl itself. I can only relate it to one other sporting event in my life, 2131, the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gherig’s consecutive game streak. Only because you KNEW it was going to happen. Normally you go inside a stadium or ballpark, you are excited for the game, no matter how big it is, but you don’t know the outcome. So the shared feeling is one of incredible excitement, but also one of anxiety because the game must be played, and the final score, and your team’s chances of winning is only 50-50. On the night Cal broke Gherig’s streak, the chance of success was 100%, the electricity in the air was like nothing I had ever felt because it was as close to pre-determined as any sporting milestone could be. The Super Bowl celebration inside the stadium yesterday was that same feeling.
You were inside the walls of our Purple Palace for one purpose, celebration. Victory was already ours. When the players arrived, when the chanting started, when Ray did the dance…. I mean he did the dance!!! Who thought we would ever see it again on our home turf… it felt like your heart would explode. They could have turned off the lights in Baltimore and the shared power of that celebration would have lit up the city all on its own. The shared experience, the shared emotion, the shared euphoria made your heart, soul and your smile grow a mile wide. Sharing it with my girls (and let me say I am so sorry my wife Debbie had to work, we missed her terribly), and some close friends, just made it all the more special. I even made two new friends in the stands, one of them said she felt her heart pounding so hard she could barely take pictures, her hands were shaking so bad. I could easily relate. It was a day to share, share the feeling, share the love, share the moment with a few hundred thousand of your closest friends. Destiny had arrived. Maybe that’s what it feels like just before you head up to heaven. If so, I’ll take it.
I’ll also take one more thing. The unsolicited appreciation from my girls, as soon as the last speech had ended and we made our way down the ramp and headed for the exit: “Thank you Daddy, thanks for taking us”.
Now that’s a slice of heaven. Epic, indeed.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.