I love football. So. Much.
It’s not something I talk about a lot on here, because really…what could I possibly say about it? Game recaps every week? I don’t even want to read that and this is my blog. Also our season has been a little lackluster and rehashing every game might depress me a little.
I am the biggest Ravens fan that some of you probably know, but I’m not even the biggest fan that I know. I have friends that literally do not leave the house unless they are wearing some kind of purple. We have been fiercely loyal to the Ravens ever since they came to Charm City in 1996. Baltimore was a city starved for the game after getting ditched in the night by our former Colts in 1984 and the Ravens were the answer. Because of this, I think we have one of the most devoted, die-hard fan bases around. Over the years, we have often been treated like the red-headed stepchild of the NFL, which only makes me love our team more.
In the first round of the 1996 draft (or what I like to call “The Most Magical Draft Round of All Time”), the Ravens took OT and future 11x Pro Bowler Jonathan Ogden, who left the game in 2007, and a Linebacker named Ray Lewis.
1996. That was the year I graduated high school. Today I often muse that I’m “OMG SO OLD” based on that. And today Ray Lewis is still playing the game; at least one more time. Yesterday he announced his retirement. To say that I am emotional over this is an understatement. I don’t know if it’s residual hormones or what, but I’ve cried real tears over it.
But I also understand. I feel exhausted thinking about everything I’ve done with my life between high school and now and I can’t even imagine devoting those last 17 years so completely to a sport as brutal as NFL football. 13 Pro Bowls. 10 All Pro Selections. A Super Bowl (of which he was MVP). The only member of the 40 sack/30 Interception Club. Leader of one of the most formidable defenses of all time. Countless injuries, none of which seemed to keep him down for long, until the most recent torn tricep that many suspected would end his career. He was like a machine. In fact, he said so himself once in my favorite Ray Lewis miked-up quote of all time:
“You can’t hurt this! I’m a machine, jerk!”
It’s the end of an era and I think he’s doing it the right way. When you are a champion of your game, I think it’s so much better to go out on a high note than overstay your welcome and crash and burn in the end. (*cough* Favre *cough*) And as a parent myself, I couldn’t have more respect for the reason he has chosen retirement: To spend more time with his children. Yesterday he was quoted as saying, “It’s either (that or) hold onto the game and keep playing and let my kids miss out on times we can be spending together. Because I always promised my son if he got a full ride on scholarship Daddy is going to be there, I can’t miss that.” His oldest son will be following in his footsteps, playing for his alma mater, the University of Miami, in the fall.
I’m not going to hold my breath for the most epic send-off ever (in the form of a Super Bowl ring), but I have no doubt that my guys will play their hearts out this Sunday for what will be Ray’s last dance in M&T Bank Stadium. I wish I could be there to see it.
The title of this blog would probably be debatable to many, but I truly believe that he is the greatest to ever play the game. Not just because of his staggering efforts on the field, but also his unmatched ability to motivate his team members and everyone else around him and his devotion to helping others in the community. He has done so much for Baltimore. And for that we thank him.
“Let them see something they’ve never seen before.
And when something goes wrong, smile, cause there’s always a next play.”